Chronicler of Eastern Wine History Dies

Photo-journalist Hudson Cattell co-founded Wine East magazine

by Linda Jones McKee
Hudson Cattell was the co-founder of Wine East magazine and the author of several books about the wine industry in the eastern United States.

Lancaster, Pa.—In May 1981, Hudson Cattell and I published the first issue of Wine East magazine. Our goal was to cover news of grapes and wine in Eastern North America, which was then a very minor player on the national and international wine scene. Twenty-seven years later, we sold the magazine to Wines & Vines, and we were co-editors of the Wine East section in that publication until he retired in 2013. On Monday, June 25, Cattell passed away at his home in Lancaster, Pa. at the age of 87.

Cattell always viewed himself as a photo-journalist, but many others across the East saw him as the “chronicler of Eastern wine history.” His career in covering the Eastern wine industry began in September 1976, when he and his partner in an advertising-public relations business, Lee Stauffer, purchased a four-page newsletter and renamed it the Pennsylvania Grape Letter and Wine News. By 1981, Stauffer had married a winemaker in New York, and I became Cattell’s business partner and co-publisher, in part because of my experience in small magazine editing and production. Cattell wanted to convert the newsletter to a magazine format and in May we published the first issue of Wine East.

In some ways, Cattell viewed his first four years as a wine journalist as the most exciting time in his career in the industry. He had no knowledge about growing grapes and no experience making or tasting wine (the first wine he tasted was a red French hybrid). The Eastern wine industry in many ways was in its beginning stages. There were only 125 wineries east of the Rockies and New York State had just passed legislation permitting the establishment of farm wineries in June 1976.

He met, interviewed and photographed the “founders” of the Eastern industry: Philip Wagner and his wife Jocelyn of Boordy Vineyards in Maryland who were responsible for bringing many of the first French hybrids to this country; Dr. Konstantin Frank, owner of Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport, N.Y. and an advocate for growing vinifera in N.Y. and the East; Charles Fournier, former president of Gold Seal Vineyards in Hammondsport; and George Hostetter, chief viticulturist for Brights Wines in Niagara Falls, Ontario, who planted the first vinifera grapes in that region.

Cattell also covered several formative events during those years. For example, he attended the first Wineries Unlimited, the Eastern trade conference that started in 1976; he was there when the Pennsylvania Wine Association was formed in March 1977; and he was at the American Wine Society meeting in 1977 that was the last gathering at which Frank, Wagner, Treville Lawrence and others spoke at the end of the vinifera-hybrid controversy.

After meeting vineyard and winery owners from Virginia to Michigan and New England, Cattell and Stauffer wrote a set of three booklets called "The Wines of the East." The first booklet, "The Hybrids," was published in 1978 and followed by "The Vinifera" in 1979 and "Native American Grapes" in 1980. His photography and the interviews he and Stauffer conducted resulted in the publishing of "Wine East of the Rockies," with the two as co-authors, in 1982.

He continued to attend meetings of the American Wine Society, the Society of Wine Educators, the Pennsylvania Wine Association and the American Society of Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section, as well as trade conferences including Wineries Unlimited, and later, the Eastern Winery Exposition. Ellie Butz, formerly a microbiologist at Purdue University, first met Cattell when she was working on malolactic bacteria at Pennsylvania State University. She recalled, “So many times I sat beside him at meals. He was always there, doing his thing.”

Butz was the first person who ever appeared on a Wine East cover.

“Hudson drove to State College with his big cameras and all his equipment and I shined up all my glassware and tidied up my Tri Bio lab, put on my too-tight lab coat and he began to take pictures,” she said. “Well, at some point he decided it needed to be a bit more artistic and I turned around to find him lying on the floor taking perfectly respectable upward angle shots. I know that sounds bad, but they were respectable. Not sure Hudson ever did anything that wasn't respectable. Now I had just seen the movie ‘Blow Up’ and seeing him there made me laugh because one of the characters in the movie did all sorts of crawling around on the floor to take his artsy photographs and here was I, Hudson's model, being photographed by an artist.”

Cattell published two additional books toward the end of his career in wine journalism. I was his co-author for "Pennsylvania Wine: A History," which was published in 2012. The following year he finished writing "Wines of Eastern North America: from Prohibition to the Present. A History and Desk Reference," a major writing project on which he spent approximately 20 years.

Lucie Morton, a well-known viticulturist based in Virginia, told Wines & Vines, “No one should take for granted the incredible rise of viniculture East of the Rockies. While he was not alone, without the enthusiasm and informed journalistic focus of Hudson Cattell, there is no way we would have gone from nowhere in the 1970s to here now in 2018. Many thanks, Hudson, a valued colleague and friend."

Cattell is survived by three sons, five grandchildren, grandsons, his former wife and care-giver in his last years, Dr. Maria Gleaton Cattell; and his sister, Jowain Cattell Brinkley.

When he received the Life-time Achievement Award from the Eastern Winery Exposition, Cattell summed up his career: "Since 1976, I've covered the Eastern wine beat and I've talked to almost everyone in the industry; I thank the industry for the chance to chronicle its achievements. Today it's a world-class region. There were 125 wineries east of the Rocky Mountains in 1976. Today there are over 3,000. That rise to success has been absolutely remarkable and I'm privileged to have covered it."

Posted on 06.28.2018 - 10:36:42 PST
I am so sorry to hear of Hudson's passing. Hudson was a great friend to the Canadian Wine Industry. Hudson reported on his first Grape and Wine Festival in Niagara starting 1976 right through to early 200O. Hudson wrote many a fine story of Canadian Wineries. I had the pleasure of having many fine dinners and bottles of with this great friend. I also had the pleasure of being invited to his 80th birthday party which gave me the opportunity to meet his family. To his family I would like to say Hudson was a number one gentlemen and a true believer in friendship. He will be sadly missed but fondly remembered. Lloyd Schmidt c/o Vineland Estate Wines. Vineland Ontario. Canada

Posted on 06.28.2018 - 14:10:03 PST
What a kind dedicated human being that greatly helped our East Coast Grape and Wine industry.

Heaven gets a good one in Hudson.

Tom Payette

Posted on 07.06.2018 - 13:40:35 PST
The management of the Eastern Winery Exposition is saddened by the passing of Hudson Cattell. He was not only present at the creation of the Eastern wine industry in U.S. and Canada, but faithfully covered the scene for decades. In addition to his and publishing partner Linda Jones McKee's work with Wine East, he has left a detailed and valuable record of the evolution of the Eastern wine industry over the last 40 years in "Wines of Eastern North America". We are grateful he lived to be the first recipient of the Eastern Winery Exposition's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bob Mignarri, Richard Leahy and Marcia Gulino
The Eastern Winery Exposition