Through unrelenting passion and an all-hands-on-deck effort, this year Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery commemorates its 20th anniversary.
Located in Gardiner, New York, Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery is an artisanal family-run winery created by Michael Migliore and Yancey Stanforth-Migliore. Originally a 300-acre dairy farm, Michael has transformed the land into the esteemed vineyard it is today.
But to truly comprehend the legacy of Whitecliff, we must go back in time.
Wine has always been a prominent player in Michael’s upbringing: his German and Italian grandfathers both made wine in the basement of their Bronx home.
Since 1975, Michael has lived on the Whitecliff property while pursuing a master’s degree in organic chemistry at SUNY New Paltz. A few years later, after he started working at IBM as a chemical engineer, Michael began experimenting with grape growing.
Yancy’s 20-plus years in nonprofit fundraising, combined with eight years of experience as director of development for Scenic Hudson, equipped her with proper marketing skills for the winery business. Tristan Migliore, the couple’s son, also works for Whitecliff full-time.
“There’s no one word or phrase to sum it up,” Tristan said. “It’s both more rewarding and more taxing than any other sort of job because I give a sh*t. I grew up on a farm, I really care what happens to our property and our business.”
Even though the Hudson Valley is one of the warmest regions in New York—making it optimal for grape production—establishing Whitecliff involved years of trial and error to determine which varieties would produce good yields and quality, while simultaneously withstanding New York’s cold winters.
“It took us a good 10 years before we could decide on what grape varieties would grow well here,” Michael said. “The ones we settled on were Chardonay, Cabernet Franc, Gamay Noir and Gewurztraminer.
Now, Whitecliff has one of the largest vineyards in the Hudson Valley, with over 20 varieties of grapes planted to create more than 33 different wines.
Over the years, Whitecliff has redefined New York state wine, and has set the bar high for what New York wine should be.
A major feat for Whitecliff was their 2009 Reisling bringing home the Best White Wine in Show from the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Another satisfying accomplishment happened in 2015 when the New York Wine and Grape Foundation granted Michael the Grower of the Year award. According to Hudson Valley One, never before has a Hudson Valley winemaker won this award.
Michael admitted that there has been shift in the wine industry where people don’t just want to buy and sip on a bottle of wine. They want an experience—complete with a well-decorated tasting room, a friendly staff and wine knowledge exclusive to those who participate in a tasting.
To accommodate for this change in trend, the Migliore family recently expanded their business to a new satellite location on Cherry Ride Farm in Hudson.
In addition, Michael is currently playing with the idea of opening up a café in the tasting room so customers can enjoy a salad or panini with their wine.
“If we can get someone to come into our tasting room, I am convinced they will find something that they like,” Michael joked. “And that’s a big change from when I started. I started off with four wines and I was going to be damned if you didn’t like my four wines.”
“We’re very restless as growers and as winemakers. We always want to try new things, challenge what we make and try to figure out if we can make it better.”