Rolling Hills Estate Winery is shaping the Champlain Valley of New York AVA in more ways than one.

Did you know New York state has 10 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)? The newest – and one of the coldest climate AVAs – is located in upstate New York, tucked in between the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain. The area has been drawing visitors for decades, and now there is one more reason to visit – wine! 

There hasn’t been a lot of information on the Champlain Valley of New York AVA, since it only recently came out to the wine world with its official AVA designation in 2016. To help educate and share my love of American wines, I’ve partnered with Rolling Hills Estate Winery to bring you everything you need to know about the Champlain Valley of New York AVA. Make sure to check out the guide!

Rolling Hills Estate Winery
Rolling Hills Estate Winery

Why Rolling Hills Estate Winery? 

The team at Rolling Hills Estate Winery is helping lead the charge in shaping this budding wine region…and French-American hybrid grapes. The latter is becoming increasingly more important given the state of climate change and the wine world. I can’t fathom a world without wine… 

Let’s Start at the Beginning…

The story of Rolling Hills Estate Winery goes beyond the 21 acres of vines located on this stunning 1,300-acre property in the hamlet of Westport, NY. The property and town are steeped in history… 

In 1903, Joseph and Susan Ord purchased the land located on what is now Rolling Hills Estate Winery. Their daughter, Susan Vanderpoel Ord, served in the Red Cross in England during WWII, where she met Brigadier General John W.F. Treadwell, a colleague of Winston Churchill. Susan and the Brigadier fell in love, married, lived in London, and started a family. In 1946, they moved with their two sons, Thomas and Alexander “Sandy”, to Manhattan.

Rolling Hills Winery, Champlain Valley of New York
Photo Shared by Rolling Hills Estate Winery

By the mid-nineteenth century, Westport, NY was a fashionable resort town. With the popularity of steamboat and railway travel, socialites and summer guests flocked to Westport. Its social scene was regularly reported by the New York Times and Boston Globe. This included the Treadwell family. They would summer in Westport on what is part of the Rolling Hills property.

In 1972, Sandy Treadwell and his wife Elizabeth built the stone guesthouse, which still stands today, so their children could enjoy and experience the clean Adirondack air. Twenty years later, Cornell University in New York started its’ research on French-American hybrid grapes in this area. Sandy and Elizabeth allowed a portion of their property to be included in the research program. 

Sunrise at Rolling Hills Estate Winery

The opportunity to use their knowledge to create unique wines that showcased the terroir of their valley had begun. The next chapter of the Rolling Hills Estate Winery story begins here when new property owners purchased the land to create not just a world-class winery, but a food and wine region.

Four decades after the Treadwell family arrived – and a lot of grapes later – the team at Rolling Hills Estate Winery knew that French-American hybrid grapes could grow successfully in their cold climate. They knew that the wines produced would be award-winning.

Photo shared by Rolling Hills Estate Winery

In 2019, Rolling Hills Estate Winery formally became a licensed winery, planted 12,000 vines in the Old Schoolhouse Vineyard, and produced its first vintage from the preexisting Lamb Hill Vineyard.

“Champlain Valley of New York is still a new wine region and we are experimenting with the vines that will thrive. It used to be more of the wild, wild west up north when it came to winemaking. We’ve found several French-American (albeit less French than American) hybrids we love working with – Marquette, Frontenac, La Crescent, and St. Croix, to name a few. It is an exciting time to be in this valley – to be part of shaping the region and its’ wine production,” said Dan Faber, head winemaker, at Rolling Hills Estate Winery

Where to stay lake champlain
Townhomes at Rolling Hills Estate Winery

The Total Wine Country Experience 

What began as a full-service working farm has evolved to include 21 acres of vineyards, the winery, a Tasting Barn, and exciting lodging options – 16 NEW, five-bedroom, 3.5 bathroom townhomes set between the vineyards and Lake Champlain where families (especially multi-generational), and friends can immerse themselves in the Adirondacks – and wine country – at their home away from home.

The team at Rolling Hills Estate Winery is all about giving families the time to unplug, reconnect and recharge. (Take a peek at the lodging options, use the password – ‘redwine’ – to get behind the curtain.)

It’s one thing to visit wine country, it’s another to immerse yourself in it. Staying on an Estate Vineyard (a truly once in a lifetime stay) like Rolling Hills Estate Winery does just that, while also providing an opportunity to do many unique things beyond the vines. 

Wine in the Champlain Valley of New York
Photo shared by Rolling Hills Estate Winery

When you stay on the property, not only can you sip their private collection of small-batch artisanal wines, but also get your hands dirty – if you would like. You’re invited to work on the farm – gathering eggs, feeding the livestock, lending a hand milking cows, or simply visiting the draft horses and feeding them (and yourself) apples from their orchard.

If working the farm isn’t your jam, having unlimited access to the seasonal, farm-raised fresh food –USDA, hormone-free cuts of beef, pork and lamb, fruits and vegetables, farm-fresh eggs, maple syrup, milk right from their dairy cows – to take back to your townhouse to prepare culinary delights, will get you in the farming mood. I mean for real, forget grocery shopping – you’re on a farm that has it all for you! This sounds better than any Whole Foods!

Thigns to do Lake Champlain, Rolling Hills Winery
Photo provided by Rolling Hills Estate Winery

For you wine lovers, there are wine tours, tastings, and food pairings with the head winemaker, Dan Faber, and the winemaking team. There are also private tastings in the Tasting Barn (not a smelly one with animals), that is complete with a commercial kitchen, full bar, and a porch to take in the magnificent views.

Oh, and the fire pit is right outside where the kids and grandkids can roast s’mores as you spend time with friends, old and new. The Tasting Barn features one of the largest collections of New York State wines, including Rolling Hills Estate Winery’s Private Collection. (It’s so cool you can sip so many different New York wines in one place!)

Where to stay at Lake Champlain
Sipping wine at the fire pit, photo by Rolling Hills Estate Winery

The team at Rolling Hills Estate Winery has worked to create a food and wine community with a focus on the experience – tranquility, simplicity, serenity, farm-fresh delights, chef dinners, winemaker tastings, and vineyard tours. That doesn’t even include all of the things there are to do beyond the vines.

Rolling Hills Estate Winery even has its own large private lakeside beach and a dock where you can kayak, canoe, SUP, fish, rent a boat, hire a fishing guide, play cam jam and cornhole, or just relax on the beach. 

Where to stay lake champlain - Rolling Hills Estate Winery
Photo shared by Rolling Hills Estate Winery

“By developing relationships through food and wine, our philosophy embodies that wine is a conversation that is more than just a moment in time between friends. It often lingers, bringing us back to a special time and place… the flavor is reflective of the unique terroir and people who nurture the vines and create the time-honored wines in each bottle. With that first sip, the conversation continues, and you become part of the story,” said Dan Faber, head winemaker, Rolling Hills Estate Winery.

Explore the lodging options, at Rolling Hills Winery to see if it might be your next best grape escape. (Use the password – ‘redwine’ – to get behind the curtain.)

Sip in More of New York Wine Country