A Noble Heritage Grows Again at Milea Estate Vineyard
Like the Hudson Valley, J. Stephen Casscles’ fruit growing roots run deep.
by Brian PJ Cronin
His grandparents were fruit growers and brokers in Marlboro who first taught a young Casscles about the heritage grape breeds that were first developed in the Hudson Valley. Inspired, Casscles started growing his own grapes when he was still in high school, and then went on to work for, and then make wine with, local wineries such as Benmarl from 1973 to 1966, and then Hudson-Chatham Winery from 2007 to 2020. All the while, Casscles experimented with the forgotten and out-of-favor grapes of the Hudson Valley on his own property, making wines from them, and experimenting. As of now, he has around 100 different varieties growing on his four acre property. “Grapes you’ve never heard of,” he said.
This year, two long-ripening fruits of that lifelong passion will finally be brought to bear. The first is an updated second edition of his 2015 book Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada, due out before the end of the year. The second is the formation of the Hudson Valley Heritage Wine Project, a collaboration with Milea Estate Vineyard which will allow for further planting of heritage grape breeds and the making of unique wines with them. The project will reintroduce to the wine world the major contributions that the Hudson Valley has made to American horticulture and hopefully encourage other vineyards to start cultivating these heritage varieties as well…