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Farr: Planting Vermont vineyards

07/27/09 5:55PM By Bruce Farr
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(HOST) Commentator Bruce Farr has discovered that the pioneer spirit is still alive and doing well - along the back roads of Vermont.

(FARR) Driving along a back road in nearby Cavendish a couple of weeks ago, I was taking in all the natural sights that make the area a joy to behold in the summer.  I passed lush green meadows with grazing herds of cattle, stoic old barns sagging under the weight of centuries of weather, the blush of wildflowers in every imaginable nook and cranny.

But a little farther down the road I spotted something that caused me to do a double take.  It was a large field neatly plowed with terraced mounds of earth that appeared to be planted with - tiny grapevines.  In this climate, in Vermont, vineyard grapes aren't exactly a common crop.  

But, no sooner had I started off again when, less than a mile down the road, I passed another field plowed and planted with just as many vines as the first one. I tried to shake off a growing sense of dislocation.  I mean, this wasn't Tuscany or Provence or even Napa Valley - C'mon!  This is Vermont!

So, with my curiosity piqued, I turned around, pulled into the driveway of the first place I'd seen, and knocked on the door.  

The owner, Tony Antinori, stepped out to greet me. He told me rather excitedly that, yes, he and his wife, Cathy, had just planted several acres of vineyard. What's more, he said, the couple who lived down the road - Doug McBride and Jennifer Hoar - were in cahoots with them and busy doing the exact same thing.

Walking me through the vineyard, Tony explained that that the two couples had recently planted 1,500 vines, with many more to come.  In their vision, in a few short years, they see hundreds of cases of wine under a common label called "Twenty Mile Stream Vineyards," which happens to be the name of the road both couples live on.  

It wasn't long before Doug and Jennifer had shown up. So I asked them, "Isn't it sort of tough to grow winemaking grapes here?"  I was thinking that they might be looking at their plan through "rosé-colored" glasses, so to speak. But all four of them gave me a look like I had two heads.  Whatever the challenges, they told me, they were absolutely certain that everything was going to fall into place, and that their wine was going to be ambrosial.

Their staunch determination impressed me. It suddenly dawned on me that they might not be very different from the early Vermont settlers who had picked up plow and shovel and dared to farm where no one had farmed before. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that these novice winemakers' behavior was very Vermont-like indeed.

I drove down Twenty Mile Stream Road again, just the other day, and spotted the two couples in the middle of one of the young vineyards. Glistening with sweat, their heads wrapped in bandanas, they were busy hoeing, weeding and watering. I suddenly thought to myself, you know, there's something very right about this universe.
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