• Publishers' Note Fall 2011

    Publishers' Note Fall 2011

    Recently we saw The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary by Werner Herzog. The film takes the viewer on a visual journey exploring the 30,000-year-old paintings inside the cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, in southern France. Powerful images of long-extinct animals, crafted by torchlight, transported us back in time. In the film, Herzog explores the very nature and origins of humanness and our urge to communicate; it’s astonishing to realize that at our core there is a need to convey meaningful information. And 30,000 years later, we’re still hard at work connecting with each other, trying to share what is meaningful.

    Continue Reading

  • Crop Mobsters

    Crop Mobsters

    Barley is furry. It is, in the eyes of Nick Cowles, “…golden and beautiful and furry…and it might tickle.”

    Nick was preparing a group of Green Mountain Crop Mob volunteers to enter his fields at Shelburne Orchards this past July. He was responding to a question about appropriate clothes for that morning’s work. The furry warning, and a gesture to the bathroom (recently cleaned in our honor), were all we needed before setting off through the orchards toward the five acres of barley we’d signed on to weed that morning.

    Continue Reading

  • Thinking Outside the Bordeaux

    Thinking Outside the Bordeaux

    Folks have been fermenting things for as long as there have been reasons to get drunk. Okay, crop preservation was probably more of a reason for fermentation, but I’m sure that inebriation was an added perk for many early consumers. Before refrigeration was an option, people needed to either dry, ferment, or culture foods to carry them through the lean months. When Vermont was more rural, each farm needed to produce food for their own winter larders, so fermented fruit, honey, and maple drinks were common.

    Continue Reading

  • Learning at the Market

    Learning at the Market

    Shop, Learn, Connect— that’s our market’s slogan, and this summer we emphasized the second word “learn” with 15 teaching demonstrations held during market hours. Intended to match the spirit of the market (local, seasonal, and affordable), the demonstrations helped customers learn how to preserve foods to enjoy year-round, how to prepare a variety of dishes from local produce, and how to stretch their food dollar. We partnered with Montpelier-area chefs, our market vendors, and food educators to lead these almost-weekly demonstrations.

    Continue Reading

  • Humane Heft

    Humane Heft

    Chalk up another “first” for Vermont.

    The state was the first to outlaw slavery, the first to legalize civil unions, and the first to pass a single-payer health care law, among other singular achievements. It may not be as significant, but the fact that Vermont recently became the first state to require local slaughterhouses to file a written humane handling plan falls in line with the state’s tradition of leading the way on moral issues.

    Continue Reading

  • Classroom, Cafeteria, Community

    Classroom, Cafeteria, Community

    From the First Lady to the USDA and Governor Peter Shumlin to celebrity chef Jaime Oliver, there is a growing national interest in improving the health and nutrition of our schoolchildren. Vermont will be among the last states to appear on Oliver’s Food Revolution, a television program meant to save America’s health by helping kids and adults change the way they eat, but perhaps that’s because our state has been leading the way by developing Farm to School (FTS) programming for more than a decade.

    Continue Reading

  • Having Both Lives

    Having Both Lives

    Why anybody would want to be either a farmer or a poet when there were spools turning in factories was beyond the grasp of the old man. That his grandson should desire to be both was almost enough to bring on a stroke.”

    According to the grandson’s biographer, “Determined in his course, Robert laid the whole matter before his grandfather. He would have a farm, live on it, produce his food with his own labor, and write poetry.”

    Continue Reading

  • Hooping it Up

    Hooping it Up

    For much of the summer, the sun rises too early for even early birds to see it. But you probably noticed the nights arriving earlier when August rolled around. Perhaps you walked outside at dusk and felt the absence of the swallows. By the time this article hits the stands in September, you’ve probably had your first light frost(s). Maybe even a killing frost, although with climate change it’s all less predictable now.

    Continue Reading

  • Set the Table with Sweet Potatoes

    Set the Table with Sweet Potatoes

    In prehistoric cave sites in Peru, scientists have found remains of sweet potatoes dating back to the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. It is one of the oldest vegetables grown by humans. Yet even with that amount of history in every velvety, sensuous mouthful, the sweet potato is also a plant of the future, and may be a very important plant indeed for Vermont’s future. We are witnessing the arrival and adaptation of a new staple food crop to the Northeast—a rare and exciting event.

    Continue Reading

  • Packing Local Lunches 101

    Packing Local Lunches 101

    Packing your child’s lunch every day can be a challenge. Below are some tips for cutting down on costs, time, and the energy you put into your child’s brown bag lunch—and adding some locally grown goods!

    Continue Reading

  • Farmers' Kitchen—Tomatillo Tamworths

    Farmers' Kitchen—Tomatillo Tamworths

    Yankee and Doodle squealed in the crate in the back of the Subaru. We were as shocked by the piglets’ lung capacity as we were by the fact that we, two former vegetarians, were about to start raising and selling meat! Once we got them home, they settled in quickly in the barn, scratching against the hand-hewn beams and eventually burying their noses in sweet-smelling hay.

    Continue Reading

  • A Tasty Tour

    A Tasty Tour

    Year One: A Good Cause. Managing our farm, my wife and I try to respect a Sunday off, cultivating diversity in our lives as we do in our fields. So in September 2008, a neighbor and I chose to ride the first annual "Tour de Farms," an Addison County bike-to-farms ride of various lengths, organized by Rural Vermont, the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN), and the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition. Having chosen the 30-mile loop, the rolling hills of Addison County on that clear morning were stunning.

    Continue Reading

  • Vermont Wine & Spirits Guide

    Vermont Wine & Spirits Guide

    Vermont is home to a thriving spirits industry. Our in-state distillers are producing a wide variety of products from vodka and maple liqueurs to gin and rye whiskey. Many of them are winning national acclaim and international awards for their fine quality and appealing flavor. A number of the distilleries have their own tasting rooms where the products they make can be sampled and purchased. You may also find local distillers at farmers’ markets, special events, or festivals around the state.

    Continue Reading

Thinking Outside the Bordeaux

Charles Dodge
Charles Dodge of Putney Mountain Winery

Written By

Claire Fitts Georges

Written on

September 01 , 2011

Folks have been fermenting things for as long as there have been reasons to get drunk. Okay, crop preservation was probably more of a reason for fermentation, but I’m sure that inebriation was an added perk for many early consumers. Before refrigeration was an option, people needed to either dry, ferment, or culture foods to carry them through the lean months. When Vermont was more rural, each farm needed to produce food for their own winter larders, so fermented fruit, honey, and maple drinks were common.

As skills are wont to do, the production of fermented drinks fell away with the growth of cities and electricity, but the process is now making a comeback. The high sugar content of grapes, and their suitability for European growing conditions, made them de rigueur for wines around the world, but just about anything with enough sugar and water can be fermented and preserved. While grapes are finally being grown with success in Vermont, our lush soils and short growing season have long been better suited to fruits like apples, blueberries, rhubarb and raspberries, so it is no surprise that Vermont wineries started out with fruit.

Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge is Vermont’s oldest existing winery, with a registration year of 1996. David and Linda Boyden launched their winery using apples grown on their farm. Since then, they have branched out to create a wide variety of grape, maple, and fruit wines. They continue to use their own apples—and blend in other Vermont apples—to make wines like their Vermont Maple (a light apple and maple wine), Gold Leaf (a barrel-aged dessert apple and maple wine), Vermont Ice Cider (a barrel-aged apple dessert wine), and Vermont Ice Apple Crème (a blend of Vermont Ice Apple Cider, apple brandy, and Vermont cream). They use Vermont-grown cranberries for their light, semi-dry Cranberry Wine, Boyden Farm rhubarb for their medium-body Rhubarb Wine, Vermont blueberries for port-like Blueberry Wine, and Vermont currants for their sweet Cassis dessert wine. Any of these delicious varietals, when seasonally available, can be sampled in their wine-tasting room in Cambridge.

Charles Dodge of Putney Mountain Winery in Putney was a professor of music at Dartmouth College when he kept hearing about the beers his students were making. He thought about making some himself, but on a drive home past an apple orchard, he decided that wine made from local apples seemed like a much more fruitful idea. After years of making apple wine for his friends and family, he opened Putney Mountain Winery in 1998 with his wife, Kate. Their focus is entirely on fruit wines made from fruits grown in Vermont; the only fruit they buy from out of state are cranberries grown on a small family farm on Cape Cod. They have a sparkling apple wine—Heirloom Cuvee—an Apple Maple wine, and Vermont Cassis, all of which are available year round. Their seasonally available wines include two other sparkling apple wines, their Rhubarb wine, Cranberry wine, and Pear wine, as well as a Strawberry Rhubarb wine and a Blueberry Apple wine. All of their wines can be sampled in their tasting room at the Basketville store in Putney.

Vermont may have a short wine-producing history, but the state, and theVermont Grape and Wine Council, have been working to make up for lost time. (According to their website, the Council has 30 members, 6 of which produce fruit wines.) Because federal law allows each state to regulate alcohol in its own way, there is a patchwork of alcohol regulations across the country that can help or hinder local wine production. Only in 2007 did Vermont law change to allow wineries to sample and sell their wares at farmers’ markets. The law now sees a farmers’ market as a tasting room and allows each winery to sell at up to 10 farmers’ markets or tasting rooms. David Boyden says customers today are much more educated about wine and that global wine production has opened people up to thinking outside the Bordeaux. Vermont, long known for its quality food production, has been able to use this vast wine landscape to bring attention to quality Vermont wines.

Many Vermont wineries use similar fruits, but as with grapes, there are many different ways to yeast a fruit. Choosing different yeasts allows a winery to pull out different flavors from a berry or an apple. In recent years, yeast strain cultivation has helped Vermont producers develop unique flavors for our burgeoning wine market. Two different cranberry wines from two different wineries are going to taste wonderful in two entirely different ways. You might expect a fruit wine to be sweet and syrupy, which they can be, but they also can be dry and spicy, light and crisp, or assertive and bold. You can pair different fruit wines with dinner or dessert (or breakfast, if you prefer to get your morning fruit juice the boozy way). And you can experiment with cooking with fruit wines, as well.

Kir Royale is a classic French drink of cassis mixed with champagne (or you can drop the “Royale” and mix in white wine instead of champagne). Putney Mountain Winery recommends cooking their Apple Maple wine with cinnamon, cloves, and maple syrup, then topping it off with a little gently heated wine. Boyden Valley Winery recently had a contest for mixed drinks using their Vermont Ice Apple Crème. (Check out the winning entry on their website.) A delicious favorite is a Maple Cranberry Wine Limeade with salt. Mix together lime juice, maple syrup, water (or seltzer), cranberry wine of your choice, and kosher salt to taste (a generous pinch or more if you’re a salty type). Serve that yummy concoction over ice. The pork chop recipe at right could be made with a simple red grape wine, but the cassis wine brings it to a whole new level. And the jelly recipe? Divine. Eat it with apples and blue cheese. Or local bread. Or on a spoon. Oh yum….

About the Author

Claire Fitts Georges

Claire Fitts Georges

Claire Fitts Georges is a recipe developer for corporations and publications, as well as the owner of Butterfly Bakery of Vermont.

Check out her recipe blog at Goodgrub.ButterflyBakeryVT.com.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest. Optional login below.

What we do

A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.


Sign up for quarterly notifications and issue highlights.
Please wait