Home » Julio Rojas-Sacasa — Troutbeck, Amenia, New York

Julio Rojas-Sacasa — Troutbeck, Amenia, New York

Passport Insider

by Jimmy Im
Julio Rojas-Sacasa (Photo courtesy of Troutbeck)

I like that my job is literally to smile, welcome, inform, engage.

Julio Rojas-Sacasa (Photo courtesy of Troutbeck)

Three years ago, Julio Rojas-Sacasa, who started his career in fashion merchandising and retail management, had a moment of clarity: he was equally passionate about hospitality.

Julio’s career in fashion began in NYC in 2013, where he met his partner, R. Douglas Gellenbeck, an accomplished interior designer. During Covid in September 2020, they took a significant step by purchasing a home in Kent, Connecticut, and together, embarked on a journey of creative life experiences, and it’s here Julio discovered Troutbeck just 10 miles away. It was perhaps kismet.

Troutbeck (515 Leedsville Road, Amenia, New York. Tel: 845-789-1555. troutbeck.com), a 37-room Hudson Valley estate hotel, has long been known as a wellspring of inspiration. For centuries the home has hosted naturalists, poets, romantics, and presidents, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoureu, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, all of whom have stayed here or visited. The rustic, upscale and intimate property dates back to 1765, and it has been revived and renewed for the locavore, the creative, the curious, and the adventurous. “I cherish the opportunity to play a role in this extraordinary place,” says Julio. “There’s a strong emphasis on community, in terms of where we are situated, and the bonds formed among guests and staff. It’s also an extremely beautiful place to come to work every day. I like that my job is literally to smile, welcome, inform, engage.”

Working in hospitality has taught Julio quickly about the power he has to change someone’s day. “An authentic smile, eye contact, a small-shared moment of laughter or concern can do wonders, even with a stranger,” he says. “I feel that taken individually these are tiny instances, but taken together they have the power to change how we interact by leading with kindness and curiosity.”

Troutbeck is a 45 acre countryside sanctuary, but community is key and strongly felt here. The hotel offers programming that includes outdoor activities, wellness (such as its popular yoga program), and special events with notable artists that guests and locals alike can enjoy.

Troutbeck Valley estate hotel (Photo by Paul Barbera)

Troutbeck Valley Estate Hotel (Photo by Paul Barbera)

“I have a deep desire to see this region continue to be discovered, while simultaneously protecting the natural ecosystems that are central to its power and appeal,” says Julio. “I also enjoy seeing more diversity represented. There’s so much history to this part of the world, and I love that my job at Troutbeck both exposes me to it and allows me to share it with others.”

Julio, who’s roots trace back to Rivas, Nicaragua, is an avid outdoors enthusiast who is passionate about gardening, swimming, hiking, and embracing the beauty of nature. And he fits right in at Troutbeck, where guests can retreat into vacation mode instantly. “I believe my personal interests further fuel my passion for providing guests with memorable experiences, just as every garden has its unique beauty and every journey has its adventures.”

Where are the coolest places to go for cocktails in the area?
The best place to go for a cocktail is right here at Troutbeck, because we use spirits from the Hudson Valley, such as Ten Mile Distillery and Hillrock. My favorite one right now is the Original Sin, which uses Ten Mile Distillery Sinpatch Vodka, house-infused with vanilla bean. You can also drive 10 minutes into Millerton, the next town over, to go to Willa’s (52 Main St, Millerton, NY. Tel: 518-789-0252.), which was recently opened by Dan Meissner, a former cook here, and the cocktails and bar menu are terrific.

What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the area?
The best place for a romantic dinner is Canoe Hill (3264 Franklin Ave, Millbrook, NY. Tel: 845-605-1570. canoehillny.com). The restaurant is peaceful and makes for the perfect place to spend an evening with your partner. Plus, the $2 oysters are a must have.

Who serves the greatest weekend brunch in town?
Blu Pointe (120 Front St Newburgh, NY. Tel: 845-569-0100. blu-pointe.com) serves an amazing brunch on the weekends, with a view right on the Hudson River! As soon as you walk in, you just feel warm and welcomed. The atmosphere is complemented by such a friendly and attentive staff. I would definitely recommend their All American omelets, because you can’t go wrong with bacon, egg and cheese.

Dining at Troutbeck Photo by Jim Henkens

Dining at Troutbeck (Photo by Jim Henkens)

What are the hottest shows in town, and how do I get tickets?
My partner and I love Roosevelt Bar (288 Main St, Beacon, NY. Tel: instagram.com/therooseveltbar). There are live performances including drag shows, burlesque, and dance nights with DJs. It’s always such a good time.

What museums are a must see for visitors?
The grounds at Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (4079 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY. Tel: 845-486-7770. fdrlibrary.org) are stunning. It’s beautiful to just take a stroll and admire all the statues. For history fans, you can schedule a guided tour and learn all about our former president’s time in office. Fun fact: he was the first to establish presidential libraries as a way to keep the government open and accessible to citizens.

What are some great annual events or experiences?
Poughkeepsie Pride (dutchesspridecenter.org) is one of the most popular, small town pride events up in the Hudson Valley. A lot of people, gay and straight, come from all the hamlets and towns to experience it! Also, don’t miss out on the Four Brothers Drive-In (4957 Route 22 Amenia, NY. Tel: 845-373-8178. playeatdrink.com). The restaurant chain has a cult following, but the drive-in is what makes the Amenia Four Brothers so special. They show great films and there’s nothing like watching a movie in the glow of summer under the stars.

Which guided tours do you recommend most often to your guests?
Troutbeck sources as much as we can from our local neighbors, Hillrock Estate Distillery (408 Poole Hill Road, Ancram, NY. Tel: 518-329-1023. hillrockdistillery.com) included, as we use their vodka in our drinks. When you’re in the Hudson valley, there is no shortage of beautiful views. I love going to Hillrock because the rolling hills remind me of visiting vineyards in Napa, a short distance from San Francisco where I grew up. At Hillrock, you can tour the distillery, learn how vodka and whiskey are made, and taste test the merchandise.

Where else can you go to get the best views of the area?
Innisfree Garden (362 Tyrrel Road, Millbrook, NY. Tel: 845-677-8000. innisfreegarden.org) is a midcentury, Japanese- and Chinese-inspired masterpiece that transports you to another world. It’s impossible not to contemplate nature’s power and man’s relationship to it when wandering through these exquisite vignettes.

Where are the best places to work out?
Wheelhouse (33 Arlington Ave. Ste 1 Poughkeepsie, NY. Tel: 845-475-7226. wheelhouseny.com) offers either a membership or a selection of classes, very reasonably priced for the excellent facilities and knowledgeable teachers. Because the energy there is so good, you want to go to the gym, to stay, and to sweat. We also have a great gym, yoga studio, and infrared sauna here at Troutbeck.

If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
At Troutbeck, we offer incredible treatments like acupuncture, gua sha, and massage. I’ve loved trying out the infrared sauna and facials. We even offer astrology and horoscope readings. Another service at Troutbeck is the somatic experience and private meditation. When a guest inquires about where to go for aesthetic wellness, like a pedicure, laser treatment, botox, or professional makeup, I always send them to Tyte Medispa (3280 Franklin Ave., Millbrook, NY. Tel: 845-677-6100. tytemedispa.com). It’s so peaceful and always leaves you feeling relaxed.

Designer labels for less—do you have any suggestions for the smart shopper?
I love The Vintage Shop Carmel (222 Rte 52, Carmel, NY. Tel: 914-895-5033. thevintageshopcarmel.com). They always have treasures from other eras. I enjoy the hunt and the feeling of finding something that’s a steal.

What are the best gay/lesbian bars in the area?
When you’re living in a major city like New York City, you can find a gay bar anywhere. When you’re farther upstate, places are not necessarily designated as a specifically gay bar. Roosevelt Bar (288 Main St Beacon, NY. hudsonvalleyfoodhall.com) does a great job at bridging the two by offering pride events, drag shows, and gay nights. I like to go because I always feel welcome, and often see other same-sex couples in the room. I do my best to recommend places that offer a supportive and welcoming environment for any community.

Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
Late night bites in the Hudson Valley will either be the greatest diner food of all time, or the most delicious upscale bites. Backbar (347 Warren St, Hudson, NY. Tel: 518-828-0567. backbar-hudson.com) is perfect for a late night meal that will satisfy any craving with its Southeast Asian inspired fare. Colonial Diner (8 Dolson Ave, Middletown, NY. Tel: 845-342-3500) on the other hand, is a 24-hour diner serving all the classics you’d expect.

What is the iconic tourist souvenir, and where will we find it?
The best souvenir of all is one you don’t have to buy. Troutbeck has stunning grounds and is surrounded by amazing foliage. My partner and I love to see what we can find when we are on a walk; uniquely colored rocks or yellow/red leaves are great to pick up and bring home to your garden. If you want a true souvenir, I recommend a wine tasting at Millbrook Winery (26 Wing Road, Millbrook, NY. Tel: 845-677-8383. millbrookwine.com). After the tasting, you can take the glassware home—I almost have a full set!

The Barns at Troutbeck (Photo by Nicole Franzen)

The Barns at Troutbeck (Photo by Nicole Franzen)

Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave the area without visiting…
My partner is an interior designer, and I have my bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising, so we love to visit Creel & Gow (3424 Franklin Ave, Millbrook, NY. Tel: 845-677-4505. creelandgow.com) to find eclectic additions to our home. Every time we walk in there, we feel like we are transported to a new world with its fascinating, unique, rare objects and curated collectibles from across the globe, and we can never leave without purchasing something. It’s truly magical.

A perfect place in the summer, Ten Mile Distillery (78 Sinpatch Rd, Wassaic, NY. Tel: 845-877-6399. tenmiledistillery.com) is another great local business to learn more about the process of making alcohol, such as vodka and whiskey, which you can only purchase on site. Also make sure to visit Wassaic project (37 Furnace Bank Rd. Amenia NY. Tel: 855-927-7242. wassaicproject.org). It’s a non-profit, artist-run gallery that promotes the arts in the area, and Troutbeck has hosted a longstanding relationship with the group. It’s so great to see art from local creators and get to support the people that make our community so unique. Vitsky Bakery (3 Main St, Wassaic, NY. vitskybakery.com) is another must visit. Located inside Ten Mile Table, the bakery counter led by former Troutbeck pastry chef, Ariel Yotive, Vitsky Bakery has a knack for pairing unexpected flavors. It’s only open on the weekends, so my partner and I will go first thing on Saturdays to get our bread for the week. They have the best cookies, maple bars, and cinnamon rolls. Also, across the street from Vitsky Bakery is The Lantern Inn (10 Main St. Wassaic, NY. Tel: 845-373-8389. wassaiclanterninn.com), a fun and great pizza place and bar with patio seating that’s perfect at sunset in the summer. You’ll love the woodfired pizza, which truly is the best in town!

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