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What does it mean to become a wine region?

Let’s begin with the native inhabitants of our small alpine valley in Vermont, the dark Vitis riparia (riverbank grapes) we see lining our beautiful winding roads, climbing, climbing up trees and telephone poles. Disease and mildew resistant, they can survive freezing temperatures to 51 degrees (some say 71 degrees) below zero F. These vines produce highly acidic grapes but they make excellent, hardy rootstock.

Who knows what elixirs the original people of this valley made from these grapes.

Jump ahead in time: Along come Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, the pioneers at LaGaragista Vineyards. They settled in the wild Chateauguay region of Barnard Vermont, began farming in 1999, and had their first grape harvest in 2010.

Everyone who lives here, and now, people around the world, recognize that they have captured the flavor of these hills and bottled it.

Around the same time (the late 1990s), two brothers came to town, a farmer (Christopher) and an alchemist (Jonny). They began fermenting apples, pears, honey, and grapes (not to mention dandelions, sumac, maple, mugwort) into dry, aged wines. This became the Fable Fermentory.

Then zoom, out of the west came winemaker Krista Scruggs. She apprenticed with Deirdre Heekin at Garagista and fell in love with Vermont. She ferments grapes and wild apples and has created Zafa wines.

There are others who have not yet jumped into the commercial fray but are poised on the brink.

The common denominator is love. For this region, the soil, the community. Although let's be honest — each of these things presents unique challenges.