My guests for this episode are the father and son team Doug and Andrew Becker of Montpelier Vineyards in Montpelier, Vermont. Montpelier Vineyards is currently the only certified organic winery north of the Mason-Dixon line that I’m aware of, though there may be more in the process and soon to be certified.
As a quick clarification, a certified organic winery must have two certifications: one for the vineyard and one for the winery. There are other certified vineyards in New England, but only Montpelier Vineyards has both vineyard and winery certifications.
Doug and Andrew tell us their story, and we get technical about some of the challenges of Vermont viticulture, as well as how to deal with VA and reduction in the winery.
Doug and Andrew may introduce you to some new terminology, because in addition to grape wines they make pyments, cysers, and melomels and discuss the practice of bletting apples.
We also discuss the particular hybrid grapes that they’re growing, and their pros and cons. They are one of the few growers of a new hybrid grape named Petite Pearl, bred by Tom Plocher, that shows a lot of promise, and in fact they sent me a bottle of their Montpelier Vineyards 2021 wild fermented Petite Pearl that we discuss in the interview, and since this was recorded a few weeks ago I’ve had a chance to try it.
The color is the first remarkable aspect of the wine. Inky, opaque purple, tinged magenta at the rim. Extremely dark. After swirling in the glass the legs ooze down almost as dark as the wine itself. It smelled initially of blue fruit, snowy mountain air, grape jelly, and a bit of cocoa powder. It is extremely fresh, still young, while also rich and full bodied. It achieves that deft feat of having significant weight, even gravitas, without an ounce of heaviness. Only 12 and a half percent alcohol. The closest association I can make to something you might have drunk is along the lines of the black wines of Cahors, or something like a varietal Tannat or Teroldego. After a couple days open in the refrigerator it developed more chocolately notes and creamier texture, so while this was a delight to drink now, I think it will age very well and improve for quite a while. I have never done a tasting note like this before, so I hope that speaks for itself. I loved drinking this wine, and I think it shows that the future of wine made from hybrid grapes is extremely bright (and that’s not a climate change joke). So get some if you can.
So let’s take a trip to Vermont, where it seems like wine – in a beautiful diversity of innumerable flavors and forms – is really blowing up.