This last week of March and first full week of spring plays host to the first-ever Celebration of Vermont Wines kicking off in tandem with Vermont’s annual Maple Weekend — and is gathering in venues around the state.

Appearing on the wine lists of local restaurants is highly desirable for producers; usually seen as the golden ticket and a development milestone in burgeoning wine regions. However, finding one’s way onto these pages is often not an easy path. Questions about product quality and consumer interest can undermine retailer and restaurateur knowledge about and inclinations towards these wines. Many winery owners are not experienced with the workings of hospitality providers, and the standards and decision-making they employ to organize their list for their clientele.
In 2017 the Vermont Fresh Network accessed a $50,000 grant that was made available through the Specialty Crop provisions of the federal Farm Bill. The specific goal of the grant is to help Vermont producers increase the amount of their product that could be found in eating and drinking establishments. Vermont Fresh has been empowered to underwrite a series of educational webinars for wineries that offer topics such as working with distributors and connecting with media. It has also run a workshop, conducted by Finger Lakes winemakers Peter Bell and Dave Breeden, designed to help winery owners and winemakers organize local tasting groups in an effort to help elevate quality across the industry.
This week-long celebration of Vermont wine is yet another aspect of the grant execution. Intended to connect wineries with interested restaurants it supports a series of special tastings and wine pairing dinners in order that the players to learn to work together and educate the public at the same time. At this stage, the grant funding seems to have been applied in an efficient and effective manner, and this celebration could provide a beneficial long tail, should the industries prosper in collaboration with this or a similar model. While the final success of the grant will be tied to a quantifiable increase in the amount of wine sold in restaurants, it’s certainly clear that impacts from the process are already positive.
Should you be in the vicinity or traveling to Vermont this week, there are a number of events that provide great opportunities to visit some of Vermont’s fine dining establishments and to mingle with the makers to see just how well things pair with this new kind of wine.

 

About Author

Todd is a north country native, and lifelong inhabitant of the northeast. Growing up in the Mohawk river and Lake Champlain Valleys, then attending Binghamton University, youthful adventures to ‘the city’ were more likely to target Montreal, than Manhattan. He made a lateral move to Vermont in 1991 for graduate school, and while he still lives in the Green Mountains, he is frequently found within the Blue Line of the Adirondack Park, or floating on the big lake in between. As a third-generation Polish-Italian American, with family lore of Prohibition era winemaking on both sides, the probability of predisposed wine interest was high. A 1976 family trip through the Finger Lakes left a young Todd wondering why there weren’t vineyards back home on Lake Champlain, and in the Hudson Valley. He trained his palate on the rise of the microbrew wave, and by rummaging wine racks in old country stores, searching out forgotten bottles. Numerous relationships with folks in the wine and restaurant trades, provide an ongoing education about food and wine culture in the north country, which he shares through the Vermont Wine Media project. For ten years, Todd has kept his ear to the ground for any signs of wine growing in the far north. He is a volunteer and test winemaker at the Cornell Baker Farm, a cold-hardy hybrid trial vineyard, in Willsboro, NY, where his extended family resides. He home vinifies grapes harvested from the trial, as well as fruit acquired anywhere from Vermont to Chile. Author of 'Wines of Vermont: A History of Pioneer Fermentation', he lives and gardens with his wife, canine, feline, and donkey friends, at an old farmstead in Stockbridge, VT.

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