Ben Feder (right), a native of the Bronx who was a noted graphic artist and book designer, in 1969 purchased a rundown 100-acre dairy farm in Dutchess County. It eventually became Clinton Vineyards, which for the past two decades he and his fourth wife, Phyllis Rich Flood Feder, have operated and marketed.
The first Clinton vines were planted in 1976, and the first vintage bottled in ’77. Over the years Clinton has risen to the top echelon of New York wineries. In particular, its Seyval Blancs are superb. And, in recent years Ben and Phyllis put a lot of effort into a line of dessert products, producing a nice cassis liqueur, Nuit black raspberry wine, and a clever trio called Ménage à Trois, consisting of Desire (blackberry), Romance (late-harvest seyval) and Embrace (red raspberry).
Ben, 88, had been in failing health for some years. He died September 24 of brain cancer. Just before that he was honored with the Hudson Valley Veritas Award for lifetime achievement and visionary leadership. The video of the event has just been released to the public. (See below)
Ben was a continual inspiration to adventurous people who wanted to get into the wine business. Carlo DeVito, a publishing executive and writer who owns the Hudson-Chatham Winery, nicely expressed what Ben meant to such people when he wrote on his blog:
“I am in the Hudson Valley because of Ben Feder. Because of what he accomplished. He established a working vineyard farm n the valley, and he made good wine. And because of what he accomplished, he made it a little easier for the next wave of us. Thank you Ben Feder.”