Foodie Travel, Small Towns

Travels by Train: The Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest


When I announced–excitedly–that I would be attending the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival and that, even better, I’d be traveling up to Rhinebeck, NY from New York City via train, my husband did not understand my glee.  Sure, he knows that I love trains almost as much as Sheldon Cooper (a fictional character on Big Bang Theory, for those of you who live in caves) but he simply did not see the cause for excitement.  I took that train upstate all the time when I lived in the city, he responded.  I don’t recall the ride being particularly scenic.

Well dear, you also clearly don’t recall looking out of the window.

This is an iPhone photo.  But I think you get the point--it is a gorgeous route.

This is an iPhone photo. But I think you get the point–it is a gorgeous route.

The the ride from Grand Central Terminal to Rhinebeck was stunning.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve driven over the Tappan Zee (a gorgeous drive, particularly driving east to west), but I assure you, the view is far better from a seat on the Hudson Line than it is from the driver’s seat of the car (and it is far less dangerous to snap photos, too.  Not that I do that from the driver’s seat…)

And then the train arrived in Rhinebeck.

Rhinebeck is an adorable little town that, sadly, I was only able to see through the window of a chartered bus.  Next time, I will drive up (I will drive up soon!)  There were quaint shops and sidewalk cafes and tree-lined streets bustling with well-dressed people going about their day.  It reminded me of Cape Cod, but cuter.  And it is hard to get any cuter than Cape Cod.

And then the bus arrived at the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival.


Here’s the thing about the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival–when I first heard about it and determined I was going, I kept slipping up and calling it the Hudson Valley Food and Wine Festival, reversing the order of wine and food.  I don’t know why I continued to do this, but I assure you, having spent the afternoon there, it is a WINE and food festival.  In fact, I’d re-name it The Hudson Valley Wine Festival…with optional food.  

Additionally, there was more than just wine and food at the wine and food festival; there were also several wine- and food-related items for sale.  For example, these, which I really, really wanted to purchase…

I could not figure out when I'd use this again.  I think I forgot how many food and wine festivals I attend.  Whoops!

I could not figure out when I’d use this again. I think I forgot how many food and wine festivals I attend. Whoops!

With over two hours to explore the Rhinebeck Fairgrounds, I only had a chance to sample maybe half of the wine (and whiskey and vodka and moonshine) on offer.  There were dozens upon dozens of wineries represented, from all over New York State.  It was like the speed-dating version of wine tasting; it seemed every grape in New York state was present, and I had exactly three minutes to spend with each of them.  Fortunately, I found one I was compatible with: the Midnight Moon Red from Eagle Crest Vineyards.  The tasting notes state that it ‘is great with anything calling for a smooth, red wine’–you know, like the train ride back to the city.

Tips for Attending the Hudson Valley WINE and Food Festival

-Arrive early.  By mid-afternoon, it was understandably packed.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to wine-speed-date?

-Wear comfortable shoes.  You will be standing most of the day.  And staggering from table to table.

-Designate a driver.  Did I mention the staggering?

-Bring a blanket for picnicking.  There were tables available to sit and enjoy any food you might have purchased as well.  But trust me, you’re going to want a nice long sitting-in-the-sun break mid-day.


I have one more tip.  But my final tip is too long to be part of a bulleted list; it requires some explanation and is:

Eat before you arrive.

Remember when I said that this was more a wine event than a food event?  Yeah.  The worst thing you can do is what I did–not eat all day thinking ‘hey, I’m going to a food festival; there’s going to be food there!’.  Because what will happen is this:

You will arrive at the event absolutely starving.  Even if there is, say, a media reception and you are offered food, you will not eat it because you will still be waiting for the food tastings.  And then you will realize–your only option for food is a variety of REALLY LONG LINES for food trucks–or insanely overpriced ‘tastings’ from the tasting tent.  You will purchase ten tickets for $10, thinking that each of them is good for a sample-sized portion and ten sample-sized portions sounds about right; you will be wrong, and sample sized portions are actually around six tickets each.  You will also note that it is halfway through the day, and most of the tasting booths are out of food.  You will then end up spending 8 tickets–or $8*–on this (I shudder to include this photo but it needs to be shared):

This is my $8 container of 'chicken curry'.  In quotes because, well, I'm not sure what it actually consisted of because I did not taste it.

This is my $8 container of ‘chicken curry’. In quotes because, well, I’m not sure what it actually consisted of because I did not taste it.

And you will be sad.  And a bit belligerent due to, well, all of the wine.  But it will be ok, because eventually you will get over it, brush the grass off your butt, and head back into the wine tasting area.  And then everything will be ok again.

It should be noted that the Hudson line typically does not go all the way to Rhinebeck–the last station on the Hudson Line is Poughkeepsie, a twenty minute drive south of Rhinebeck–but this train was chartered specifically to transport New Yorkers to the Wine and Food Fest.   Which I thought was rather thoughtful of the tourism board.  Have I mentioned that I Love New York? 

Disclosure: I was a guest of Dutchess County Tourism and the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Fest.  Of course, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.  

*It should also be noted that  were tastings being offered for less than six or eight dollars (and that many of them looked better than the photo of my meal, above).  I personally saw a variety of lamb dishes for around $5.  I was also informed that there were ribs available for $3; sadly, by the time I arrived, they were sold out–which I’m assuming implies that they were rather good.  Thus, I must re-emphasize my ‘arrive early’ suggestion from before.  This provides the added bonus of allowing you to eat BEFORE you start wine tasting–which is always advisable.

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