Visitors to Warwick, New York may be expecting to enjoy quaint country charm and beautiful scenic vistas, but they might be surprised to encounter the award-winning Demarest Hill Winery during their travels. This small, family-run winery produces a wide range of estate-grown wines as well as unique spirits, liquors and other wine-related products. Using the techniques he learned tending to his family vineyards in Molise, Italy, winemaker Francesco Ciummo has brought his skills to the Hudson Valley of New York for the production of Demarest Hill Winery’s varietals. The winery is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon tasting his unique products while enjoying gorgeous views of the surrounding hills and valleys.
Warwick, New York borders Pine Island, one of the country’s largest onion growing regions, well known for its rich “black dirt.” While traveling along the Pine Island Turnpike, one encounters a sign to follow up a steep hillside to reach Demarest Hill Winery. Past the forested, winding road, one ends up on top of a hillside with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Wine grapes grow along the sloping hillside, which is where winemaker Francesco Ciummo grows many of the grapes used for his products at Demarest Hill Winery.
You may likely encounter Francesco out tending to his grape vines when you arrive, and he will invite you in to his tasting room to sample anything you like. An older gentleman who still speaks with a strong Italian accent, his hands show the stress and wear of working much of his life as an auto-mechanic – yet today they tend to his grapes with delicate care. His first varietals were produced in 1994, and since then he has received approval from the state of New York to operate a winery. Today the winery produces 400 cases of wine a year, and a wide variety of there are offered for tasting every day so you can choose the right one to bring home after your visit.
New World wines do tend to have different qualities than their old world companions, and where Ciummo seems to excel best at Demarest Hill is with the grapes best suited for this harsh northeastern climate. The “Warwick Black Pearl” is deservedly an award winner. It is a full-bodied red wine with a rich flavor, yet very easy to drink. The “Warwick Ruby Red” is also an excellent choice, fruity yet not overly sweet. It is an excellent choice to go with pizza and Italian pasta dishes. Also enjoyable is the “Warwick Red Deer” and the “Bacchus Noir”, both of which have very smooth qualities. I have been less overwhelmed by the white wines, as they tend to range more toward the sweet end of the spectrum than my tastes prefer. But there is a range of wines available from Chenin Blanc to Muscadel and White Zinfandel, and fruit wines such as cherry, apple and strawberry as well. Demarest Hill does use grapes from other regions of New York State to complete some of their blends and offerings, but all are labeled to indicate which are produced strictly locally as well as from outside sources.
Besides wine, Demarest Hill Winery also produces a range of unique distilled spirits, many produced in true Italian tradition. The Coco Brandy is a delightful aperitif, rich with chocolate notes and sold in an attractive bottle for great gift-giving. Grappa, Limoncella and Orancella are all popular after-dinner drinks, and Ciummo also makes his own Balsamico and Bombita Vinegar from wines produced on the estate. Sample some of these specialty spirits and wine-related products and you are sure to find something unique to take home or to give to someone as a unique gift. Most wines and spirits are priced under twenty dollars – but do bring cash, as on last visit Ciummo was still not accepting credit cards for payment.
Demarest Hill Winery is a great place to visit after spending a morning browsing the antique and gift shops of historic Warwick, New York. The winery is open seven days a week, except on holidays, from 11:00am until 6:00pm. Spend some time enjoying the company and the scenic views of this beautiful area of countryside, and you may find yourself filled with dreams and visions of starting your own winery as well.
Demarest Hill Winery
81 Pine Island Turnpike
Warwick, New York 10990
* Demarest Hill Winery – Official website.
* Black Dirt Region – Wikipedia.
* Personal experience.