Hudson Cattell, a self-described “photo journalist” who co-founded Wine East with Linda Jones McKee in 1981 and painstaking documented the people and process of the post-Prohibition resurrection of the eastern North American wine industry, died on June 25th at the age of 87.
His long-time publishing partner Linda Jones McKee explained in an obituary in Wines & Vines that Cattell began his career writing about the nascent eastern wine scene in 1976, when he and Lee Stauffer, purchased a four-page newsletter and renamed it the Pennsylvania Grape Letter and Wine News. In 1981 he and McKee became co-publishers of Wine East, a magazine focused on eastern viticulture, winemaking and news of the industry in the U.S. and Canada which was bought by Wines & Vines in 2008.
He entered eastern wine journalism at a good time; he was able to interview all the significant founders of the industry, such as Konstantin Frank of Dr. Frank Vinifera Cellars and his sometime French collaborator Charles Fournier of Gold Seal; together they proved that classic vinifera wine grapes could survive and produce quality wine in the Finger Lakes, then elsewhere in the East. He also interviewed Philip Wagner of Boordy Vineyards, the first to grow French hybrid grapes commercially on the East Coast, proving there were viable alternatives for eastern grape growers than concord and American hybrids.
He was meticulous in his interviewing, keeping cassette tape recordings of them, which he used near the end of his career to transcribe in precise written form for his seminar book Wines of Eastern North America: from Prohibition to the Present. A History and Desk Reference which was published in 2013. There is not another history of the eastern wine industry as thorough and detailed in covering its foundational decades.
Cattell was known for his diligence in attending wine industry meetings, taking notes and interviewing industry members. He was a regular at the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, Eastern Section, the former Wineries Unlimited and until recently, the Eastern Winery Exposition, which awarded him its first Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. In accepting the award, he declared that eastern North America “is a world-class [wine] 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.”