½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
3-5 garlic cloves
Salt and fresh pepper
In a saucepan over med-low heat, combine wine, sugar, ginger and spices. Keeping the orange slices to the side, juice the remaining halves into the pan.
Stir to dissolve sugar. Heat slowly until warm but not steaming. Serve in warmed mugs with orange slices. Happy Holidays!
Some quick Thanksgiving small plates
As the days get shorter and the social calendar gets full, sometimes it is hard to find time to prepare a dish or snack for Thanksgiving. Whether you are hosting a meal for many or planning for an intimate group of family or ‘framily’, here are a few recipes from Food and Wine Magazine that work well when time is short. We love our Freerider Red at this time of year; medium bodied and fruit-forward enough for a crowd, but with the backbone to stand up to your heartiest Thanksgiving dishes. With a bottle of this 100% estate grown St.Croix and one of these delicious small plates, satisfaction is not far behind.
Butternut Squash & Sage Wontons
This recipe may seem a bit time consuming, but many of the parts can be prepared at the same time and assembled right after cooking before stuffing into the wonton wrappers. It is also very kid-friendly, they will have a blast filling wrappers and creating their own little edible packages. You can use any type of squash you prefer, such as Kuri or Buttercup. For an extra twist you can add a tablespoon or two of Freerider red to the shallots after they have browned and cook it down until the liquid is almost all evaporated, then stir them into the mashed squash. There is no need for a dipping sauce, but if you have a favorite dumpling dipper I wouldn’t say no!
Beet & Apple Salad
Beets can be a tough cookie to crack when it comes to incorporating them into everyday meals, with their intense earthy-sweet flavor and dense texture. But never fear, this simple and healthy salad may put them back on your regular menu. Especially at this time of year it can be harder to maintain a balance of nutrition and pleasure with all the rich dishes that tend to fill the table. With the crunchy apples, tender beets, and salty pistachios dressed lightly with this tangy vinaigrette you can still feel satisfied and nourished simultaneously. If you prefer to dress this salad with only half the dressing and leave the rest for the table, that would go even further to curb the calorie count (if you are counting). We prepared the beets and apples as 1/4″ sticks, which gave it a fun appearance and wonderful texture. The Freerider Red went well with this hearty salad, but if you are more a Digger’s Dance fan you can easily make that switch! Both were delicious 🙂
In the heat of summer, who wants to cook hot food? Garden fresh salads and deliciously chilled white wines are all I crave at the end of my summer days. Tabbouleh salad is a delicious way to enjoy some of summer’s freshest veggies, but if you’re observing a gluten-free diet, a traditional tabbouleh made with bulgur wheat well and truly off limits. With this gluten-free version which uses quinoa instead of bulgur, it is completely safe for those eating gluten-free, and the quinoa adds a delicious nuttiness and texture all its own. A perfect pairing with our own Backcountry Blanc dry white.
1 ½ cups of dry quinoa
3 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil
3 lemons, juiced
1 bunch parsley
1 small bunch fresh mint
1 large cucumber
8 medium-sized tomatoes
Salt & pepper to taste
In a small saucepan with a well-fitted lid, bring the three cups of water to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, then add the quinoa and allow to steam with the lid on for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, wash the mint and parsley, and chop finely with a sharp knife or food processor. The finer the chop, the better the result, so even when you think it’s chopped enough, give it another chop or two for good measure.
Once the quinoa has cooled slightly, mix in the olive oil and lemon juice, stirring well to distribute evenly. Mix in the finely chopped mint and parsley mixture, and stir for several minutes, until the greens are evenly distributed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Peel the cucumber and slice laterally, removing the seeds with the edge of a spoon. Cube the cucumber into bite-sized pieces and mix into the quinoa/parsley mixture.
Wash the tomatoes, and slice into bite-sized pieces, adding them to the mixture and stirring to combine. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve cold with a chilled Backcountry Blanc. It’s a perfect pairing!
Summer in Vermont is full of berries. I revel in spending hot July days plucking warm, ripe raspberries from the Fresh Tracks Farm raspberry bushes. And between the pies, jams and coulis, I sometimes get the yearning to experience complex berry flavors in a savory dish. This delicious raspberry frontenac gris dressing is a perfect companion for a light summer salad with crisp greens, aromatic onions and creamy goat cheese. And of course, more raspberries!
8 oz fresh raspberries
1/2 bottle Frontenac Gris wine
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp ground mustard
4 limes (juiced)
Salt & pepper to taste
In a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan, bring the Frontenac Gris to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and add the raspberries. Simmer until reduced by half—about an hour. When the mixture is reduced and slightly thickened, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Once the raspberry-gris reduction has cooled, strain the seeds out using a food mill or china cap.
Place the remaining liquid into a blender or food processor, and add the ground mustard. With the blender on low, begin slowly adding the olive oil, a drop at a time, followed by a few drops of lime juice. As you add these ingredients, pay close attention to the consistency of the mixture, which will take on a thickened quality as it begins to emulsify. If you are having difficulty starting the emulsion, add a bit more ground mustard (an emulsifier) and start again slowly. It is important to keep the mixture blending slowly but continuously during this time, and to add the oil and lime juice just drops at a time until the emulsion is well-established.
Once you see that the mixture is thickening and holding together, you can begin to add both olive oil and lime juice in very thin alternating streams until you’re satisfied with the flavor and consistency of the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, and blend thoroughly. Serve chilled over salad or steamed vegetables. A perfect pairing with Frontenac Gris wine!
Combing. Most of us have done it. Imagine you’re combing the hair of a squirming child, who protests that her hair doesn’t NEED combing, despite the fact that she’s spent the entire day swimming in a chlorine-filled pool at a friend’s birthday party. Perhaps, this child fell asleep on the long car ride home and was carried carefully to bed, and at 6:00 the next morning bounces cheerfully into your bedroom with a head that looks like it was used to make a hurried and untidy nest by a den of anxious ferrets.
If you’ve experienced that, then you surely know all about combing.
Now, picture grape vines. Having grown steadily all spring, the vines are long enough to reach the ground, and the tangled clusters of lush green foliage are in desperate need of untangling.
“Remove any lateral shoots,” instructs Jordan, the Vineyard Manager, as I stumble up the vineyard path, easily half an hour late.
“What’s a lateral shoot?”
He points at a cluster of leaves and stems.
“Here, coming off this stem is a second stem, see? That’s a lateral shoot.”
“OK,” I say, pretending that I understand. But I’m pretty sure I don’t.
“Like this?” I ask him, removing a stem from a cluster.
“Nope,” says a Jordan patiently. “That’s a leaf.”
“How do I tell the difference?”
“A leaf is just a leaf,” he explains. “See how this shoot has another little green stem coming off of it? That means it’s a new vine, and it will keep growing if we let it, clogging the primary vine’s access to light and air. See this?”
He points at a well-developed shoot about halfway down the vine that has grown to a length of five inches or so, with a series of leaves radiating off of it.
“That’s a lateral shoot.”
“Not a leaf.”
“Clearly not a leaf.” I grasp a knotted mass of vines and begin to untangle them.
The shoots are still tender at this point in the growing season, and they’re smooth and pliable to the touch. The coolness of the canopy is a relief from the hot sun, and the vines are gentle and forgiving as I uncoil them, thinning down the lateral shoots until the remaining foliage looks clean and orderly, hanging down in lustrous tresses.
“Does every vineyard comb by hand like this?” I ask Jordan, trying to learn something useful. The sun is beating down hard on us now. I can feel it on the back of my neck and arms.
“Nope,” he replies. “A lot of varietals prefer to grow upwards using the Vertical Shoot Positioning method—and those can be combed by machine. Our varietals, such as Marquette, Frontenac and La Cresent, all prefer to grow downward. And so we comb by hand.”
I finish untangling a cluster of vines and stand back and survey the result. I imagine that I’m combing the hair of a gentle dryad—a spirit of the wood, clothed entirely in robes of pale green silk, the fabric pouring off her shoulders, swirling about her delicate ankles as she dances across the sylvan hillside.
“Isn’t she lovely?” I say out loud. “The lady of the vines, with her hair all combed down, soft and green like a wood nymph.”
Jordan stares at me baldly.
“Agricultural personification is fraught with pitfalls,” he says, turning back to combing his vines. “Best to stick to the task at hand.”
And that was the last word I was able to get out of him all morning.
Every year around the end of June, I keep my eyes open for signs of ripening strawberries. The growing season is short in Vermont, and the strawberries are only at their peak for a few short weeks. These ripe, red beauties are delicious in recipes from salads, to pies and everywhere in between.
This strawberry “gris” shortcake recipe is a winemaker’s twist on an old classic—using the delicate bouquet of our Frontenac Gris vintage to add a hint of sweetness and bring out the crisp berry flavors. And if you happen to be dairy-free, the strawberry-gris reduction sauce is delicious on its own. Enjoy!
Strawberry “Gris” Reduction
The night before you plan to serve the strawberry shortcake, wash and stem one quart of strawberries, slicing them into quarters. Place the slices into a stainless steel bowl, and mix in the Frontenac Gris. Refrigerate, and let it sit overnight.
The next day, transfer the mixture to a medium-sized non-reactive saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Add the sugar, lower the heat and allow it to simmer until the volume is reduce by half (about 1-2 hours.) Wash and stem the remaining quart of strawberries, then slice them into quarters. Set aside.
Once the strawberry-gris reduction has reduced by half, it should have the consistency of a deep red syrup. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool (you can even put it into the fridge at this point.) Once the syrup has cooled, mix in the sliced fresh strawberries.
This biscuit recipe has been adapted from Domestifluff’s gluten-free biscuits at http://www.domestifluff.com/2009/08/my-favorite-gluten-free-biscuits/.
Preheat the oven to 425°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the dry ingredients into a large bowl (including the xantham gum if needed.) Mix thoroughly, then cut in the 4 tablespoons of butter. Mix the butter into the flour mixture with a spoon or your clean hands, until the mixture takes on a consistently crumbly, sandy texture. In a separate bowl, add the buttermilk and the egg whites, whisking gently to combine. The batter should have a slightly wet, sticky texture. Using a pair of spoons, drop tablespoons of the batter onto the baking pan. Combine the nutmeg and brown sugar in a small container, and sprinkle lightly onto the top of each biscuit. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Many people like whipped cream from a can, but I find it doesn’t take much more effort to make it from scratch, and the flavor is so much better!
In a deep, narrow bowl, combine the cream, vanilla extract, and confectioner’s sugar. Using an electric mixer or a hand mixer, beat the cream on high until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to overdo it—eventually you will end up with butter! Whipped cream can also be made by hand using a wire whisk, but it takes muscle. It can be fun though—especially when you have a friend to take turns with the whisk!
Slice the biscuits open laterally so that you have a top and bottom piece. Spoon the strawberry sauce generously onto the bottom biscuit and top with whipped cream. Place the top biscuit over the layer of cream, and drizzle strawberry sauce over the top, crowning the confection with final dollop of cream. Serve cold on a warm summer evening, with a perfectly-paired glass of Frontenac Gris. Perfection!
June is a month of promise at Fresh Tracks Farm Vineyard and Winery. The tight clusters of pale green buds auger well for a bountiful grape harvest—just a few short months away. The Vermont growing season is brief, and here in Berlin, Vermont, the pace of cultivation is intense.
So, they move fast. Trimming the vines, pulling weeds, swatting deer flies away from sun-drenched foreheads. Jordan, Mark and Vincent cull unneeded stems from the thick grape vines, opening the leafy canopy to rays of the strong northern sun and encouraging the production of high-quality wine grapes.
“We want the vines to devote their energy to producing grapes, rather than expending it developing unnecessary foliage,” says Jordan, the Vineyard Manager here at Fresh Tracks Farm. “That’s why we thin the vines of secondary shoots. It keeps the plant’s energy focused on growing the best grapes, and lets in the light and air.”
Viticulture is new to me. A life-long cubicle dweller, I spend most of my time hunched over a glowing blue screen, typing frenetically at a plastic keyboard, and I am in no way prepared for today’s adventures in grape cultivation. I’ve even forgotten my gloves.
“How to you know which stems to trim?” I ask, wiping dirt from untrained fingers.
“See this?” says Jordan, gesturing to a lumpy nodule of hard brown wood at the base of the lush foliage. “That’s a node. And deep inside each node is the potential for three shoots—a primary shoot, which is the first to present itself. That same node can then produce a secondary shoot and even a tertiary shoot. This is almost like an insurance policy against a heavy frost—if the primary shoot freezes, the secondary and tertiary shoots spring into action. This year, we had a mild winter and the primary shoots survived in excellent shape. Any extra shoots are being thinned out to give the vines more light and air”
The June sun is uncharacteristically hot on this warm Vermont day. Everyone works quickly—pulling up weeds at the base of each trunk, removing the unwanted shoots, leaving room for sun and wind to filter through the canopy. My soft, pasty hands are a bit sore from pulling up the weeds, but the sun on my back feels glorious—a much needed taste of summer after weeks of cold rain.
As we move along the orderly rows of budding vines, I start to pick up the rhythm, looking for that second, weaker shoot sprouting off a central node. After an hour or so of stilted practice, I can finally keep up with the other workers, thinning my vines with confidence. The conversation slowly turns to cats. Barn cats, we all agree, are a particularly beneficial kind of cat. Mark tells a funny story about a neighbor who dresses up his cat and walks him around the neighborhood on a leash. Everybody laughs. I relate a brief anecdote about a lady who likes to put her cat in a stroller and parade around the suburbs. Chortles all around.
At least surfing the internet is good for something, I think to myself.
More pulling weeds. My hands are sore now and stained green by the long grass. I stop at a cluster of thatch and horsehair that appears to be balled up in the vines.
“A bird’s nest,” I squeal with excitement. After all, when was the last time I saw a bird’s nest? On my screen saver?
“Yep, you’ll find quite a few of those,” says Mark. “Eggs or baby birds?”
I stand on my tiptoes, peering precariously into the light green foliage.
“Eggs,” I report, fascinated by the smooth blue and brown flecked orbs, beautiful as turquoise beads. “They’re so pretty.”
“Little bandits,” says Mark, laughing. “They hatch and eat all the fruit. We even named one of our wines after them.”
Grape vines flower like any other fruit—first producing tight clusters of green buds that will soon blossom into flowers. When the bloom of the grape flowers wane, they fall, drop to the ground and leave behind a cluster of firm, delicate green fruit that ripens to a rich purple or a pale yellow, depending on the varietal.
I pause for a moment to swat at a deer fly and take a swig from my water bottle. Grapes aren’t the only thing bursting into bloom around the farm. The vibrant spines of lupines launch themselves from the mulch like brightly colored rockets, dazzling the landscape with color and fragrance. Luscious heads of lettuce peek their pale leaves through the thatched ground cover, bursting with early summer flavor. And blooming peonies add vibrant baubles of color to the mottled green landscape. It’s a good feeling—working on the land. So much color and richness to be found.
The other workers are moving efficiently along the row of vines, thinning the vines with a practiced motion. I re-cork my water bottle and get back to work, submerging myself in the first steps of making wine by hand.
Our radish infestation has abated, thanks to the help of our great friends! We tried a few recipes out and they were all delicious, but we had to highlight this simple, refreshing salad referred to us by the lovely people at the Vermont Country Store. It is a breeze to make and oh so satisfying on a hot summer day with a glass of our thirst-quenching Marquette Rosé. A perfect way to use up the influx of radishes, herbs, and watermelon! If you have other herbs in your garden that you need to use up, go ahead and mix some in as well; parsley and cilantro work well.
Radish and Watermelon Salad with Mint & Feta
1 bunch fresh radishes, about 8 medium
1 small watermelon or half of a large one
1 bunch fresh mint
4 oz feta cheese,crumbled (sheep or goat)
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove the stems from the radishes, leaving 1″ to use as a handle while cutting. Slice each radish into paper thin slices, or as thin as you reasonable can, and add them to a medium sized mixing bowl. Juice the lime and add to the radishes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat. Sliver enough mint leaves to loosely fill a 1/4 measuring cup and add to the radish mixture along with 1/2 of the feta. De-rind the watermelon and cut into 3/4″-1″ pieces. Gently stir the watermelon into the radish mixture, garnish with remaining feta and a few mint leaves. Serve chilled with our Marquette Rosé!
Our story takes place within the picturesque hills of Central Vermont. Fresh Tracks Farm was founded in 2002 with the goal of crafting authentic Vermont wine in a beautiful yet challenging climate. Owner and winemaker Christina Castegren sought to build upon her knowledge of agriculture, and fulfill her passion for working with the environment around her. She and a team of colleagues and friends spent years preparing fields, constructing trellises, gathering equipment, and planting vines. Of the seventeen original varieties, only 6 remain, with an addition of 3 new varieties planted in the summer of 2017.
In 2006, we produced our first vintages of Little Piggy Pink, Vermont Rosé, and Frontenac Gris. During this period, we ventured into maple syrup, grape jam, and red wine vinegar production as well, and it all took place in our little red barn up on the hill. After several years, we finished construction on our tasting room and production facility along Route 12, and in 2009, opened it to the public.