Deirdre Heekin is the author of An Unlikely Vineyard. She is the proprietor and wine director of Osteria Pane e Salute, an acclaimed restaurant and wine bar in Woodstock, Vermont. Heekin and her husband and head chef, Caleb Barber, are the authors of In Late Winter We Ate Pears (Chelsea Green, 2009), and she is also the author of Libation: A Bitter Alchemy (Chelsea Green, 2009) and Pane e Salute (Invisible Cities Press, 2002). Heekin and her husband live on a small farm in Barnard, Vermont, where they grow both the vegetables for their restaurant and natural wines and ciders for their la garagista label.
An Unlikely Vineyard
The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir
Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express the essence of place—its geology, geography, climate, and soil—as well as the skill of the winegrower?
That’s what Deirdre Heekin and her husband have set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm in Vermont—in their quest for terroir.
“Terroir is about mud and stones, but it is also about the varietal nature of the plants or animals that grow in or on this land, the microclimate of a hillside or plain, and the personality of those who do the tending. It represents the six sides of the honeycomb: geology, variety, geography, climate, social culture, and the human hand,” writes Heekin in
An Unlikely Vineyard. “Another winegrower I know says that what is poured into the glass is a liquid landscape painting of the 365 days of a certain year. This is my hope on our farm: to capture the four seasons of each year in the bottle, a liquid portrait of our landscape and its history. This is my quest.”
An Unlikely Vineyard tells the story of their farm and its evolution, from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment. But the book is much more than that. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to old garden roses; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases.
Challenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, they set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant. They wanted to create, or rediscover, a sense of place,
and to grow food naturally using the philosophy and techniques of organics, permaculture, and biodynamic farming.
This book is proof of their success, writes Alice Feiring in the book’s Foreword: “In a state so committed to organic and unprocessed food, Deirdre is currently the sole voice for the same kind of wine. But in writing this book, she proves to all who endeavor to make true wine in climates where grapes struggle for ripeness that it is indeed possible. Others
will follow. How could they not when the results are so stellar?”
Accompanied throughout by lush photos, this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.
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