John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 09.02.02
Fool's Hollow, Quebec


Vermont Wine Tasting Epic

Let me rewind the Vermont wine story for you:

Charlie and Linda Tetreault and Jane and I are visually grazing at the Camelot Craft Center in Bennington, Vermont. The joint is filled with aging ladies cursed with New Jersey accents braying about all the artsy-fartsy tourist-trap stuff.

Charlie and I soon tire of it and go looking for diversion.

Misterman, just down the driveway we discover the North River Winery retail outlet. The big sign reads: Free Wine Tastings! The big flag reads: OPEN.

I only have to be invited once. I say, "They'll find us."

The young lady standing behind the bottle grins as we push through the door.

Charlie soon has his tongue wrapped around a tiny sample of Woodland Red and I'm tight behind him.

The girl gives us her standard rap: "This is a dry, light-bodied red wine that is excellent with red meat, tomato dishes, and pizza. Add a little to your homemade tomato sauce for a great taste experience."

Hmmm, not bad at all -- especially seeing how it's made from apple juice. No matter -- I've never met a fermented beverage I didn't enjoy.

"Do you want to do a full tasting?" The girl behind the bar is still smiling.

Why do you need to ask that question, I say to myself. How many different wines, I say to her.

Eleven, she says.

Lead on, I say.

Charlie and I dutifully shuffle behind her to the bar in the next room, where we are joined by a lady from Montpelier and a young couple from Ohio.

Before we get into the action and laissez les bons temps rouler, some factual material:

The North River Winery is located is Jacksonville, Vermont -- down on the border with Massachusetts. They make their various dinner and dessert-style wines from apples, pears, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and rhubarb.

The winery -- it's in a 150-year-old farmhouse and barn -- is on Route 112, just off Route 100, and about six miles south of Wilmington. They say it's open every day in the year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Camelot Village sales/tasting outlet is on Route 9 in Bennington, as you head towards Hoosick, New York.

Naturally, they have a website: www.northriverwinery.com.

Are you ready for the wine?

  • Vermont Pear : Uses 100 percent Vermont-grown Bartlett Pears, bone dry and smooth with a delicate pear bouquet. A superb dinner wine.

    (I'd have to say very bone dry and very throat-grabbing sharp.)

  • Northern Spy: This dry, oak-aged apple wine is crisp with a chardonnay-like quality. An exquisite dinner wine; great with pasta primavera.

    (Dry and potable.)

  • Green Mountain Apple:Semi-dry with a refreshing crisp green apple tartness. Excellent with seafood, especially scallops or shrimp.

    (Ayuh, the tartness is there, just like they said.)

  • Vermont Blush: A dry wine with a hint of raspberry in the finish. Excellent choice where a white wine is appropriate; fish, chicken, or pork.

    (We bought this one. Drank it. Liked it.)

  • Woodland Red: A dry, light-bodied red wine that is excellent with red meat, tomato dishes, and pizza. Add a little to your homemade tomato sauce for a great taste experience.

    (We bought this one, too. My favorite bottle.)

  • Metcalfe's Hard Cider: A Gold Medal Winner of the International Eastern Wine Competition; semi-dry thirst quencher. Bring along on your next picnic.

    (It was okay but I have to level with you -- I used to make better hard cider in the days I squeezed unsprayed apples on our seven-bushel press.)

  • Rhubarb: A predictably tart, semi-dry, medium bodied wine that is just delightful. Contains no sulfites and the rhubarb is 100 percent organically grown.

    (Jeezum Crow, what can I say about this. The girl says take a small sip, hold it in your mouth for about five seconds, then take a second sip. Yup, it's rhubarb wine, for sure. A perfect accompaniment for a serving of donkey brains and shirred eggs.)

  • Cranberry Apple: Tart, semi-dry, a seasonal favorite that accompanies turkey and game dishes.

    (I've seen the bogs, visited the cranberry museum, drank the juice, ate the dried fruit. It's good for you. And that's all I have to say about that.)

  • Raspberry Apple: Semi-sweet, slightly tart, full of fresh raspberry in the bouquet and flavor. Great by itself or in a spritzer.


  • Blueberry Apple: Sweet, full bodied, with a distinct blueberry flavor. Serve with dessert or by itself. Drizzle over vanilla ice cream for a unique taste experience.

    (The Silver Fox really liked this wine. The four of us, joined by friends, sipped this on the gallery of the Vermonter Motel while nibbling on table water crackers and extra-sharp Vermont cheddar.)

  • Vermont Harvest: Reminiscent of a sweet sherry, made with apples, cinnamon, and 10 percent Vermont Maple Syrup. Great chilled or heated.

    (A bit too much cinnamon for my taste, but drinkable, yes, very drinkable.)

So, there you have it. If you do the North River Winery taste test, go into it with an open mind and a memory-free palate. Abandon all syrah/shiraz, merlot, cabernet, and chardonnay grape thoughts. Take their offerings for what they are: happy fermentations of regional fruit from Vermont's banana belt.