Meet the Maker - Boyer's OrchardSeptember 13, 2017
When Farrell Distributing dubbed September Vermont Wine Month - we were on board! Vermont's wine scene has grown and blossomed so much over the past few years, we're gaining national recognition for some of the most talented wine makers in the country and setting the standard for cold climate grapes. Our small state offers an impressive diversity of flavor and styles with options to match any palate. At the Vermont Fresh Network, we're particularly excited to be embarking on a new project to highlight Vermont wines in Vermont restaurants. This project was funded by a Specialty Crop Block Grant, designed to build markets for Vermont farmers, and we'll be working closely with the Vermont Grape and Wine Council and the Vermont ice cider makers over the next 18 months to implement it. We want to both celebrate winemakers this month and draw your attention to the impressive diversity of flavor and styles of wine made in our small state. We hope you'll join us in exploring some new tastes, starting with Boyer's Orchard in Monkton. We asked Mark Boyer about his journey into wine and cidermaking in Vermont. Learn about Boyer's and go grab a bottle of their craft wine or cider for the complete experience.
Meet the Maker Q&A with Mark BoyerHead Cider and Winemaker Boyer's Orchard | Monkton, Vermont Onsite Tasting Room at the Orchard | Open September - November | Saturday & Sunday: 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
What's the history of your orchard?
We started our fruit tree orchard a little over 37 years ago; apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots and cherries. Cider has always been in my family’s history, my parents use to work for cider houses on the weekends when we were kids growing up, I know the smell of fresh cider all too well. We have expanded to include not only tree fruit but also vegetables and berries in the last 10 years.
When did you start producing wine and hard cider? Why?
I started making hard cider and wine with my father when I was around 12 years old and am 50 now and still love it, back then we made wines and ciders for fun. We went official with production of wine and ciders three years ago. I always wanted to grow grapes and finally ten years ago, when the cold climate grapes were introduced to our region, I started planting them with great success.
What kind of grapes are you growing?
We grow 25 varieties of grapes, our vineyard is primarily made up of; Marquette, St. Croix, La Crescent, Frontenac Gris, Swenson White, Petite Pearl and Brianne Grapes. The remainder of the variety of grapes are experimental.
What kind of wine are you making?
We make a wide variety of wines and ciders, the wines are semi-dry to dry, Reds, Whites and Rosés. Our ciders are varied as well; our flagship cider has been a sparkling champagne cider, we make less bubbly ciders as well. The Standard (a 6.5% original cider, semi-dry), Raspberry Cider (a sparkling cider that we use our own raspberries in that we grow on the farm), a bourbon barrel aged cider (cider aged in Mad River Distillers barrels for 6+ months). New this year, we have a cider donut hard cider (hints of cinnamon and sugar, back sweetened with Maple Syrup that we produce on site) and an Elderberry Cider using elderberries that we grow on the farm (semi-dry, somewhat tart). We also make an ice cider done in the traditional way of freezing the cider outdoors in the early winter.
Which is your favorite and what's special about it?
My favorite . . . that’s a hard decision, I really like them all! The Marquette has an amazing cherry, plum and blackberry character. The La Crescent has amazing honey and apricot qualities. The Frontenac Gris has excellent tropical fruit character. The Boro Hill Sparkling Cider has semi-sweet champagne flavors. The bourbon barrel aged cider has a nice bourbon hint as well as oak flavors. The raspberry hints of my favorite berry, we pick 200 gallons of them every summer. The Elderberry has an excellent tangy/ tart flavor to it. The Apple Cider Donut Hard Cider pairs very well with, you guessed it, Cider Donuts!
What is challenging about growing grapes in VT?
Growing these cold climate grapes is really not all that difficult. I have planted a fair amount of varieties to see what works best for our soil types, glacial till (somewhat loam/ gravel type soil). I have seen some grape vines take five years for their roots to get deep enough in the soil to get good flavor characteristics. We do a fair amount of shoot thinning in the early summer to eliminate too many shoots on the vine which would tend to shade the grapes later in the season.
In your opinion, what's unique about VT wines?
I think that VT wines and ciders are unique based on all of our different soil types, and wine and cider makers experiments with fermentation. I think it's amazing how many grape and apple choices that we have for making these great wines and ciders.
Tell us a little about the heirloom apples you are growing?
I have always been intrigued by heirloom apples; I’ve traveled the state to other interesting orchards to taste some of these non-mainstream apples! We use both dessert and heirloom apples for our ciders. For hard cider making the heirloom apples provide extra tannins for the ciders that you don’t normally find in a sweeter dessert apple. Some of the heirloom apples that we are growing are: Yarlington Mills, Kingston Black, Wickson and Russet.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I think that VT is an amazing state in that we have so many unique farms raising food so close to home. There are so many great restaurants to choose from and so many great beverages being created throughout our state.