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- Patrick Barrelet with a still at Snow Farm Distillery
Snow Farm Vineyard was the first commercial winery in Vermont when it was established in the mid-1990s. Decades later, the South Hero winery is barreling into the spirits business with Snow Farm Distillery.
While continuing to make wine, the Snow Farm team will use some of the 12-acre vineyard's grape harvest to produce brandies and other spirits, said Patrick Barrelet, the winery's co-owner, head winemaker and head distiller. Instead of composting waste from the winemaking process, "we'll get everything out of our grapes," he said. "We're closing the wheel."
In late fall, Snow Farm released its first Port-style wine fortified with house-distilled brandy, Fortress Red. Grappa will probably be the next product, Barrelet said; it's a brandy made from grape pomace, or the skins, seeds and stems left over after grapes are pressed for wine. He plans to source ingredients from neighboring farms for gin and apple brandy; eventually, he'd like to produce whiskeys.
"We're not here to invade the market and make a lot," Barrelet said. "It's going to be small batches."
Sold exclusively at the winery at first, the new products will be available for sampling in the tasting room. Snow Farm's popular events, such as its summer concert series and winter Friday Night Wine Downs, will serve cocktails made with the distillery's spirits.
Barrelet learned about distilling at a young age from his Swiss and French family, who often made eau-de-vie. "My grandfather showed me how to do it. When you're younger, it's strong stuff," he said with a laugh. "But it was natural for me to go in and do the distilling."