Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vermont: Boyden Valley Winery

Of all the wineries I checked out at the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, one stood out above the others and impressed me, Boyden Valley Winery. First, they had some delicious wines, made from grapes grown in Vermont. Second, I also got to speak with Linda Boyden, who owns the winery with her husband, Dave. Linda evidenced much passion about wine and that appealed to me as well.

The Boyden Farm is located in the Lamoille River Valley and has been family owned for four generations. The winery is inside a restored 1825 carriage barn and their vineyard has about 8000 grapevines. You can even visit and take a tour of their winery. They produce fruit wines, grape wines, dessert wines, specialty wines and hard ciders. Their aim is to produce European-style wines.

I primarily tasted their grape wines, produced from hybrids, and they all were good. And one was even exceptional.

The 2007 Seyval Blanc ($14.99) had an enticing citrus nose. On the palate, it was very crisp with flavors of grapefruit, melon and peach as well as mineral notes. The finish was moderately long and pleasantly satisfying. It had character, elevating it above a simple wine, and should appeal to almost any lover of white wines. An excellent summer wine as well as a good wine with food.

The 2007 Big Barn Red ($16.99) is supposed to be a "bold, heavy, dry Bordeaux style red wine" made from Frontenac grapes. Many people may not be familiar with Frontenac but based on the two examples I tasted, it is a grape I think deserves more recognition.

Frontenac was created by the University of Minnesota, a hybrid of Vitis riparia 89 and the French hybrid Landot 4511. It was only released in 1996 but has already become quite popular, and is even the most commonly planted grape in Minnesota. The grape does well under cold temperatures, is very disease resistant and produces dark, highly acidic, high sugar berries. Wines made from Frontenac commonly show cherry and other red fruit flavors. Frotenac has spread to many northern states, as well as Canada.

The Big Barn Red reminded me more of an Old World wine, though I did not find it either bold or heavy. I felt that it was more medium bodied, with smooth tastes of cherry, raspberry and plum. There were mild spicy elements through the taste. The tannins were more moderate and it had a fairly long finish. It was an appealing wine, again a wine with character, elevating it above the ordinary. This would make more an excellent BBQ wine, or something with everything from pizza to pasta.

The most impressive of all the wines from Vermont I tasted was their Vermont Ice Red ($65). It is probably the most expensive Vermont wine as well, but I have to say it is well worth its high price. First, this is an actual ice wine. The grapes are left on the vine, being harvested once the grapes are frozen, many ripe with botrytis. Numerous grapes are lost as well, and yields are very low. Only about three hundred bottles were produced. Second, the wine is made from Frontenac and thus is a red ice wine. This ice wine contains 15% residual sugar, has an alcohol content of 15%, and is aged in Tonnelier French oak for six months.

On the nose, there are alluring notes of ripe plum, blueberry and black cherry. When I tasted it, I was expecting a sweeter wine, something similar to many other ice wines I have previously tasted. Yet I was pleasantly surprised when it was far less sweet than expected. This is largely due to the greater acidity from the Frontenac. The wine had a complex melange of flavors, including ripe plum, black cherry, vanilla, and hints of dark spice. It had a very lengthy and appealing finish. Overall, it was very smooth and complex, its mild sweetness adding to its appeal. The taste of the grapes really shines through rather than just finding a cloying sweetness. This had to be one of the best ice wines I have ever tasted and I would highly recommend it.

If you want to try the best of Vermont wines, then you should check out the wines of Boyden Valley Winery or even visit their winery. I will keep an eye on this winery as I feel they have a very bright future ahead of them.

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