Stephen Casscles

Winemaker, Hudson-Chatham Winery; Owner, Cedar Cliff Vineyard; Attorney, State of New York

Stephen comes from a fruit growing family that has been in the Hudson River Valley since the 1820s. Beginning in 1972, Stephen gained fruit-growing experience by working at local orchards and vineyards in Marlboro and Middle Hope NY. Stephen worked at Benmarl Vineyards in Marlboro from 1973 to 1986 where he became fascinated with growing grapes and making wine from heritage and French-American hybrid grape varieties. After working as a municipal attorney for two years in Walden NY Stephen had a long career as an attorney for the NY State Senate and the NY State Department of Health. For 33 years he worked for six state senators, two of whom, Jess J. Present and William J. Larkin Jr., represented the grape growing areas of western New York and the Hudson Valley. Stephen has authored at least 27 laws related to the production, distribution, and sale of wine, spirits, beer, and cider, in addition to laws related to his legal specialty of insurance, health care financing, and racing law.

In 1990, Stephen established Cedar Cliff Vineyards and Nursery, in Athens NY and has concentrated on evaluating and propagating 19th century heritage grape varieties that were developed in the Hudson Valley, NY and Cape Ann MA. Stephen was a winemaker at Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, New York, from 2007 to 2020, where he specialized in making wines from heritage grape varieties. In 2021, he was appointed director/winemaker of Milea Estate Vineyard’s Hudson Valley Heritage Grape Project, which seeks to conserve and promote historically relevant local grape varieties for future generations. He operates a small nursery that propagates rare nineteenth-century heritage grape varieties and own rooted chance hybrids identified at his farm. He is an award-winning winemaker whose wines and work has been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Post, Wine Enthusiast, Forbes, Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book (2021), the Times-Union, and the Hartford Courant.

Stephen is a frequent lecturer on wine, grape cultivation, nineteenth-century American horticulture, and landscape architecture at botanical gardens and historical societies throughout New York and New England. In addition to his full-length works on grape varieties, grape cultivation, and 19th-century horticulture, he is a contributor to numerous academic and trade journals. He also advises and lectures at the Fermentation Sciences Program at SUNY at Cobleskill and has a working relationship with many in the Korean grape and wine industry.