You might call it a cocktail party, but at my house it’s all about wine. I set out platters of cheeses and cured meats, crusty loaves and a rainbow array of hors d’oeuvres. As my guests arrive I start popping corks, filling glasses first with sparklers, then crisp whites and vibrant reds.
It’s my favorite kind of party, and a great way to highlight seasonal fare. The best part is that all of it can come from right here in Vermont—yes, even the wine.
Over the last dozen years, wine growers have been scratching new vines into the craggy Vermont landscape, and they’re now cranking out some serious juice. Hybrid grape varieties bred to thrive in our frigid climate are a mainstay for these Vermont winegrowers. These vines tolerate our –30°winters without sacrificing the qualities that make terrific wine: spirited aromatics, lively fruit, gorgeous color, and great acidity.
Vermont wines tend to be lean and refreshing, shot with parallel veins of fruit and minerals. It’s a style that’s more European than Californian—and more Northern European at that. They may feel surprising to wine lovers accustomed to oaky, jammy styles. But the best winemakers use a light hand to maintain their wines’ freshness, acidity and balance. They deserve an invitation to our parties.
Pairing Tips for Vermont Wines*
These wines are terrific with food, and a cocktail party offers an opportunity to experiment with a range of pairings to find guests’ favorites.
Start with a cheese platter—Vermont wines love Vermont cheese. Fresh chèvre and feta have the acidity that lets them partner with unoaked whites and youthful reds. Semi-hard and aged cheeses, like 1-year cheddar or Swiss-style offerings made from cow’s milk, are terrific with the reds. Blue-veined cheeses partner beautifully with our late-harvest wines.
A Vermont wine party is also a great excuse to seek out Vermont meats and game, including venison, lamb, kid and pork, plus cured meats like salumi, prosciutto, summer sausage, pâtés and terrines. Complement your charcuterie platter with pickles, pots of mustard, and relishes like tomato jam or rhubarb chutney, which highlight tart fruit notes in the reds.
Because of their lean minerality and herbal top notes, Vermont wines also harmonize with many seasonal vegetable dishes, from snappy spring asparagus to grilled zucchini, from green beans to smoky baba ghanouj made when eggplant (finally!) reaches its peak in September. Vermont fruits like apples, peaches, pears and cranberries are also terrific complements.
So the next time you throw a wine soirée for friends, go local. Offer a range of styles along with regional, seasonal foods that will make them shine.
*All wines were provided as media samples.
Recommended Wines and Suggested Pairings
Vermont whites made from La Crescent, Seyval Blanc and Riesling grapes are crisp and refreshing, with aromas of spring flowers and flavors of stone fruit, pear, apple and citrus. Light-bodied and delicate, they pair beautifully with fresh and young cheeses and hors d’oeuvres made from lighter meats, fish, fruits and vegetables.
2012 Lincoln Peak Vineyard La Crescent:: Lovely floral apricot aromas segue to flavors of dried apricots, peaches, honey and nectar. Ample texture with a nice mineral edge. ($15)
2012 Lincoln Peak Vineyard Black Sparrow: Aromas of yellow apple, red apple and melon mingle with spring flowers, and the appley flavors are reminiscent of a dry hard cider. ($15)
2012 Snow Farm Vineyard Riesling: Scents of gardenia and tropical flowers yield to a juicy palate with rhubarb fruit notes. ($18)
2012 Shelburne Vineyard Louise Swenson: With aromas of musk melon and green almond, this wine offers flavors of tart apple and lemon, plus a slightly frizzante texture. ($16)
2012 La Garagista Vinu Jancu: A floral perfume of antique roses, gardenia and sweet ginger waft above flavors of beeswax and honey. ($20, 375ml)
White wines go well with:
- Cheeses: chèvre, feta, mozzarella, burrata, brie, camembert
- Meats: Poultry, pork loin, rabbit, trout, charcuterie
- Fruits and vegetables: apple, pear, peach, melon, rhubarb, citrus; asparagus, green beans, zucchini, sweet bell pepper
- Seasonings: parsley, chives, mint, citrus, ginger, mustard, honey
Example hors d’oeuvres
- Smoked trout with horseradish
- Prosciutto-wrapped melon
- Grilled chicken with Asian spices
- Grilled peaches with balsamic drizzle
- Blanched vegetables with herbed crème frâiche
Red wines from grapes like Marquette and Frontenac have plummy aromatics and flavors of black currant, cranberry and blackberries with hints of herbs. These reds pair well with medium-aged cheeses and appetizers of lamb, pork, game, fowl and vegetables. Their herbal top notes make them especially delicious with herb-rubbed meats, roasted vegetables and fennel salumi.
2012 La Garagista Capreolus Vin Rouge Mousseaux: A dry sparkling red wine that offers floral aromas, lively red berry fruit flavors, and a creamy texture. ($52)
2012 Lincoln Peak Vineyard Marquette: Deep garnet red, it’s fresh and plummy on the nose, with flavors of sweet dark plums and ripe cranberry. The finish is pleasantly minty. ($17)
2012 Shelburne Vineyard Marquette: Sweet aromas of fresh red raspberry, red stone fruits and pink flowers waft above smoky, spicy notes with plummy black fruits. ($19)
2012 La Garagista Damejeanne: Notes of sweet tea, roses, herbs and ripe plums dance above this wine’s lively red fruits and supple tannins. ($20, 375ml)
Red wines go well with:
- Cheeses: Vermont cheddar, Vermont Shepherd, aged goat cheeses, mild blue cheeses, Swiss-style cheeses
- Meats: lamb, kid, venison, pork (especially shoulder), duck, fowl, rabbit, bacon and charcuterie—especially fennel salumi, prosciutto and pâté
- Fruits and vegetables: cranberry, rhubarb, red apple, plum, sweet pepper, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms
- Seasonings: parsley, thyme, sage, mint, fennel
Example hors d’oeuvres
- Roasted peppers stuffed with herbed chèvre
- Spinach phyllo triangles
- Grilled vegetables with pesto
- Herb-rubbed lamb or pork kebabs
- Venison tartlets
Vermont’s cold climate produces some excellent late-harvest and ice wines that range in sweetness from off-dry to very sweet. Sweet wines are peerless with cured meats and cheeses, and harmonize beautifully with apple desserts, fruit tarts and spiced cookies.
2011 Lincoln Peak Vineyard Late Harvest La Crescent: A floral off-dry white with top notes of nutmeg and ginger. Its ample body delivers flavors of Asian pear, quince, passion fruit and guava, and it has a zingy finish. It’s terrific with a salad course. ($18)
2012 Shelburne Vineyard Late Harvest Vidal Blanc: A sweet, true dessert wine that’s nearly 12% sugar by weight. Notes of tart green apple and lovely acidity keep it refreshing. ($20)
Sweet wines go well with:
- Cheeses: blue cheese, Vermont cheddar, Vermont Shepherd, aged Swiss-style cheeses
- Meats: pâté, terrine, rillettes, veal, charcuterie
- Fruits and vegetables: apples, pear, quince, cranberry, dried fruits and nuts; bitter greens
- Seasonings: nutmeg, ginger, allspice, clove, coriander, honey
Example hors d’oeuvres
- Baby arugula tossed with blue cheese, dried cranberries and pears
- Baked brie with apples and walnuts
- Apple, peach or pear tartlets