From farm to wine to maple
By KATHRYN EDDY
CORRESPONDENT | March 22,2013
CAMBRIDGE — Boyden Valley Winery and Spirits, Vermont’s first licensed winery, operates on the Boyden family farm in Cambridge. A dairy farm until 2000, it was purchased by the family in 1914, and they’ve been working on it for four generations.
The Boydens have diversified, and different members of the family run different businesses on the farm — such as Boyden Beef, the Barn at Boyden Farm for weddings and events, the winery and a 200-acre sugarbush for maple sugaring.
In 1996 David Boyden and his wife, Linda, who share a love of wine, embarked on what would prove to be a very rewarding and tasty endeavor that continues to grow. Shortly after opening their winery, they were followed by a couple more, and now Vermont has 15 open to the public.
In 2010, Boyden Valley added “and Spirits” to its name when it introduced its Vermont Ice Apple Crème liqueur, a blend of cream, its own Vermont Ice Cider and apple brandy. In December it added another liqueur to the lineup, Vermont Ice Maple Crème, a blend of maple syrup, apple brandy and cream.
This weekend, when the state’s sugar makers host their annual Vermont Maple Open House Weekend, Boyden Valley will hold its own Maple Sugar Festival featuring free sugar on snow, syrup sample tasting and winery tours, as well as special wine and food tasting.
Vermont is hardly known for its grapevines; indeed, it took a few hybrid strains and some experimentation before Boyden Valley established the successful varieties it grows today.
“It’s a great agricultural growth for the state. It really is amazing — it’s a crop that wasn’t here before,” said Bridget Jones, Boyden Valley’s wine room manager and events coordinator.
They begin pruning in April or May and typically harvest in September.
“It’s a pretty short growing season overall, but the specific grape varieties are not only winter hardy to withstand our really cold, frosty winters, they do actually produce a lot faster than a normal grapevine would to accommodate that shorter summer,” said Jones.
“They are not going to be as bold or as full-flavored as a California grape would be for that same reason. Last year, we had a wonderful crop because we had such a long, dry summer, though it affected other crops negatively. The grapes loved it. So we’ll have a lot more Vermont-grown grapes in our wines in the next couple of years,” she added.
Frontenac, Sabrevois and La Crescent are all hardy to temperatures below zero and have been grown in Quebec and other northern parts of the U.S. La Crescent is a white variety; Frontenac and Sabrevois are red varieties. Boyden Valley is probably best known for its ice wines — Vermont Ice Cider, Vermont Ice and Vermont Ice Red — and these grape varieties allow it to leave the grapes on the vine until the first heavy frost and then harvest and press them frozen.
Red ice wines are relatively uncommon, and Boyden Valley makes the only Vermont ice red.
“You really have to be in just the right climate to do a traditional ice wine. So they’re very popular in Germany where they originated, very popular in Canada and starting to grow in popularity in the northern U.S.,” said Jones.
The ice wines are concentrated, a lot like a cordial, and it takes a lot more to make less: A half bottle of an ice wine has five times as many grapes as a full bottle of regular wine. It takes 400 gallons of cider to make 60 gallons of ice cider.
Boyden Valley has 17 products to offer, the more popular of which are available in stores throughout Vermont.
“We have a great selection. When people come in who say they aren’t wine drinkers, I tell them there’s going to be something on the list that they will like. We’ve got a variety of flavors from the very dry to the very sweet, and everything in between,” said Jones.
Boyden Valley’s fruit wines — cranberry, rhubarb, blueberry, and apple-maple — are made in a similar way to regular wines, pressed and fermented and aged.
The stainless steel tank that once housed the farm’s milk has been fitted for fermentation cycles and aging processes.
As Boyden Valley has expanded, oak barrels and more tanks have joined it in the 1875 carriage barn, which was refurbished about 20 years ago.
“They really just tried to reuse as much as they could when they refurbished everything,” said Jones. “We’re a small business, family-owned and -operated. And we try to stay as local as possible. Anything we don’t grow on the property, we source from other local Vermont vineyards, orchards and berry farms first.”
The Maple Sugar Festival is Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the winery, at the junction of Vermont routes 15 and 104 in Cambridge.
For more about Boyden Valley, go online to www.boydenvalley.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 644-8151. The winery will soon be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering wine tastings, cheese plates, and wines by the glass or bottle.