Snacks, WINE!, From Manhattan to the Hudson Valley
When you hear “The Little Wine Bus,” one might think an intimate little jitney that will drive you around all day as you drink wine and snuggle up to your loved ones and friends. Well, our vision wasn’t completely off, but we must admit, we didn’t expect our little wine bus to be a massive coach with over 60 passengers.
As we boarded our elephantine wine chariot (perhaps this is a more appropriate name?) in the heart of Times Square, the jolly Christmas tunes and festive holiday flair put us in the mood… this was going to be a great day! We were told to head right to the back of the bus, and we complied… just sitting a few seats off the back. After sitting for only a moment, we faced a rather uncomfortable experience… we were forced… yes, forced… to move completely to the back, which included a pair of seats directly next to the bathroom, whose space was smaller and enclosed. As paying customers (2+2+2 on this day), we felt it unnecessary to uproot ourselves and sit in a less comfortable space… why us? Because we boarded first? The situation could have been diffused quickly and professionally… but instead, it was dealt with fiercely and rudely, putting a bad taste in our mouths for the remainder of the day.
We tried to shake it off by making each other laugh, participating in Karaoke, and creating our own fun. As the day went on, we started to forget about the 9am turn of events and only focused on being together with great friends, the beautiful scenery as we drove up the Hudson Valley, and the fact that NO ONE had to drive! After all, these were all of our reasons for participating in this activity in the first place!
We made our first stop at Warwick Winery & Distillery in Warwick, NY, just an hour and a half north of NYC. We descended from our gargantuan vino-mobile and headed into a cozy tasting room and gift shop for our first tasting, just minutes past 11am. And it began! We browsed the little country store and took note of all the little tchotchkes, spirit and wine selections, and snacks that we hoped to purchase after our tasting and lunch. We sampled an array of whites and reds, including a Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab Franc, and Merlot, all very typical for New York vintages. We also had an opportunity to taste their Crème de Cassis, a blackberry liquer, which was surprisingly super tasty! Once we sat for lunch, we decided to buy a bottle of the Pinot Noir, which we didn’t have a chance to taste, but came highly recommended. While not the best wine we had ever tasted, it was light and paired nicely with our pizza and salad lunch. The boys also went out on a limb and purchased Warwick’s infamous Doc’s Hard Apple Cider. The cider is au natural and one can taste its hints of sulfur. It’s an acquired taste. We did really enjoy their Pumpkin Spice Cider most of all… which we might have finished off on the bus in our complimentary tasting glass from Warwick. These were our perks sitting in the wayyyyy back of the bus.
On to the next winery… THE oldest professional vineyard in the Hudson Valley, Benmarl, in the town of Marlboro. The town itself was established in the late 1700s, paralleling the time that the U.S. won its independence. Award-winning Benmarl offers the ubiquitous vintages of Chardonnay and Merlot, in addition to more interesting vintages such as Frontenac and a French hybrid called Baco Noir. The prized view of the GORGES valley is perhaps Benmarl’s greatest asset. Grab your wine and head outside to take in the beautiful landscape, complete with vineyards, rolling hills, and the Hudson River down below. We also appreciated the novelty of Benmarl’s petite wine cellar, complete with a few barrels and ancient vintages…. we particularly loved “wine prison,” which it soon came to be named. It was the perfect spot for a photo op. And boy did we take advantage! After a round of tasting and a few more snacks, we boarded our behemoth vinous coach and headed to our last stop: Millbrook Winery.
We began our visit with a guided tour, as well as a case of the sillies. Perhaps we had consumed an outrageous amount of wine during the intervals between wineries in the wee back of our colossal terroir transport. Alas, we took countless (and priceless!) photos amongst the wine barrels and giggled in the background as we thoroughly entertained ourselves! We finally made it to tasting room (with more snacks!), which is on the second floor of the winery in a beautifully lit loft. After our round of tasting (and wine déjà vu) and myriad bites of cheese, we made our way out onto the patio for our final photographs… just in time for a setting sun backdrop. We snapped some priceless shots before boarding our vast vino vessel for the last time and departing for NYC.
With a plethora of bottles in tow, we had a few more rounds from our most recent stop, as we laughed along to a festive holiday movie (K’s fave!), Elf! We reminisced about the day, before drifting off to vino heaven (well, some of us!). A fun experience for a group of friends… Have we changed our minds about New York wines? Well, not really. But the bottom line is… we can always, ALWAYS make any experience wine-derful!
- Warwick Winery & Distillery – Warwick, NY - www.wvwinery.com
- Benmarl Winery – Marlborough, NY - www.benmarl.com
- Millbrook Winery – Millbrook, NY – www.millbrookwine.com
A: The moral of the story… wine makes everything better. The morning’s obnoxious and rude experience took many glasses of vino to get over, but by glass three is was a vague memory. The tour was well put together with each winery offering something different… lunch… snacks… a tour… a cellar… views. Plus lots of drunken wine activities on the bus. Great for groups, but not recommended for couples… they would feel out of place.
K: Though I can’t forget about how the day started, it’s not worth harping on… as we had some pretty hilarious and priceless moments along the way. Not sure if I would do it again necessarily, but I might recommend it to large groups who are looking for a unique activity.
L: Even bad wine tastes good after a few bottles.
M: Had a rough start, but in the end I enjoyed this a lot. One big reason is that I didn’t have to drive! This is a great time for groups. No driving + no worries = good times.
- Scene- Elephantine wine chariot (i.e. coach bus) decorated with holiday flair.
- Food/Drinks (Hudson Valley Wineries)-3: Pleasantly surprised.
- Tip Worthy (Little Wine Bus)- 2.5: Well organized with plenty of activities and variety, but the owner could sure use a lesson in customer service. First impressions count. Her snotty demeanor dropped their respectable score by a point.
- Coordinates- Make your way to Times Square and let your driver do the rest.
- Activity Return Rate- We might recommend it to large groups who can make their own fun.