J. Stephen Casscles, Esq

Winemaker, Dear Native Grapes Winery; Owner, Cedar Cliff Vineyards

Stephen comes from an old Hudson River Valley fruit growing family and worked at Benmarl Vineyards in Marlboro, NY from 1973 to 1986 where he worked with French-American grape varieties. Stephen has had a long career as an attorney for the NY State Senate and the NY State Department of Health. Stephen wrote 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, municipal finance, and racing law.
In 1990, Stephen established Cedar Cliff Vineyards and Nursery in Athens NY where he evaluates 19th century Hudson Valley and Boston’s North Shore heritage grape varieties and other cool climate grapes. Stephen was a winemaker at Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, New York, from 2007 to 2020, where he made wines from French-American & heritage hybrid grape varieties. From 2021 to 2023, he was appointed director/winemaker of Milea Estate Vineyard’s Hudson Valley Heritage Grape Project. He now works at Dear Native Grapes Winery, in Walton, NY.
In 2015, Casscles wrote Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the US and Canada, which is now in its 2nd Edition (2023) with 2 new chapters on grapes bred in New England. He is associated with 3 small nurseries that propagate rare nineteenth-century heritage and other cool climate grape varieties. He is an award-winning winemaker who has been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Post, Wine Enthusiast, Forbes Magazine, Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book (2021), the Albany Times-Union, and the Hartford Courant.
Stephen lecturers on wine, grape cultivation, and nineteenth-century American horticulture throughout the East Coast. In addition to his full-length works on grape varieties, grape cultivation, and 19th-century horticulture, he is a contributor to academic and trade journals for UMass Amherst, the New Jersey Horticultural Society, and Arnold Arboretum (Harvard). He also advises and lectures at the Fermentation Sciences Program at SUNY at Cobleskill and has a working relationship with many in the Korean wine industry. His new book, The Grapes of Chungcheongbuk-do, Korea, should be in print by early 2024.