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VT Life: “All in Good Time”

Located in Waitsfield, Mad River Vineyard fulfills a need for local grapes in Vermont’s fledging wine economy.
Co-owners Joe Klimek and Tom Golodik say farmers in Vermont have an emerging option with cold-climate grapes. “The average farmer already has much of what he needs,” says Klimek. “He owns a tractor. He understands his land. He just needs something to grow. Why not grapes?”

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    Like the land itself, Vermont agriculture is not in a hurry. But it is ever evolving, moving with forces large and small, changing slowly before our eyes. “Before 2008, there were about five wineries in the state,” says Bob Livingstone, member of the Vermont Grape and Wine Council and owner of East Shore Vineyard in Grand Isle. “By 2010, there were 27. Yet Vermont wines still represent less than one percent of wines consumed. There’s tremendous room for growth.”

    Wine, in a sense, is the next logical step in the growth of Vermont’s artisan food movement and its contribution to the working landscape. “Wine grape production is an exciting diversification of agriculture in Vermont,” says Lorraine Berkett, a professor emerita in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont. “It is creating new farms and providing new opportunities for established farms. Vermont produces world-class cheese and fantastic artisanal breads. Now we have the opportunity to produce excellent wine.”

    Recent advances in cold-weather varieties have made grape growing easier in Vermont’s daunting climate, and startup expenses are within reach. To purchase 1,000 vines costs around $5,000, and Joe and Tom started their venture with two acres. They have continued to expand their operation, and Klimek says, “Our total investment thus far is between $12,000 and $15,000.”