Patrick Barrelet | Snow Farm Vineyard
Snow Farm Vineyard | South Hero, Vermont
Onsite Tasting Room: Saturday and Sundays 11:00am - 4:00pm, Friday nights 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Not only a winery, but a beautiful destination in the middle of Lake Champlain, Snow Farm Vineyard is run by David and Julie Lane and their sons Nick and Alex. The climate and the location in the Champlain Valley permits Snow Farm to grow vinifera grapes, such as Pinot Noir and Riesling, as well as the more cold hardy French Hybrids, such as Vidal Blanc and Baco Noir. In addition to producing table wines, Snow Farm produces ice wine - a dessert wine that cannot be made in too many other places in the world. Quebec-based winemaker Patrick Barrelet has been involved in Snow Farm for over 22 years.
How did you get started in winemaking?
It all started when I was young because my dad and uncle were making wine with our grapes on our land in Bedford, Quebec. As I got older, I decided to study winemaking in depth. I got a plane ticket to France and honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I was young…. I had the plane ticket…. I headed off with the idea that if I didn’t like it I could come home. But I fell in love with wine making! I studied at two different schools; Beaune and Dijon in Burgundy, France.
What is your winemaking style?
I use the traditional French style of winemaking. There are certain wines fermented in oak and other ones fermented in stainless steel. I let the grapes do the talking. I don’t use a lot of product, and technological, additions……There are so many ways to make wines, I am traditionalist!
What is one of your favorite varietals to work with and why?
That is a great question, I would say there are a few, Seyval Blanc is one but Vidal Blanc is my favorite. I can make a sauvignon style, or chardonnay style, or blend with it and Vidal makes an excellent Late Harvest wine. It all depends on the season.
Any tips for those who are wine beginners and want to learn more?
You have to keep things clean because you can scrap wines pretty easily. Don’t be afraid to experiment with yeast and temperature. In small batches be careful there is not too much air and always remember to keep things clean.
Do you have a favorite wine or vintage that you have made?
I have to admit 2016 was a great vintage. It is a year that made heavier reds than usual. More full bodied white. My favorite wine is 2016 Vidal Blanc. I am also partial to Leon Millot Reserve 2016.
What is one of the hardest things about winemaking in Vermont?
You can almost write that everything is hard. But, most important, consistency, in the weather, in the grapes is one of the hardest things. If you have a hard winter you will not have the same flavor profile and same production. That is a challenge I enjoy!
What wines or winemakers do you find inspiration from?
The winemakers that inspire me are the small winemakers in my region of Quebec. I admire their consistency with their product. You can make something good even if it’s difficult!
What has surprised you the most as a Vermont winemaker?
What surprised me the most is how well our grapes have done over 20 years! We planted a lot of different grape varietals not knowing how they would 20 years later. We could have had to rip everything out and put in Marquette’s but we stuck with it and I am proud to say they are doing well!
What is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a winemaker in Vermont?
When people come up to you and love your wine! That is rewarding. It really is!
The Lake Champlain Islands are best known as a great summer destination, and Snow Farm Winery adds to the festive atmosphere with weekly outdoor concerts throughout the summer months. There’s plenty of reason to stop by during the quieter winter months, too, including Wine Down Fridays with music and food in the Tasting Room at Snow Farm. In spring, it’s maple sugaring time at Crescent Bay Farm next door - syrup pulled from the evaporator at 18 brix makes the delightful Snow Farm Vineyard Fox Hill Maple dessert wine. Come visit this beautiful part of the world.