And so it begins. Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest returns to the Hudson Valley this weekend to kick off the unofficial start of fall foodie festivals in the region. If you’ve ever been to the celebration, you’ll know that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of food, wine, and spirits options available. To make it a little easier, we developed a plan to help you survive and thrive at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds.
Let’s not beat around the bush. The fest may have both “wine” and “food” in the title, but the actual event places a heavy emphasis on wine. To be exact, the fairgrounds will welcome over 50 wineries. Add to that a little more than 10 distilleries, five hard cider vendors, and a slew of breweries, and you have a whole lot of alcohol in a concentrated space. Instead of sampling every drink on the premises in the first hour, plan ahead and pace yourself. Your stomach will thank you later.
If you don’t want to worry about driving to Rhinebeck and making your way back home again, plan to visit on Saturday. That’s when you can take advantage of the partnership between the festival and Dutchess County Public Transportation, which will offer a shuttle that departs from Main and Market Streets and the Metro-North train station in Poughkeepsie.
Otherwise, find a friend who’s willing to be the designated driver for the day. Parking is free at the fairgrounds, and the event includes food and attractions for non-drinkers. Of course, DDs can always purchase a bottle or two to bring home and enjoy after the event, too.
You may not be at a college party, but the same strategy still applies. Before you get going with samples and sips, take the first half an hour when you arrive to do a preliminary walk of the area and scout out everything the festival has to offer. That way, you can make a mental note of where your favorite vendors are. If the preliminary walk isn’t for you, grab a map at the very least. That way, you can always find that one vendor who sold that amazing rosé without needing to backtrack through the maze of booths.
Do yourself a major favor and take regular breaks to stop by the water tent. When sun exposure, walking, eating, and drinking take a toll on your body, you need to refuel regularly with H20.
You may not think you need sunscreen when it’s 8 a.m. and the sun is just beginning to break through the clouds. When it’s 1 p.m. and your face begins to feel like the surface of the sun, however, you might want to think twice. To avoid any unwanted burns, prepare ahead of time by slathering on the SPF before you get to the fairgrounds and keeping a bottle on hand for reapplication throughout the day.
Also worth packing: sunglasses to keep the glare away, Band-aids to cover up blisters from walking, an umbrella to protect you from stray droplets, and a reusable tote to haul all the goodies you pick up throughout the day.
Not worth packing: pets and cigarettes. They’re not permitted on the fairgrounds.
There may be a whole lot of wine at the fest, but there’s also a ton of delectable eats. Food is not included in either the tasting or general ticket options, so bring a credit card and cash to pick up a few snacks during the day. Swing by Thailicious Catering for savory pad Thai, walk up to Three Little Pigs BBQ truck for finger-licking ribs and pulled pork, or satisfy your seafood craving with a lobster roll from Off the Hook food truck.
Don’t forget about the specialty food options either. You can pick up tasty treats to go or grab supplies for an impromptu picnic at the fairgrounds. Look out for the sweet brittle at Cooper Lake Farm, the creamy goat cheese at Hudson Valley Creamery, and the dark cabernet fudge at Udder Ideas Fudge.
It may only be September, but the gifting season will be here before you know it. Get a jump on holiday shopping by visiting the many market vendors onsite. From household essentials like small-batch soaps at SallyeAnder Soaps and hand-painted bowls at I See Spain to vino lover necessities like hand-decorated wine glasses at Cherie’s Decorative Painting and wino merch at Wine University, there’s a little something to satisfy everyone’s wish list.
One of the best parts of the festival is that if you find a wine you like, you can purchase it right on the spot. Opt to carry the bottle with you while you walk or, if you don’t want to tote the extra weight, grab it before you go at the wine pick-up service area. Once you purchase your bottle with a vendor, he or she sends it to the pick-up tent for easy access later. Just keep in mind that it takes about 45 minutes for purchased wine to make its way from a vendor to the pick-up station. The service ends at 3:30 p.m. each day, so get your orders in early if you don’t want to lug your wine around all afternoon.
Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest
Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck
Saturday, September 8 11 a.m. – 6 p.m; Sunday, September 9 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.