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Brotherhood, America's Oldest Winery
by
K.L. Sullivan

Summary: A visit to Brotherhood, America's Oldest Winery, in Washingtonville, New York will delight anyone who is a history buff, enjoys winery tours and quality wines. Brotherhood has a number of firsts in its history. These firsts in the United States include: first business winery, first winery to produce champagne, and first to offer winery tours. Watch for the onsite restaurant to open May 2009. Brotherhood has a large distribution system and sells wine throughout New York State and in a number of other states as well as in their own tasting room.

The approach to the tasting room at Brotherhood reminds one of a small village. Several buildings are visible with trees and benches along the pathway. At the far end of the complex, a mansion gives a lovely aspect to the village-like atmosphere.

Brotherhood Winery     Brotherhood Winery

Brotherhood produces 60,000 cases under the Brotherhood name. They also produce wine for other groups. Currently the winery has 80 acres of vineyards about an hour from the winery at the foot of the Catskill Mountains.

Brotherhood WineryHoward Witt, our tour guide, began our tour near the tasting room by going down several steps to the cellars. The cellars are 14 to 25 feet below ground level. The cellars were created in the mid 1800’s. Upon entering the wine cellars, we saw numerous antique pieces of wine equipment that the founder, Jaques, used in the winery. Howard commented, “We were a tourist attraction, the first winery in the U.S. to start tours after Prohibition.” Wall displays divide the history of the winery into three eras. The first era as the Jaques Era extended from 1839 to 1886. This was followed by the Emerson Era from 1886 to 1921 and the Farrell Era from 1921 to 1987. Overhead large wrought iron circular chandeliers provide light. Wrought iron wall sconces also add light to the cellars.

Beyond the museum, large oak barrels are in use for aging wine. Soon we arrived at the enclosed wine library where wines stored included wine bottles from the 1800’s. The oldest bottle in the library is an 1862 port. We continued walking down old avenues lined with brick walls and curved ceilings. A mix of large anitque barrels and smaller recent barrels line the cellars.

Brotherhood Winery     Brotherhood Winery

In 1999, an electrical fire destroyed the tasting and event rooms. The 1999 fire drastically changed the direction of the winery. Before the fire, visitors came to the winery to enjoy the wine tastings and festivities. Without these festivities and tastings, visitors found little reason to trek to Brotherhood. Cesar Baeza, Executive Vice-President and Winemaster related the direction for the future. In 2005, two Chilean investors who saw the potential in Brotherhood, became partners. Since the new partners have joined Brotherhood, the spacious tasting room has been completed and the event room is almost ready. In addition, an onsite restaurant is scheduled to open in May offering lunch and dinner. A French Chef has been named.

Brotherhood WineryWe returned to the tasting room to taste wines. The tasting room is divided into several sections that include: Varietal Wines, Specialty Wines, Dessert Wines, Table Wines and Imported Wines. The bountiful selection gives everyone’s palate a chance to discover a wine he/she truly enjoys. Today the spacious tasting room has three tasting counters and two areas with a table and chairs. The curved tasting counters allows plenty of room for visitors. The slate floor is from Chile while the overhead lights are from France.

Brotherhood offers three types of wine flights. The traditional flight focuses on table and specialty wines. The second flight is a varietal flight featuring premium wines. The World Tour flight focuses on imported wines. In this flight wines are imported by Vinecrest Company, a division of Brotherhood.

 

Brotherhood WineryRed Wines

Pinot Noir 2006 had a Siena red translucent color. The aroma was of red fruit and the taste was light with fruit. The finish was crisp and very mild. Merlot 2004 had a Siena red opaque color. The aroma was of blackberries and currants. The taste was smooth and light. The finish was chewy with tannins and crispness. Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 was a ruby-purple opaque color. The aroma and taste were of black raspberries. The finish was crisp with tannins and the aftertaste was fruity. Mariage with 12 percent alcohol was a blend of 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 25 percent Chardonnay. The aroma was fruity while the taste and finish was of blackberries.

White Wines

The Seyval Blanc with an alcohol level of 12 percent offered a citrus fruit aroma. It was crisp and dry. The Chardonnay had a delicate fruit aroma. The taste was dry and crisp. There were some tannins on the finish. Riesling had a sweet aroma with a taste that was dry and crisp. The finish was soothingly warm.

Speciality

Sheba Te’j Honey Wine offered a floral aroma and a taste that was floral with honey. It offered a crisp finish that cut the honey and sweetness. Carroll’s Mead had a honeysuckle and floral aroma with a sweet honey taste. The finish was sweet with honeysuckle.

Brotherhood WineryWhile Brotherhood offers a look into the history of wine in the United States, it also looks to the future. Visit Brotherhood and discover for yourself all that it has to offer. When visiting look for the demonstration vineyard that will be planted in the future.

Brotherhood, America's Oldest Winery
100 Brotherhood Plaza Drive
Washingtonville, NY 10992

GPS: N 41º 25.948’ W 74º 09.721’

 

 


 

 

 


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