Can you name a wine grape variety grown in Vermont? If you’re not yet familiar with names like Marquette, Louise Swenson, La Crescent, or Petite Pearl, you probably will be soon. The Vermont wine scene has a lot to offer, like delicious summer blends, rosés, orange wines, natural wines, and ice wines.
From Putney to the Islands, and many places in between, Vermont has more wineries than you may realize. Check them out on DigInVT or via the Vermont Grape & Wine Council. More and more, we are becoming known as a wine region producing interesting and unique products.
Ice on vines at Shelburne Vineyard / Snow at Fresh Tracks Farm Vineyard
Unlike the climates in Europe and California, we are not generally able to cultivate the more well-known European varieties in Vermont. The reason has to do with the season we are just coming out of at the moment of writing: winter. Here, we need varieties that won’t die on us - that are hardy to -30°F or colder. We call these cold-hardy grapes and they have been specially developed by grape breeders. Breeding programs cross European varieties with native, American varieties to produce a hybrid variety with desirable traits, like disease resistance and the ability to withstand our frigid temps. “Hybrids are the path to the perfect grape,” says Double A Vineyards, a nursery in NY - read their recent article, All the Rage about Hybrids. Because of the pioneering work done primarily at the University of Minnesota and by the private grape breeder, Elmer Swenson, "the world of grape growing has truly moved North!" These varieties are now grown in the upper midwest, Canada, and here in New England.
Take Marquette, for example. As it states above, if you learn one Vermont grape, make it Marquette! While the variety has Pinot Noir in its lineage, it is actually the product of eight different vitis species, as explained in this Midwest Wine Press article. The wine produced from this grape is often a "medium-bodied complex red wine with a ruby color" and like many Vermont wines, "often pair[s] well with fattier meat dishes, [but] Marquette is also at home alongside flavorful vegetarian fare, particularly dishes featuring brown butter, heirloom beans, roasted root vegetables, or wildcrafted mushrooms" (from Vermont Fresh Network's Tasting Vermont Wine).
"Vermont has a unique combination of several things: grape varieties that are new enough to be unfamiliar yet established enough to be producing high quality wine, a growing food tourism economy that brings locals and visitors out to discover all aspects of wine production, and a local food culture that values flavor experiences informed by a "taste of place" - or as old world winemakers would say, terroir." - Tasting Vermont Wine
What better way to be introduced to the local wine scene than to visit a Vermont winery and experience first-hand their particular "taste of place." Confirm their hours, get a group of friends together, and head out for a tasting or tour. Often, wineries host events, like harvest festivals, concerts and music series, art openings, special cellar tastings, or release parties. For example,
- Fresh Tracks Farm Vineyard & Winery in Berlin has “Wine Down Fridays” and “Friday Night Fire” events. (Their slogan: Vermont wines from Vermont vines!)
- Shelburne Vineyard in Shelburne hosts “First Thursday Concerts,” cellar tastings, and a range of other events, like Paint & Sip, Wine & Story, and Bluegrass and Barbecue.
- Lincoln Peak Vineyard and Winery (from blossom to bottle) in New Haven has “Sunday Sessions” (music on the porch), a community harvest party, and more.
- Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits in Cambridge hosts “Sangria Saturdays,” an annual Ice Wine & Cocktail open house, Wine & Chocolate, and other themed events.
- La Garagista Farm + Winery in Barnard offers the occasional pop-up tavernetta and bar à vin.
- Snow Farm Vineyard in South Hero, which also has a B&B, hosts a robust “Summer Concert Series,” “Winter Wine Downs,” and sometimes a Parents Night Out.
Summer concert at Snow Farm Vineyard / Ice Wine & Cocktail Open House at Boyden Valley Winery (drinking Glögg)
Get to know a few of our winemakers, in our previous Meet the Winemakers article series: Chris Granstrom of Lincoln Peak Vineyard, Ethan Joseph of Shelburne Vineyard, and Patrick Barrelet of Snow Farm Vineyard. Also, be sure to check the wine list at some of your favorite Vermont restaurants for local wine. After you’ve found your favorite Vermont wine, won’t you join us in being an ambassador for our Vermont vineyards?
The Vermont Fresh Network has been working on a wine project with the Vermont Grape & Wine Council. Funded by the Vermont Specialty Crop Block Program, they are working to educate and promote local wine. Read more about the project and check out some of this year’s tastings, wine pairing dinners, or workshops.