Good luck to the soul who stands between a California Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and me. Seriously, get out of my way.
I like wine and, especially, red wine. When I’m in northern California, I can drink a fancy red bottle or take my jug to the local vineyard to fill up on solid house wine. Either way, I’m happy because in California, I’ve got options.
Not so much in New England.
In fact, when a winemaker from a vineyard along the Coastal Wine Trail (which covers Rhode Island and Massachusetts) told me it’s impossible to make good red wine north of Connecticut, I pouted and considered a move out west permanently.
That was until I battled through thunderstorms to make my annual journey to Woodstock, Vermont in June.
I’ve been visiting Woodstock for ten years. My husband and I met Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, proprietors of Osteria Pane e Salute, when we put ourselves in their hands for one of our first very fancy dinners as a couple. We chose our dishes based on their very seasonal and local menu, and Deirdre paired each course with her carefully-curated wines.
I love when someone who loves wines tells me what to drink.
Each year, we visit their bistro-size restaurant and, each year, I learn about so many boutique wines that Deirdre has discovered during her trips to Italy. Deirdre and Caleb visited during their honeymoon and return to taste, cook and get inspired during the off-season each year.
Lucky for us.
In June, we followed our typical 1-2-3 plan for a visit to Woodstock.
1. We checked into our favorite inn: The Woodstocker Inn
2. We ate and sampled beers at our favorite brewery: Long Trail Brewing Company
3. We dined in one of the best restaurants ** in New England: Osteria Pane e Salute
There was one slight alteration to this pretty awesome agenda. Deirdre and Caleb have started making wine on their eight-acre farm about 10 miles from the restaurant in Barnard, Vermont. And as a little gift to my husband, I surprised him with a tour of their farm, from which they grow vegetables and herbs for the restaurant, and a tasting of their very first wine vintage in progress at La Garagista. (They already make classic method ciders and aperitivi, delicious cordials and liquors to serve before a meal, and digestifs, for after a meal.)
The entire farm was stunning and quite special. And when I relayed the Coastal Wine Trail story to Deirdre just as we sipped her red wine, she gave me a look and a smile, and it was very clear to me that though the wine was still developing, I was soon going to have a favorite New England red wine.
Deirdre and Caleb are very busy with the restaurant and the farm and their wine tastings and all those trips to Italy but if you ask very nicely, they’d let you tour and taste their wines too.
Deirdre and Caleb have written several books: Libation, a Bitter Alchemy; In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love; and (my personal favorite) Pane e Salute: Food and Love in Italy and Vermont. They’re also on Twitter and write the inspiring blog Fuoricitta. I’ve written about Osteria Pane e Salute before too.
** Now I don’t make a broad statement like this very easily. But my first experience dining at this restaurant, and every single visit since, has inspired me. Their passion for food and wine inspired me to find my own and they’re one of the reasons I choose to work in food. Yes, those are big shoes to fill but they fill them beautifully.
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