Exploring the Hudson Valley: Dutchess County

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday June 22, 2015

Trade skyscrapers for blue skies in the Hudson Valley, where an East Coast getaway is just a scenic drive from such urban hubs as New York City and Boston, and a summer escape may easily extend to a lifetime. Designated a National Heritage Area, the region is packed with natural wonders, cultural attractions, seasonally inspired dining and a welcoming attitude toward LGBT travelers.

Extending more than 150 miles above the northern tip of Manhattan and comprising 10 counties, the Hudson Valley is a true celebration of the American artisan and our country's entrepreneurial spirit. Choose one county to explore in depth, or consider road tripping to get a taste of what's happening throughout the region.

Wine Not?

Smack in the middle of the Hudson Valley and spanning 800 square miles, you'll find Dutchess County and myriad experiences for any type of traveler. History buffs swoon over the FDR National Historic Site, adventurers can be found traversing the Appalachian Trail, and oenophiles even have their own route to discover along the Dutchess Wine Trail.

And for those true outdoor lovers with a penchant for bears (of the social variety), Big Gay Hudson Valley hosts its first-ever Bear Camp from August 28 to August 30. Enjoy a "Where the Wild Things Are" welcome party, Gendrrr Bender Volleyball, live comedy show with My Big Funny Peter and plenty of other scheduled activities.

For a vineyard experience that rivals more familiar California destinations, Clinton Vineyards offers an ideal locale for same-sex couples and groups seeking an afternoon in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Whether you love architecture, history, wine or scenery, there is something here to savor. Now presided over by Phyllis Feder, Clinton Vineyards is a longtime supporter of LGBT groups in the Hudson Valley.

The 100-acre property, located on winding country back roads in Clinton Corners, has been dubbed "the jewel in the crown of the Hudson Valley." Whether you are a day-tripper or a weeklong vacationer, a visit to Clinton Vineyards is a treat for all of your senses. The elegant Tasting Room offers guided tasting of Clinton's award-winning estate-bottled seyval blanc white wines, mthode champenoise sparkling wines, and full-fruit dessert wines. Clinton's celebrated Cassis is the only domestic black currant wine to win gold medals at an international judging.

Enjoy a stroll around the landscaped grounds, meticulously laid out by vineyards founder and visual artist Ben Feder to suggest an estate vineyard in the south of France two centuries ago. Everywhere you look, you'll see delightful details that contribute to the illusion of stepping back in time.

A Cultural Legacy

The county is also rich in culture, as exhibited by Dia Art Foundation's Hudson Valley outpost, Dia:Beacon. What was formally a Nabisco box-printing factory has been converted to a satellite site for the foundation's collection of artwork from the 1960s to present. Each year Dia:Beacon welcomes more than 75,000 visitors for what are typically single-artist, site-specific presentations.

Opening this month is Robert Irwin's Excursus: Homage to the Square3, a revisiting of the artist's landmark installation in New York City in the late '90s, which showcases rooms made of mesh scrims intersected by fluorescent and natural light (on exhibit through May 2017).

For more visual art, be sure to visit Vassar's Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, designed by Cesar Pelli. Opened in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery, the collection began with a gift from Matthew Vassar of 3,800 works of art, including an important group of Hudson River School paintings and English watercolors, and has grown to more than 18,000 works of art spanning antiquity to the present.

Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th century painters, including Jackson Pollock, Joan Mir and Andy Warhol.

Stunning photo opportunities with a splash of history await at Bannerman Castle. Frank Bannerman, a successful Scottish immigrant, bought the small island and started building the castle in 1901 as a place to store surplus military items. He and his wife, Helen, also used the opulent island mansion as a summer home. It was eventually given to the Taconic Park Commission, and several years later a massive fire destroyed much of the property. Tours can be taken of what's left of the magnificent estate, along with the restored gardens.

A Taste of Dutchess County

The Hudson Valley dining scene continues to explode, and foodies near and far have added the region to their "must eat" list. The Artist's Palate is a regional mainstay, known for its vibrant menu and historical legacy. The Poughkeepsie building was once a clothing store and has been the culinary home of Charles Fells and Megan Kulpa Fells for nearly a decade. Don't miss the decadent lobster mac and cheese, drizzled with Pedro Jimenez sherry.

Their latest venture is Chu Noodles & Dumplings is the Asian-inspired lunch spot (with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays) just opened its doors and offers a flavor-packed menu. Dumpling highlights include duck and foie gras with spicy peanut sauce, mushroom and leek with ponzu, and shrimp and scallion with sweet chili. Ramen variations include CH-UK (chicken and duck broth, bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, crispy garlic, choy and scallion), Temomi (spicy shrimp broth, baby choy, pickled ramps, sprouts, nori, cilantro and sesame), and more. Stay tuned for new restaurant announcements coming soon.

Other dining options include elevated pub fare at the recently opened Mill House Brewing Company. Here you can sample nine signature brews including the award-winning Velvet Panda stout and Mr. Anderson, a Scottish ale in collaboration with the Anderson Center for Autism. One dollar from each pint sold is donated to the center. Crave offers a variety of small plates and heartier dishes from chef-owner Edward Kowalski. Regardless of your choice, you won't go hungry in the Hudson Valley.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.