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April 22, 2013

Local Beer & Wine

When you are planning your local menu, don’t overlook the liquids.

The North Country has some local beverages of the fermented variety to offer: wine, beer, hard cider, vodka and gin are all being produced. For the kids at the locavore table, stick with sweet cider, or perhaps you could juice some freshly picked fruits and vegetables. But the adults may want to experiment (responsibly, please!) with some of the region’s “stronger” drinks.

The Champlain Valley has the right microclimate to support certain wine grapes. The Cornell Willsboro Research Farm is in its eighth year of running cold-season wine-grape variety trials to help determine which types would work best for our region’s producers. They have been cultivating and tracking varieties from across the United States, and they pass the trial results on to our regional vineyards and wineries.

Some of our Adirondack producers are growing their own grapes and producing wine from those fruits, while others are purchasing grapes from outside the region to make their wines.

Consumers may expect the flavor of their favorite California or French wine, but here’s where you can embrace the “terroir” or local flavor that comes from grapes grown in the Champlain Valley.

In the rain shadow of the Adirondacks, there tends to be good sunshine and few violent storms. Less rain and good aeration from the lake breezes means healthier vines with fewer disease problems. Everything about our region, including the soils, combines to give wine its particular unique flavor. Most wineries use blends of different grapes for flavors that enhance and support each other.

Personally, I’d like to belong to a community-supported agriculture group for wine. The community-supported agriculture model can apply to wine, beer or any agricultural product. A full payment to the vintner at the beginning of the season would result in weekly or monthly shares for the consumer, which translates to a new wine variety at each distribution. A few years back, we had a wine community-supported agriculture group just starting up in Wadhams when a flood carried the poor fermenting carboys down the Boquet River. But take heart, I’m told there’s a new local brewery that might be offering beer shares in the near future.

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