Visiting Madava Farms, Home of Crown Maple
By Erin Wyble Newcomb
Photos: Jackson Summers
On a chilly morning in March, my family settled in for a scenic drive along Dutchess County’s rural roads. We watched the scenery pass—bare trees, horse farms and grazing cows—as the route twisted and turned and climbed. The gray sky and biting air made no promise of an early spring. We turned onto a narrow gravel road, nearing our destination, and were soon met by the impressive stone pillars and iron gates bearing the logo of Crown Maple. We’d arrived at Madava Farms, ready for an afternoon of tasting during one of New York’s Maple Weekends.
As we ascended the long driveway, we noticed the tubes connecting the maple trees all over the property. We dashed from the car to the lodge, its charming log-cabin-inspired exterior still in step with the contemporary feel of our entire experience with Crown Maple. Out on the patio, a fire pit blazed; complimentary marshmallows and toasting sticks stood at the ready, and it was all we could do to persuade our children to start with the tour. At the entrance, greeters welcomed us and explained the day’s offerings—demonstrations, a self-guided tour and lots of maple-infused tastings. I wanted to start with the educational experience, so we listened in on a talk about keeping the maples healthy on their family farm, and we ex- plored the tools illustrating the history of maple-syrup tapping. From wood spigots to metal siphons to the contemporary tubes we noticed on our way in, we discussed the history of New York’s maple-syrup production. We learned about the unique processes and the proprietary production technology that help make Crown Maple, a certified organic farm, not only delicious but also environmentally friendly.
After learning more about how Crown Maple syrups are made, we wanted to taste some for ourselves. My husband stopped to sample the maple-syrup-infused cocktails while my daughters and I journeyed into the main room. Gleaming silver barrels of maple syrup lined the back wall, and my girls got cozy coloring maple leaves and playing with stamps at a table while I brought them samples to savor: maple popcorn, maple cotton candy, maple doughnuts, maple granola. My three-year-old still talks about that cotton candy like it was the best day of her life. When my husband rejoined us, we decided it was time for some more substantial eats, so we ordered a maple-inspired tasting plate, small portions of some of the café’s offerings for the special event. Maple mustard? A delicious spin on the standard honey mustard. Maple-syrup glaze for meats? A tasty idea. But my favorite? The Crown Maple coffee—a sweet drink that’s easy to replicate at home by simply adding Crown Maple, a healthy alternative to sugar. I’ve started using their syrup to sweeten my banana-walnut bread too, which makes for a scrumptious sidekick to the coffee. For more ideas (and, believe me, it doesn’t stop with pancakes and waffles, or even breakfast), check out Crown Maple’s “Recipe Collections” listed on their website, which features more than 100 recipes from appetizers to culi- nary applications, to desserts and even maple mixology.
But I digress…easy enough to do with all the ways to incorporate maple syrup into a menu. Appetites sated, we decided to get serious about the straight-up maple syrup, so we entered the tasting room. The syrups ranged from amber color and rich-taste syrup to very dark color and strong-taste syrup, and included my personal favorite, the Bourbon barrel–aged, which gave the sweetness a little kick with extra layers of flavors. The flight of syrups matched the sophistication of some of the Hudson Valley’s best wineries, with treats for the whole family to enjoy. The Crown Maple experts in the tasting room explained the new grading systems for the syrup and what the color tells the consumer about the flavor. Basically, lighter color means more delicate flavor and darker color indicates a stronger, richer flavor. The Crown Maple website’s “Under- standing Maple Grades” offers descriptions of the terms and suggestions for how to use each syrup. We left with two bottles of the Amber, perfect for slow weekend mornings. My girls also picked out a maple-cookie kit for their grandmother’s birthday; it comes with a maple-leaf cookie cutter, a small bottle of maple syrup and all the dry ingredients for cookies. I have a feeling that will turn out to be a present for our whole family. On our way out, we each toasted a marshmallow and warmed up at the fire pit. We saw people planning walks on the trails and enjoying the view from benches on the property. We let the kids run a few sprints along the grassy stretch in front of the lodge before we started home. Nestled in the foothills, surrounded by the thriving sugarbush, it felt like a perfect conclusion to our visit to Madava Farms, a sweet and sophisticated retreat in the Hudson Valley.
Following my family’s visit, I connected with Crown Maple’s CEO, Mike Cobb, to find out more about what makes this picturesque place and its premium product so special. At its heart, it’s a family story. The 800-acre farm, purchased by Robb and Lydia Turner in 2007, is named for the couple’s daughters, Madeline and Ava. Mike describes the estates as “a family escape,” explaining “how Robb wanted to give his daughters an experience with nature similar to the one he had growing up in Illinois. He [was] fortunate to discover a spectacular property with a wide range of geography, incredible trout streams, forests and fields, and a phenomenal view at the top of a mountain.” The beauty of the land is undeniable, and visiting families can enjoy the vistas from the patio or venture out onto the network of nature trails to see more clearly what originally inspired the Turners. This is the “home” of Crown Maple, and that’s precisely the feeling the experience invokes. And what a treat that Crown Maple invites guests from the Hudson Valley and everywhere to visit and experience this amazing home.
Of course, the Turners’ story begins with the land but doesn’t end there. Mike depicts the evolution of the brand Crown Maple, including a neighbor who noted the farm as “one-of-a-kind maple property,” a partnership with Cornell, and manufacturers who developed a state-of-the-art facility. According to Mike, the land boasts “more than 20,000 of the most majestic maple trees… perfect soil conditions [and] excellent elevation…for efficient tapping systems,” as well as “ideal weather conditions.” These factors speak to the potential of Madava Farms, but there are a number of technological advances that make Crown Maple the business it is today. Mike listed its large-scale processing facility; a first-of-its-kind evaporator system; a first-of-its-kind reverse-osmosis machine; advanced filtration and purification systems; high-volume, pressurized sap collection; and an automated system that transports sap from tree to evaporator. For example, the reverse-osmosis machine removes water from the sap more effectively and efficiently, saving fuel costs on the way to a purer syrup. All of these technical terms indicate the level of innovation within Crown Maple’s production process and the extensive research behind the syrup, yet it’s the combination of respect for the Hudson Valley’s beauty and cutting-edge facilities that make this brand unique.
As Mike says, “One of the prime reasons Crown Maple was founded was to help preserve the majestic maple groves of Madava Farms in Dutchess County, New York. Armed with extensive data on the maple groves and property, Crown Maple created a plan designed to manage the sugarbush for maple-syrup production while retaining a wide species mix to ensure a diverse and healthy forest ecosystem…Crown Maple’s sustainable forestry practices are not only preparing for the future, they’re keeping the sugarbush healthy and productive today, which helps create quite possibly the purest maple syrup on earth.” These comments reflect the brand’s passion for producing unequalled maple syrup as much as they reveal a devotion to protecting and supporting the local community. I admit that the syrup is the best maple syrup I have tasted, with layers of delicious flavors, but learning about the principles behind this business makes the whole experience even more palatable. Crown Maple holds itself accountable to the regal environment and supportive community that make their product possible. They provide local jobs and tourist appeal all while responsibly stewarding the resources of the Hudson Valley for generations to come.
Indeed, striving for excellence in all areas is a hall- mark of Crown Maple. Their logo, an orange crown that looks like it’s fashioned from maple leaves, honors the source of the syrup as well as the brand’s emphasis on a high-end product. About the origin of the name, Mike says, “The top of the maple tree is called ‘the crown’ and represents our aspirations to provide unequalled quality, purity and taste.” The brand name itself is an homage to the trees and the loving care taken with the sap, from tree to table. As a certified organic farm, Madava prizes sustainability and takes its responsibility to both the sugarbush and the community seriously. “The maple trees must be cared for and nurtured for their beautiful gift that they give us only a few weeks out of the year,” Mike explains. “As we care for them, they will care for us and sustain [us] eternally.” That sentiment displays the core of Crown Maple, from a family who fell in love with a Hudson Valley sugarbush all the way to the organic products that spread the joy of community well beyond this place we call home.
For a few weeks each year, the sap runs and the folks at Crown Maple and Madava Farms bustle to prepare another year’s worth of products. Mike took time out of this busy season to share his company’s passion with me. By the time my family settled into the car, lulled once more by those country roads, my elder daughter was perusing the brochures from Crown Maple; I think she’s already got our next visit planned. There’s no need to wait until next year’s Maple Weekends to stop by, but in between trips, there’s plenty of maple syrup and affiliated products to bring the spirit of Crown Maple’s home into your own. I’m glad my family got to experience the sustainable vision of Crown Maple, and to visit the gem of Madava Farms; I have a feeling they’ll be “sustaining” my family’s pancake breakfasts for a long time to come.
For more information, visit www.crownmaple.com or call 845.877.0640. The café is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. █