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Stoutridge Winery: Capturing the Flavor of the Hudson River Valley

By Marissa Fessenden '09

"In years past, a student may have had three job offers at graduation," says host Romi Kher, a graduate student in Applied Economics and Management (AEM). "Those days are gone for now. We use the podcast to pull in alumni and appeal to current students to be part of the networking that is so important in thiseconomy."

Kim Wagner and Steve Osborn
Marissa Fessenden

Kim Wagner and Steve Osborn

"It's like with food," Osborn says. "You take a tomato and puree it, and it doesn't taste like a tomato anymore. Unrefined and unfiltered— in our wine, you can taste the grape."

Stoutridge Winery, and soon to be distillery, is an agritourism destination located 90 minutes from Manhattan. The winery offers a unique product in an excellent location. The wine is unfiltered, gravity-pumped, solarpowered, made without added chemicals or acidity adjustment—and from a consciously sustainable operation.

When asked their secret, Wagner says, "Minimal processing—we want to make the wine that the grapes want to make. We never really wanted to be organic or sustainable or any of those catchwords. We just wanted to be smart business people."

Much of Osborn and Wagner's story has been shaped by events. At Cornell, Osborn was a biology major planning on med school until he met roommate Chris Stamp—now of Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, N.Y. Osborn joined the food science program and traveled to California after graduation to learn winemaking. Wagner majored in biochemisty and went on to study for her PhD at Harvard. She works as a management consultant as well as at the winery.

They bought the farm in Marlboro, N.Y., in 2001. "We were just going to put in a few acres of grapes and make a little wine," Wagner explains. "We were those crazy people you read about—it was an abandoned apple orchard at the time."

But Stoutridge is built on the foundation of a pre-Prohibition winery; the site has been used for fruit for decades. Close to the river, the vineyard slopes in a sunny southeastern direction while a ridge shelters the vines from the prevailing winds, and alkaline soil nurtures the vines. In a 2006 Cornell survey of the Hudson River Valley, Stoutridge had some of the prime vineyard sites in the region.

Wagner and Osborn built the winery into the hillside. Harvested grapes come in at the top and the juice flows down one level at a time for each step of the winemaking process. There are no pumps to mind, and no filters. Eventually the wine ends up in large oak barrels in the underground aging room, where it is kept at 55–60 degrees Fahrenheit by the natural geothermal effect of the surrounding earth. The sustainable practices add up to a tasty wine with a minimal carbon footprint.

"Non-processed winemaking has a huge effect on the wines—much more than I had expected," Osborn says. "It doesn't taste this way because of an idea I had, it's the idea this land has. I'm trying to show people the flavor of this area."