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City Winery, An Interview With CEO, Michael Dorf

City Winery, An Interview With CEO, Michael Dorf

City Winery Tasting RoomWe recently sat down with Michael Dorf, founder of the famous Knitting Factory music venue in NYC, and Founder and current CEO of the new City Winery restaurant and venue in Montgomery, NY.  May 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of this stylish new venue and we were excited for the opportunity to speak to its Founder and CEO to learn more about the company’s journey and expansion into the Hudson Valley.

While one might initially be confused as to why this typically “urban” winery has chosen to expand to our decidedly non-urban Hudson Valley, my talk with Michael clarified that. Thirty years ago, his interest in rock climbing led him to purchase an older house in Ulster County, right off Minnewaska State Park. As a long-time resident of the Hudson Valley, he feels a deep connection to the area. Over the years as the company grew, they realized they needed a larger, more centralized location to make their wine than crowded, expensive places in the city. This is what started their search for a suitable property.

To complement the winemaking, Michael knew he wanted to maintain the signature City Winery philosophy which was to pair the culinary experience with a cultural experience. Thus, he looked for spaces that could also handle larger events and be a stand-out in the popular wedding venue business.

After searching years for the right space, it was chance (and possibly some divine intervention with a nod to his former Knitting Factory days?) that finally brought it all together as he was randomly driving down Rt 17 and saw the Montgomery Mills Knit Wear sign off Factory street. He fell in love with the 65,000 sq ft. building which was still actively being used to spin yarn by the Jeff Steinberger family who had been only the 2nd owner since 1812.

One of the truly interesting and commendable things they have done since purchasing the 22-acre property set on the Wallkill River in Montgomery, NY is the revamping of the old hydroelectric plant. When finished, it will allow them to generate over a million kilowatts of green energy to power the winery, making it a net-zero facility. In addition to being green, Michael is proud City Winery is able to contribute to the local economy by providing local jobs, purchasing food from local farms, sourcing local products, and the use of Hudson Valley-based construction companies.

Over the last unprecedented year, just managing to keep a business going has been difficult enough for so many. For City Winery, opening the doors to a multi-million-dollar food and live events-based venue in a brand new location, has been a huge challenge.  While their ability to utilize outdoor seating for the restaurant and the introduction of new virtual products and events helped, Michael was extremely grateful for local banking partner, Rhinebeck Savings Bank, saying the bank was a huge reason they were able to pull through the pandemic.

City Winery’s original mission for the Hudson Valley location was to not only be a high-end winery and restaurant, but also an elegant and beautiful wedding venue and event space.  To that end, the historic nature of the buildings has been meticulously maintained during renovation. The use of old machinery and parts from the original yarn factory as decorating and artistic touches, adds to the charm of the building and gives visitors a real sense of its history.  There is a restaurant that is open throughout the week and a great room for events that can hold up to 400 people seated, as well as multiple other smaller spaces available for events.  Scattered in the front and back of the building are outdoor tables and fire pits for guests to hang out and talk in a relaxing environment. On the lower level is the “boiler” room which is one of the most unique spaces in the main building, showcasing the giant old boilers. There is also a large outdoor stage and hillside for seating that is available both for actual weddings as well as concerts. In addition to the multiple event spaces, there is a lovely barn with 3 apt-style rentals that can be either added to wedding bookings or rented via Airbnb.

An entire year after opening, it is only within the last two weeks that they were able to have their first larger wedding. The upcoming concert series for the summer has also been recently announced with new dates constantly being added. Being known for their music, this has been a big step towards getting back to normal. Looking towards the future, they are in the process of continuing to add to available spaces by building an amazing deck right on the river, and a 13-room boutique hotel attached to the same complex as the restaurant is also in the works.  As the region continues to open up from the constraints of the past year, thankfully, the future is looking bright.


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