Barnard winery gets nod from Food & Wine

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:58 PM EDT
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BARNARD, Vt. (WCAX) - Food & Wine magazine has announced its Drink Innovators of the Year and a Barnard winery is among the winners, recognized for cultivating grapes in Vermont’s colder climate.

Deirdre Heekin and her husband have run the Barnard-based La garagista Farm and Winery for the past 13 years. After co-owning a restaurant for 20 years, the couple decided to do something different.

“It’s been exciting to be in a new wine region, a new area. It’s been exciting to be with lots of new, young producers coming into the fold here, getting interested in working in a place like Vermont,” Heekin said.

She says the wine world typically prefers grapes raised in sunnier climates like California because they’re sweeter. The fruit that can survive in colder weather ripens more slowly, creating a tarter taste. But Heekin says there’s a growing market for the made-in-Vermont terroir. “Because Vermont is a new region and there are no pre-conceived rules or ideas here, we’ve been able to experiment a lot with all kinds of traditional techniques that have not been necessarily done before with these kinds of varieties. So, in that way, we might be doing something new,” she said.

Heekin and her team spend all year long making wine. They start pruning in the winter and then produce many of their wines through a process called co-fermentation, combining other fruits like apples and pears with grapes. Now, Food & Wine has recognized its creative and adaptive approach.

“You kind of have to work with native American varieties and hybrid grapes in order to handle that winter you get. So, that’s been kind of a fascinating story. She’s kind of found a way to make fascinating wines in a region where you wouldn’t necessarily associate with wine,” said Ray Isle, the executive wine editor at Food & Wine.

Employees like Camila Carrillo, say it’s encouraging to see the Green Mountain State’s wine industry grow. “I knew that there was something really special here. It’s just been amazing in the last 11 or so years just to see how much has happened, how many winemakers are now here,” she said.

The winery harvests all the fruit from four area vineyards to make upwards of 1,200 cases annually.