Guest Author - Brenda Potter Reynolds
Vermont is well-known for its cheese. The state's cheese makers produce 70 million pounds of cow's, goat's and sheep cheese annually. You can find a variety of cheeses made in Vermont, from cheddar to blue cheese to Gouda. It may come as a surprise, however, to find that Vermont is gaining ground as a producer of fine wine as well.
Now first vineyard in Vermont has paired with one of Vermont's largest cheese producers, Cabot Cheese of Cabot, Vermont.
Cabot Cheese began in 1919, when 94 farmers joined together to form a cooperative. The cost was $5 per farmer - and a cord of wood each for the boiler.
By 1960, there were 600 farmer owners, and in 1992, Cabot merged with another cooperative, Agri-Mark, Inc.
Along the way, Cabot began earning awards for their cheddar and flavored cheeses. In 2001, they earned five ribbons in the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, the most ever won at this contest.
Snow Farm Vineyard had its beginnings as a 1992 conversation over dinner between Harrison Lebowitz and his wife, Molly. Both were discouraged by the amount of valuable farmland that was being sold and developed as farmers went out of business. "We were concerned with the future of our state, afraid of losing what makes Vermont unique," Lebowitz said. As they ate, they tossed around ideas for agricultural ventures that would help preserve this land, and the idea of a vineyard came up.
At the time, there were wineries in Vermont, but no one was growing the grapes within the state to make the wine. Three years of research told Lebowitz that growing grapes in Vermont wouldn't be such an impossible task.
In fact, he found that the microclimate in northern Vermont was similar to that of Burgundy, France; same soil, same growing season. Winter growing techniques would have to be used, but it was very possible to grow grapes in the state of Vermont.
In 1996 the couple established their vineyard in South Hero. The location, on an island in Lake Champlain, was especially favorable for the operation, due to a warmer climate that resulted from being surrounded by deep lake waters that rarely freeze.
When the people at Cabot became aware what Snow Farm was doing, they watched the vineyard's growth with interest. They soon approached Snow Farm and invited them to display a selection of their wine at the Cabot Annex in Waterbury, Vermont, a storefront for Cabot cheeses.
Snow Farms personnel have worked hard (although it was probably enjoyable work) to establish pairings of their Vermont wines with Vermont cheeses. Some of the following selections were made by Snow Farm's knowledgeable employees, former interns and experienced winemakers. Some were selected by Madeleine Kamman, the author of numerous cookbooks, former four-star restaurateur, PBS cooking show host, and co-founder and director of The School for American Chefs.
Here, courtesy of Snow Farm Vineyards, are their picks for Vermont wine and Vermont cheese pairings.
Their '03 Estate Seyval Blanc paired well with Grafton Cheddar and Vermont's sheep cheeses. Vermont Sheep Cheese producers include Vermont Shepherd, Hope Farm, Peaked Mountain Farm, Woodcock Farm and Willow Hill Farm.
The '02 Chardonnay, buttery with a smooth finish, went well with Cabot's Horseradish Cheese and Vermont Butter and Cheese's Chevre.
Snow White, a sweet blend of Cayuga and Seyval, paired well with Vermont Blue Mold Cheese and Cabot Hunter Cheese.
The '03 Estate Leon Millot, recipient of the 2004 Tasters Guild International Wine Judging Competition Silver Medal, was paired with Cabot Garlic.
Snow Farm's '02 Baco Noir was a double Gold Medal winner in the 2003 Tasters Guild International Consumer Wine Judging Competition. It has a nice oak flavor and went very well with Cabot Garlic Cheese, Lebowitz said. It also paired well with Vermont Brie.
For dessert wines, the '02 Estate Vignoles/Vidal with its fruity taste, went well with Cabot Sharp Cheddar, and Snow Farm's Ice Wine, '02 Estate Vidal Blanc, paired well with Cabot Hunter Cheese.
Pinot Noir went well with Taylor Farms Smoked Gouda, Vermont Blue mold, and Cabot Garlic Cheese.
Since Snow Farm Vineyards began, several operations have begun growing grapes for making wine. Others make wine from berries, apples, or grapes grown elsewhere. For a listing of Vermont wineries, visit Vermont Wineries.
Cabot Cheese offers samples of their cheese at the Cabot Annex in Waterbury, and at their creamery Visitor Center in Cabot. Their website is located at Cabot Cheese.
Snow Farm Vineyard offers wine tastings at their South Hero location from May 2 to the end of December, and year-round in Waterbury. Information on Snow Farm Vineyard is available at Snow Farm.
For more information on Vermont Cheeses, the Vermont Cheese Council has an excellent website at Vermont Cheese Council.
This article originally appeared in The Grapevine Magazine