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HVT X S14 Stories
May 5, 2022

6 ESSENTIAL VERMONT WINES

Vermont’s reputation has always preceded itself. Perhaps just hearing the state’s name conjures thoughts of Holstein cows grazing lazily on a bucolic hillside. Or maybe cheddar cheese eating hippies taking baths in maple syrup. Or, if you’re like most of my bar guests over the last ten year, the numerous breweries pumping out the haziest, juiciest IPAs you’ve ever seen. But there’s a new kid on the Vermont scene and everyone should take notice: Vermont wine.

I know, I know. Vermont wine??? Nonsense! But hear me out. Just like with the creation of the Vermont-style IPA, there’s always room for evolution and the wine producers in Vermont are doing just that. Evolving. I mean, if it weren’t great wine, how could a coffee shop in Burlington on a Monday night have a line out the door for an Italian food and all Vermont wine pop-up? How I ask you! Well, that’s just what happened at Vivid Coffee on an otherwise sleepy Monday night in March, mere blocks from Hotel Vermont. Their tagline line was, “It’s not ‘good for Vermont wine’, it’s just damn good wine.” And, damn are they right.

Kachlē Wine. Fletcher, VT

Justine Belle Lambright, Grace Meyer, and Kathline Chery, co-owners of Kalchē, are the newest of the new kids, these folx are adamant about dismantling what we’ve always been taught about wine and moving the industry forward with fair wages, natural practices, and an egalitarian business model where every employee has the same opportunity for growth and success. While bottles aren’t available quite yet, keep an eye out for pop ups where you can try wines like Regalia, made from 100% Petit Pearl or VIB-UR-NUM, a piquette made from grape skins, foraged cranberries, and maple syrup.

La Garagista. Barnard, VT.

Dierdre Heekin and her husband Caleb Barber started farming land near Hunger Mountain in 1999, growing Alpine grapes and apples alongside other fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. La Garangista‘s farming practices revolve around regenerative, permaculture, and biodynamic stewardship of the land. What does that all mean? It means they understand how all of nature works together to not only sustain itself but create itself. While they don’t have formal tasting room hours, keep an eye out for the branch hung outside their shop inviting guests to pop some bottles, just like Roman farmers from day of yore.

La Garagista. Barnard, VT.

Dierdre Heekin and her husband Caleb Barber started farming land near Hunger Mountain in 1999, growing Alpine grapes and apples alongside other fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. La Garangista‘s farming practices revolve around regenerative, permaculture, and biodynamic stewardship of the land. What does that all mean? It means they understand how all of nature works together to not only sustain itself but create itself. While they don’t have formal tasting room hours, keep an eye out for the branch hung outside their shop inviting guests to pop some bottles, just like Roman farmers from day of yore.

You can’t go wrong with anything that Dierdre creates, may I recommend Ci Confonde, a pet nat (petillant naturel aka naturally bubbly, more on that in the future) made with Brainna grapes and wild yeast. It’s a party in a bottle.

La Montañuela. Barnard, VT

Camilla Carrilo fell in love with not only wine but the farming that goes into creating a great wine while working in Italy at an agriturismo (*swoon*) and it seems every moves she’s made since has been in search of learning all she can about it. She’s travelled all over the world, following harvest after harvest, until Vermont was lucky enough to become her home. She found her wine home with Dierdre and Caleb at La Garagista and quickly worked her way up to assistant manager. Inspired by Dierdre’s dedication to hybrid grapes and biodynamic farming, Camilla started recuperating a small vineyard all the while buying organic fruit from neighbors to produce wines under her own private label, La Montañuela.

Rocio, a 100% Marquette wine, is Camilla’s first release where she did all of the farming herself. The grapes were hand harvested and crushed by foot to create this incredible representation of Camilla and Vermont.

Iapetus. Shelburne, VT.

Named for the warm, shallow ocean that once covered what is now upstate New York, Vermont, and Lake Champlain, Iapetus is an homage to the history and nature of Vermont. Created by Ethan Joseph under the Shelburne Vineyard label, these wines are spontaneously fermented, unrefined, and unfiltered (much like yours truly). Growing up on Lake Champlain and studying water resources at UVM, Ethan has a strong connection to this land and has worked tirelessly to ensure the terroir of Vermont in properly represented in his wines. And with a winemaker so connected to Vermont, it only made sense for Hotel Vermont to collaborate with him create our very own private label wine, Hotel VT x Iapetus, a chilled, easy drinking effervescent red that goes down almost too easily.

Iapetus. Shelburne, VT.

Named for the warm, shallow ocean that once covered what is now upstate New York, Vermont, and Lake Champlain, Iapetus is an homage to the history and nature of Vermont. Created by Ethan Joseph under the Shelburne Vineyard label, these wines are spontaneously fermented, unrefined, and unfiltered (much like yours truly). Growing up on Lake Champlain and studying water resources at UVM, Ethan has a strong connection to this land and has worked tirelessly to ensure the terroir of Vermont in properly represented in his wines. And with a winemaker so connected to Vermont, it only made sense for Hotel Vermont to collaborate with him create our very own private label wine, Hotel VT x Iapetus, a chilled, easy drinking effervescent red that goes down almost too easily.

Stella 14. Cambridge, VT.

David Keck, one of 269 master sommeliers worldwide, has returned from Texas to his native Vermont. We, at Hotel Vermont, would love to take credit for this move, as he was one of our teachers for the Court of Master Sommeliers seminar we hosted in January of 2020. Soon after that, David and his partner Lauren Droege, a geologist (and badass in her own right) from New York, moved back to Vermont, soon to bring Stella 14 to life.

Leasing vineyards from David and Linda Boyden, Lauren and David have been tending to and harvesting Frontenac Noir, Marquette, and Frontenac Blanc with all organic practices. Among their releases is my personal favorite, Wild Child Rosé, a deep red sparkling rosé, with all the acid a girl could hope for leaving your mouth watering for more.

Ellison Estate Vineyards. Grand Isle, VT.

A veterinarian oncologist and a particle physicist walk into a bar. No, that’s not a joke it’s just what happens every time wine makers Kendra and Rob Knapik of Ellison Estate come to taste their wine with us. Looking for a new adventure and a way to spend more time with their kids, the Knapiks decided to buy an abandoned fifty-acre vineyard in Grand Isle in 2018. Starting immediately with biodynamic practice, sheep roam the vineyards freely among some of the oldest and longest single plantings of vines in Vermont. 

Ellison Estate Vineyards. Grand Isle, VT.

A veterinarian oncologist and a particle physicist walk into a bar. No, that’s not a joke it’s just what happens every time wine makers Kendra and Rob Knapik of Ellison Estate come to taste their wine with us. Looking for a new adventure and a way to spend more time with their kids, the Knapiks decided to buy an abandoned fifty-acre vineyard in Grand Isle in 2018. Starting immediately with biodynamic practice, sheep roam the vineyards freely among some of the oldest and longest single plantings of vines in Vermont. 

Using native yeast and minimal intervention, their wines are made from varieties like Prarie Star, Louise Swenson, La Crescent, Marquette, St. Croix, and Frontenac Noir. Grab a friend or two and come grab a bottle of their ‘Chicory, Thistle & Lace’ at Juniper, a blend of Louise Swenson, Prairie Star, and La Crescent and thank me later.

We’re always pouring something from our Vermont friends at Juniper. Swing by for a sip soon.