Vermont has reached a High Quality Level of Winemaking
From Ken Albert of Shelburne Vineyard, Shelburne, VT – The 2014 vintage harvest is nearing completion. Most of the grapes are now safely fermenting in tanks in the winery, and:
Today we were proud to receive this beautiful etched-in glass trophy acknowledging our “Best of Show” award for our 2012 Reserve Marquette from the 2014 International Cold Climate Wine Competition held under the auspices of the University of Minnesota. This is the, unprecedented, fourth year in a row that we at Shelburne Vineyard received this honor. This competition has become the premier competition for anyone, worldwide, producing wine from cold climate grapes.
Another Vermont Vineyard, Lincoln Peak Vineyard of New Haven, VT won this award the previous two years (for a La Crescent and for a Marquette). The competition is six years old – A Vermont vineyard has won the “Best of Show” designation every year of the competition’s existence! Vermont may just have the optimum “Terroir” for this Northern breed of grape vines.
It has been a considerable learning experience since the first commercial planting of grapes in modern times in Vermont in 1997 and 1998. The varieties available for planting in the early years turned out to not be sufficiently hardy to sustain our winter temperatures. It was only in the 2003-2006 time frame that the hardier Minnesota-bred “Northern” varieties became available. Not only are these vines more suitable to growing in Vermont; they make better wine than the earlier available hybrids. Indeed, they make wonderful wines, but it has taken time to learn how to optimally vinify these grapes. Most of these northern varieties ripen with acidity levels considerably higher than present in grapes commonly grown in warmer climates, and it took years to learn how to best treat these newly developed varieties. Grapes of course only yield one crop a year, each fall, and wine needs some aging before it can be fully judged so the learning process, indeed, takes years, not months. A new batch of beer can be made every several weeks, but for wine you only have one shot at it a year.
Besides the wine making, we have made tremendous strides in how to optimally manage these Northern varieties here in our Vermont vineyard plantings. It takes 3 years for a vine planting to yield fruit and 6 years or so to yield at levels that make it economically viable. Only after a vine reaches full production can we understand how to manage the vines to prevent the mildews and other maladies that are only too eager to infest the vines’ leaves and grape clusters. We have had to make decisions on what trellis style works best in Vermont. We arrived at a manageable method only after much trial and error, and debate, and much communication with the viticulturists at Cornell University. Growing grapes, unlike a lot of other Vermont farming, is a twelve month farming experience as after fall harvest and cleanup, followed by December Ice wine harvest, we start our pruning in January with the goal to finish pruning the thousands of vines before the growing season starts in early April.
We have several years of learning experience behind us now and I think we are getting the hang of it as is also the case with some of the other Vermont wineries. The Finger Lakes of New York have been at the adventure of quality winemaking for forty years; California has been at it since the end of prohibition in the thirties. We’ve been at it now for 15 years. We did not have to completely reinvent the wheel thanks to the modern information era and the good offices of the U of Minnesota and Cornell University, as well as to some considerable trial and error. I think we have now entered into an exciting time, where fine, interesting, high quality, wines with taste characteristics that will please most any wine lover are available here from our Vermont-grown grapes.
The Vermont-grown varieties to look for besides Marquette include Louise Swenson for a dry white and La Crescent for semi-dry white wine. For what are some amazing dessert wines, the varieties to look for are Late harvest and Ice wines from La Crescent and Vidal Blanc grapes. As I write this letter we are awaiting the first 15 degree (F) clear, still morning to harvest our 2014 Vidal grapes. It almost happened this weekend but the cold did not last long enough.
Come to Shelburne Vineyard and taste our award winning wines for yourself! Our Tasting Room is open year round. Check the website for hours.
Shelburne Vineyard Winery and Tasting Room
6308 Shelburne Rd (Rte7), Shelburne, VT 802-985-8222