When you think of Vermont, you probably think of snow and maple syrup.
But believe it or not, the state actually has been making wine for about 15 years now, thanks to the farmers. They would ferment the stuff that grew on their land -- like apples, other fruit trees, honey and maple -- and drink it! (Crafty farmers.) Remember, anything with sugar can be fermented and turned into alcohol. (Wonder if they ever tried Frosted Flakes?)
Charles Dodge, founder of Putney Mountain Winery knew this when he started his winery in 1998.
As one of the early Vermont winery owners, he also realized that his state's chilly climate is ideal for growing cold-hardy grape varietals like Marquette, La Crescent and St. Croix. And of course apples, berries, and honeybees also happen to do well in cold temperatures. So it seemed like all the right ingredients to make wine.
What’s really, uh, cool, is that because of the state's frigid winter temperatures, Vermont wineries are among the handful of producers in the country that also produce “ice wines” which are made from grapes and other fruits that are allowed to freeze before harvest.
And Dodge and his wife produce all of it -- reds, whites, rose, dry, sweet, ice and fruit wines. They're also making blends and 100% varietals, hard, ice and sparkling ciders, and mead--a wine made from honey.
As a whole, the state is producing unique wines that are winning international awards. There is even a Vermont Wine Trail now, which you can find more info at www.VermontGrapeandWineCouncil.com.
Try the ice wine and let me know what you think.
Questions for Our Wine Pro
What is your death row wine?
Following Socrates, I would choose Hemlock for my death row wine; failing its availability, I would settle for one of the better vintages of Chateau d'Yquem.
What region produces the best wine?
Tuscany; Rhone valley; Franconia (southern Germany); Mendoza, Argentina; and Vermont.
What is the best wine and food pairing you’ve ever had?
Summer 1993, La Ciusa restaurant in Montefolonico, Tuscany: vintage Barolo with red wine risotto.
Outside of Lyons in 1984 at Alain Chappelle's (Michelin 4 star restaurant and inn) we drank a Clos des Mouches red burgundy with herb-roasted rabbit. The combination was divine.
What will the U.S. wine industry look like in 10 years?
The recent emergence of artisanal wines from grapes, other fruits, rhubarb, honey and maple syrup will continue to proliferate and intensify. The consumer will have a much easier time finding the perfect, delicious local wine to pair with natural, delicious local food.