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    North of NYC North of NYC By Houlihan Lawrence By Houlihan Lawrence by

    As a marketing director and designer, I have always had an interest in packaging, promotion and branding. My sister spent a few days with me during my recent vacation. We decided to take a road trip through Northern Dutchess County to visit some popular destinations that I consider well thought out in terms of brand recognition. Our first stop brought us to Hammertown Barn, located in Pine Plains. Like Houlihan Lawrence, Hammertown Barn is family run and family owned. From their website I learned that it all started 25 years ago as a little shop in an old horse barn. Owner, Joan Osofsky, had a vision to bring a “modern country” sensibility to this northeast corner of the Hudson Valley. Their slogan “Love where you live” resonates with customers as they explore the gifts, furnishings and products “selected with standards of design, purpose, style and most important — comfort.” According to their website, “This is what has made Hammertown an award winning “lifestyle store”- selected as one of the Top 100 Stores in the country by Cottage Living Magazine and named one of House Beautiful’s favorite shops in America.” It’s certainly one of mine.

    Continuing along our journey, we made Harney & Sons Tea Company the second stop of the day. I was recently introduced to Harney and Sons Teas at an event held in June for Houlihan Lawrence Agents at the Westchester Marriot. Thoroughbred Title Services provided exquisite tins of iced teas packaged in rich brown Harney and Sons shopping bags. In the tea-making business for over 25 years, Harney & Sons offers free tea tastings daily. When you enter the store and tasting room in Millerton, NY, there are walls of shelves displaying different teas from all over the world and a bar, where daily samples are served. We tasted the “tea of the moment”, Earl Grey Supreme. Shop here for teas, accessories, books and teatime treats. There is also lunchroom with sandwiches, salads, hot entrees and weekend specials. Open for Lunch Monday - Saturday 11a - 4p, Sunday 12p - 3p. Definitely worth a visit and their tea is great too!

    Heading South on Route 22, we arrived at Cascade Mt. Winery, only to find that it was closed. Since we were unable to visit, I went to their website for a bit of information and history: Cascade Mountain was founded in the spring of 1972 by the Wetmore family who pioneered the production of premium table wines on the eastern side of the Hudson River. Bill, a former Novelist, along with his wife Margaret and their three children Charles, Michael, and Joan, planted the vineyard in 1972 and built the winery in 1977. Today, Cascade Mountain features a full line of award-winning table wines at its Wine and Tapas Bar and Art Gallery. Customers come from all over the world to enjoy a few pleasant hours on top of the Berkshire foothills sampling the wines and picnic lunches. Tasting & picnics are held indoors or out on Weekends 11a-5p and other days by appointment.

    With the aid of a GPS, we found our way onto Rte. 44 and headed west to find Millbrook Winery and Vineyard, at 26 Wing Road at the top of a long driveway. On the Dutchess Wine Trail, this winery is open 12p-5p seven days a week so we were able to sample a wine tasting and tour. We sampled 6 wines, their Villa Pillo extra virgin olive oil and wine crackers while learning about the owner of the vineyard. John S. Dyson is a pioneer in the global wine industry, an innovator in site-specific planting, and extensive vineyard research. Millbrook Vineyards & Winery belongs to Pebble Ridge Vineyards & Wine Estates, a wine group John and Kathe Dyson created that is devoted to producing the very finest wines of their particular growing regions. We also learned about the grapes used to make the wines we sampled. I especially liked the hunt country rose´, and purchased a bottle to enjoy later. The quality of the wine is enhanced by consistent and elegant labeling.

    Just West of the Taconic Parkway is Clinton Vineyards, a vineyard that specializes in white wines and champagnes.  Unfortunately the winery is open to the public later in the week so we were unable take a tour. From the website I learned that proprietors Phyllis and Ben Feder have created a warm and welcoming atmosphere and are on hand to greet you as you walk through the vineyard and around the property. Available for viewing is the wine making facility housed in a historic Dutch barn, the champagne cellar, the charming tasting room for sampling the wines and retail. They also sell their wines at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market on Sundays, May through October.

    We ended our trip in Rhinebeck and had a late lunch at Gigi Trattoria, where we sat outdoors and enjoyed the warm weather. My sister had the classic Caesar salad with grilled chicken and I ordered the Gigi Barbina salad. Owner Laura Pensiero includes the recipe for this dish in her book ”Hudson Valley Mediterranean: The Gigi Good Food Cookbook”. This restaurant not only provides great meals but also gets involved in the local community. Gigi menus support local farms by incorporating the freshest Hudson Valley produce into their innovative, artfully crafted dishes.

    What do these diverse business models have in common? Like Houlihan Lawrence, the area’s market real estate leader, they’ve established their brands with a passion for what they do, growing their reputations by creating a unique customer experience, exceeding expectations by incorporating the highest quality standards and understanding their commitment to local communities while providing services to an international audience.