I am not a strict locavore, I mean, I don’t mind the taste of Jamaica in my Rum or the Rhine in my Riesling, but increasingly I am drawn to praise the local distilleries and vineyards rising up around me, and for good reason. In fact, without leaving the small state of Vermont one can find plenty of unique elixirs to stock their liquor cupboard or wine cellar. I will feature only three in this post, but I am certain one might just as well highlight countless others, for as these family-owned ventures are springing up they are earning high marks in the process. I know my finds will encourage you to explore your own local area.
I’ll start with the closest yet newest of my finds: Smugglers’ Notch Distillery. The Vodka tasting sign outside their small shop brought us in on a wintery Saturday afternoon, and the “super-smooth and ultra-complex” vodka made us delighted we did! Smugglers’ Notch Vodka “blends winter wheat, sweet corn, and Vermont spring water in a truly unique and exquisite synthesis of flavors.” I can state with certainly that this is not false advertising: you can taste all that intricacy in one short shot. We also sampled the Smugglers’ Notch Rum… this, admittedly preferred spirit for me, really grabbed my taste-buds. I loved hearing from the owner (yes, the owner conducted the tasting– another perk of a local establishment!), he explained that after 3 years in charred-oak barrels, they finish the aging process in 4 year-old whiskey barrels. As novice as my liquor taste is, I could discern these distinct flavors blended into an amber accomplishment. This season rum may be a new addition to their shelves, but I predict they already have another winner in their bottles! (And their Gin is right around the corner!)
Heading west only a few miles, you arrive at the Boyden Valley Winery. The Boyden family is classic Vermont: this farm has been in the Boyden family for over 100 years, growing and adapting all along the way. Survival and so much more: reinventing! Vermonters have been fans of their wines for quite some time, but here are two worth noting, if for no other reason than their distinct differences. First, Vermont Ice, and as the ad states, “Came for the snow… fell in love with the Ice!” How to describe this sweet and complex dessert wine made from the frozen Le Crescent grapes, other than to say it has garnered an international reputation for all the best reasons! Vermont Ice will cap off any evening perfectly. I also want to lend a shout-out to Boyden’s Big Barn Red, a table wine that will undoubtedly satisfy everyone at your table. This red wine comes alive with red meats or strong cheeses (both products available in their onsite Milk House Market ). Aesthetically, I am enamored by the imagery of this product; the red barn is iconic Vermont at its best, like the farmers who survived countless long winters yet kept their cows healthy and happy in those big barns. Boyden captured all of that savvy sense in this signature red wine. I am confident their family-owned operation like their barns will stand solidly for another 100 years.
Let me end with one last spectacular spot, about thirty minutes from my home: Snow Farm Winery. “Because Snow Farm is situated on an island in the middle of Lake Champlain and therefore able to enjoy the micro-climate created by the U.S.’ sixth largest lake, Snow Farm’s growing season is identical to Burgundy, France.” There is no question that this winery, established in 1996, has earned attention on a grand scale as a result of its fine wines. I love driving out to the islands on a summer afternoon, first indulging in a delicious lake swim, then arriving at Snow Farm for an equally delicious tasting before leaving with several bottles of my two favorites: Snow White and Rose Red. Yes, I know, their names alone will cause you to want them in your wine cellar, but the taste will make you be glad they are there! The blue bottle of Snow White might fool you into thinking you are about to pour something less than the Bronze Medal winner of the 2009 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, but rest assured the wine is divine. Enjoy either with seven of your friends or bring a bottle or two along to any party you attend. I guarantee your hostess will not send the Huntsman after you but instead will thank you and invite themselves along for next summer’s jaunt to the vineyard.
Bottoms Up! Cheers! Salut! Salud! Proste! Salude! Kanpai! Opa! Hip Hip Hurrah!