It’s true: Online alcohol sales skyrocketed during national stay-at-home orders, emphasizing an upward trend we’ve seen over the past few years, with wine capturing almost 70 percent of total online retail sales. And yet, there’s nothing quite like wandering into your local wine shop and talking to a knowledgeable salesperson about your tastes, what you’re cooking or looking for—something the online experience doesn’t come close to offering. And that’s all the more true for the ever-growing natural wine sector, with many customers eager to explore but without a whole lot of knowledge. While you might know what California cabs you like or what regions of French whites you dig, when it comes to orange wines from Croatia or pet nats from Austria, a lot of us are out to sea. Very willing to explore, mind you, but in need of a guiding hand.
We’ve rounded up a list of wine shops in the Hudson Valley and Catskills that are specializing in natural wines, so that you can keep getting that wino one-on-one. Most of these shops offer online or phone ordering and curbside pick-up, so the relationship doesn’t have to end—even if we go back into lockdown.
Kingston Wine Co. | Kingston
65 Broadway, Kingston, NY 12401 | (845) 340-9463
We’ll start with Kingston Wine Co., which at least from a retail perspective, gave natural wine its Hudson Valley foothold. Opened in 2013, the shop in Kingston’s Rondout District focused exclusively on natural, organic, and biodynamic wines from the beginning and catered to a curious local population and a growing pool of urban weekenders and second home owners. About the selection, co-owner Michael Drapkin says, “It is vast and diverse—from Georgia (the country) all the way to the Finger Lakes. We place a heavy emphasis on German, Austrian, and French natural wines. Beyond the range of flavors, which he loves, Drapkin has a soft spot for the makers of natural wine, whom he calls “often contrarian and idiosyncratic,” with an admirable dedication to thoughtful, OG low intervention farming. “Our customers both locally and out of state (we have an online store) are incredibly curious, open, and interested in learning about new wine regions, obscure grape varieties, and all there is to know about natural wine. The landscape compared to when I started in this business 15 years ago is dramatically different and better thanks to everyone’s eagerness to expand outside of the confines of convention.” His current favorite? A 2019 Fongoli Rossofongoli from Umbria, Italy, a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano, made with hand-harvested and wild fermented in open vats sans temperature control. He calls it “lo-fi wine,” and says it’s “farmy and spicy—perfect for winter braised dishes.”
Elevated Wine & Spirits | Tannersville
7261 Route 23A, Hunter, NY 12442 | (518) 263-4184
One of the newest wine shops in the region is Elevated Wine & Spirits in Tannersville, opened by Mark Landsman, who runs the cocktail program at Silvia in Woodstock. While he jokes that his selection runs the gamut from Barefoot Chardonnay to Cru Beaujolais (plus liquor), he’s particularly excited about the natty options, which are all over the place. “It is important to us that we highlight how accessible natural wine can and should be,” Landsman says. “We strive to offer the funkiest of funky for the dedicated and adventurous natural wine drinker who comes in saying ‘GIVE. ME. CRAZY.,’ as well as wines that are naturally made yet recognizable on the palette for our customers who are looking for a good place to start.” He points out that “natural” is a process, meaning low or no intervention, not a wine style or flavor profile. When looking for wines to add to the portfolio, Landsman is on the wines that “spark some unexplainable, disproportionate sense of happiness. We think good wine can transport the drinker. A single sip of wine can situate us in the exciting path of uncharted waters, but it can also be so incredibly nostalgic, too.” Geographically, he is currently crushing on island wines from luxurious faraway places like Sardinia, Sicily, and the Canary Islands. While he’s always trying something new, an evergreen favorite of Landsman’s is No es Pituko 2020 Cabernet Franc from Chile. “The wine is just wild—black cherries, bell peppers…chocolate? An incredibly balanced and complex young wine,” he says. “If we had one chance to convince a sceptic that a natural wine wine is going to blow them away, this is the wine we’d give them.” Sold.
Bluebird Wine Shop | Accord
5059 Route 209, Accord, NY 12404 | (845) 626-0140
Bluebird Wine Shop recently breathed fresh life into the old location of Accord Wine Shop right on 209. Focused exclusively on natural wines and spirits, owner Aaron Lefkove is looking for wine producers with organic practices, if not the certification, and on the spirits side for smaller craft distilleries, including nearby Arrowood Farms. As for the natty wine selection, Lefkove is highlighting, “the more stable side of the spectrum—wines of high quality that have a classic structure to them and adhere to a certain mindset and ethos we are in tune with,” he says. “I’m staying away from the super wild and unstable side of things—beverages that are closer to kombucha for instance than wine in its classical definition—which doesn’t suit my palate personally. For those on the fence, Lefkove says, “I feel you need to look at it the same way you look at a tomato or a piece of beef or a chicken: wine is an agricultural product just like everything else and when you buy eggs or vegetables or meat, you don’t want something pumped full of hormones or pesticides or other unnecessary chemicals so why should that ethos not extend to the wines and liquors we drink? All time favorites (currently in stock!) include the wines of Fond Cypres, a couple in the Languedoc, who produce wines that are articulate expressions of terroir. “They just taste the way the area feels,” Lefkove says. He also likes the Quarterones Sancerre from Sebastian Riffault, an outlier in an area that is predominantly super industrial. “He uses grapes that have been affected by botrytis which is a fungus that actually gives the resulting wine way more depth and character,” he says. Ahh, fermentation.
Ester Wine & Spirits
57 N Front Street, Kingston, NY 12401 | (845) 331-1921
While they prioritize organic vineyards, Ester’s wine selection varies from conventional to low or no intervention. Due to a lack of international standards or certifications, natural is not an official wine term, Ester’s owner Robert Provenz, defines it this way: wine that is from tiny parcels of manually managed grapevines on organic and/or biodynamic soils, made with zero subtractions (such as filtering) and very minimal additions (only sulphur).” When Provenz and his team are choosing their new natural wines, they taste test for determine if the wine is “balanced, structured, and sans faults; such as reductiveness, volatile acidity (too close to vinegar), or the taste of ‘mousiness’, which can sometimes be issues with wines made in this manner,” he adds. They balance quality with price point to create an accessible selection across styles and flavor profiles. “The reds can be full-bodied dark with deep, brooding fruit to be had on a winter night by a fire, or super light-bodied with bright red fruits that shine with a variety of dishes. The white wines can see extended skin contact time, becoming orange wines, or simply crisp, dry with loads of mineral tones and race car acidity,” Provenz says. “What we love about all the natural wines is their honesty, and there is, at times, an exciting energy in the glass. The best way to find a good bottle for your mood is to ask. You can tell us the flavors you like and/or food you are having it with, and we can describe some options of wine for your needs and food pairing before investing in the bottle. When pressed for a current favorite, Provenz taps the wines from Ruth Lewandowski, saying, “His wines are always a fun adventure, and I believe it’s truly unique as a natural wine being produced in Utah!”
Upstream Wine & Spirits | Livingston Manor
34 Main Street, Livingston Manor, NY 12758 | (845) 439-1328
Livingston Manor’s upscale wine shop Upstream places sustainable practices and ethics at the center of their wine buying. In a recent post, they wrote, “Much of the labor in vineyards worldwide is done by undocumented workers who are more susceptible to unethical practices without the full protection of laws and local officials. We don’t often mention this labor force when we wax poetic about terroir, multi-generational winemaking families, and fermentation. We should. When we discuss farming, we leave out farm workers. Why? I pledge to ask better questions and demand more transparency and accountability from the companies I work with to source our wines moving forward…It’s simply not enough to buy/sell/drink natural and organic wine, whatever the hell that even means anymore—that won’t make any of us activists.” They have a large selection of natural wines, which they are refining and vetting all the time. Like Esther, Upstream is running their operation from a table outfront, where a masked employee will happily give you suggestions before ringing you up. But if you’re the longform browsing type, they recommend is by heading to their online shop, where you can scope all their labels at your leisure and order for curbside pickup, nationwide shipping, or Saturday pickup at La Salumina in Hurleyville.
Dirty Bacchus | Beacon
380 Main Street, Suite 100, Beacon | (508) 269-2994
Opened in June of this year, Beacon newcomer Dirty Bacchus focuses on low-intervention, organic or biodynamic, sustainably farmed, vegan wines, a well as a selection of organic ciders, meads and sake. The natural wine store conceives of itself as a farm stand for products sourced directly from small, independent farmers whenever possible. “Wine is an agricultural product first and foremost,” says owner Steven Ventura. “Wine made from organic or biodynamic grapes, and made simply, with few or zero additives, is more healthful, more healing and beneficial, than conventional industrial wines, and better for the planet and for humanity’s future overall.” The shop carries a wide range of wines from around the world, including Western Europe, the US, Australia, and a slew of under-explored winemaking countries like Croatia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, and Mexico. The shop is designed to be accessible to both new and seasonal natty wine drinks, and includes a section of skin-contact wines under $20 and another entitled “You’d Never Know,” of low and no-intervention wines that taste like their conventional counterparts. “I love the extraordinarily broad spectrum of aromas and flavors and styles that natural wine as a category encompasses,” Ventura says. “One can get so specific when pairing these wines to foods!” He had trouble picking a single favorite, but a top contender was Verre de Gris, a natural wine from Quebec produced by Pinard et Filles. “It smells and tastes of wild strawberries,” he says, “but there is also something about it that is reminiscent of waking up on a cool morning camping in the open deep in a north woods pine forest. Hard to put into words.” Sounds delightful.
Dixie’s | Delhi
Delhi, NY | (607) 746-3775
Opened at the tail end of 2017, Dixie’s is a highly curated outpost in the farthest reaches of the Western Catskills. They’ve got your Grey Gooses and Bacardis, but they also have an ever-rotating selection of natural wines, including pet nat proseccos from northern Italy, local Cabernets from Eminence Road Farm Winery, Alsatian pinot noirs, skin contact Teroldegos, and much more. Call ahead and place your order for curbside pickup.
354 Main Street, Catskill, NY 12414
OK, so Solo Vino does not offer solo vino. In addition to their natural, biodynamic, and organic wines, they also carry ciders and craft spirits, which is great ‘cause sometimes it’s cocktail hour. But back to the vin naturel, they bring new natural wines to the store every week. Recent picks include the Italian blend Muz Ver-Muz Natural, the biodynamic Austrian red Perspektive Rot, and a hazy Greek pet nat from Kamara Pure.
Grapefruit Wine Shop | Hudson (coming soon)
127 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534
Grapefruit, an all natural wine shop by the team behind Kitty’s Market and Cafe, will make its debut on Warren Street in January 2021, where it will no doubt attract a cult following, before it moves down the hill to the barn next to Kitty’s after renovations wrap up in 2021. “In the meantime, we have a natural wine selection at Kitty’s Market. During December, we plan to expand this selection of natural wines to include more holiday-geared wines, giftable bottles, aperitif and amaro,” says co-owner Anna Morris. “This sort of pop-up wine shop will expand from the market into the next room (that will one day house our restaurant!) and go through the new year.” They will also stock some beautiful vinegars made by natural winemakers, as well as salts, oils and other special culinary gifts. Follow Grapefruit and Kitty’s on Instagram for very cute branding and the latest updates.
Kitty’s: Cafe/Market by Day, Restaurant by Night, Bottle Shop In Between: This one-stop-shop by the Hudson train station and waterfront has everything you need from hot coffee to train snacks to groceries for the weekend
Kitty’s: Cafe/Market by Day, Restaurant by Night, Bottle Shop In Between This one-stop-shop by the Hudson train station and waterfront has everything you need from hot coffee to train snacks to groceries for the weekend From a morning cup of Joe for the neighborhood locals to a breakfast sandwich for the Amtrak workers to train snacks for commuters and groceries for weekenders, newly opened Kitty’s has it all. Just opposite the Hudson train station, Kitty’s is a cafe and gourmet grocery with a natural wine store and full service restaurant coming soon. By Marie Doyon Restaurants.