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I’m a news junkie, but even I had no idea how much Governor Cuomo is doing to promote food and wine tourism. That muscle was on full display Saturday, when my consort and I joined a Metro North trainload of media and politically connected types on an outing to the 12th annual Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest, at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds outside Rhinebeck. We were treated to a box “brunch,” with Saratoga water, on the nonstop ride, then to a lavish reception with Millbrook wines, bloody Marys made with Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine and an excellent and endlessly replenished buffet catered by Great Performances, with Liz Neumark herself in the house. And then, after hearing Millbrook’s owner tell how visits to the winery have doubled under Cuomo’s Taste NY push, we were set loose in four exhibition halls, a beer hall and a food truck “corral” to eat and drink more. And that is how stories get written.
Many of the wines were too fruity for me, and I didn’t even brave the Sweet Lolly. But the white and rosé from Cereghino Smith were European-dry. Of the food, we liked Maya’s Jams (made by three generations) and Crown Maple Syrup enough to spring for both. And while I’m not sure the flammkuchen we bought from the Black Forest truck was worth a 45-minute wait, I’ll be looking for Jersey Girl Colby from Cooperstown Cheese Company, which was honored at the American Cheese Society’s annual competition last month.
Two things made the reception memorable. First is that it was like grazing in the Greenmarket — the superb sausages and bacon were from Flying Pigs, the eggs in the ethereal mini-frittatas from Feather Ridge, the smoked trout in the salade niçoise from Max Creek, and what had everyone most excited was Ronnybrook butter for the Bread Alone rolls. Second is that this news junkie now knows who Cuomo’s lieutenant is — former Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy, who is a very persuasive spokesman for New York State food and wine.