Distilling Vermont: Introducing Orleans
Eating at Woodstock's osteria pane e salute is one of those things you should do before you die, at least if you're a Vermont foodie or wine lover. Owners Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber have an alchemical touch, and soon you'll have another way to sample it: Orleans, an herb-infused artisinal wine that springs from their collaboration with Eleanor and Albert Léger of Eden Ice Cider.
At pane e salute, Barger creates simple yet elegant dishes from the ingredients offered by local farms, by foragers, or grown in the couple's Barnard backyard. So it's little surprise they've had their hands in one of our first uber-local aperitifs, using concentrated apple cider from the Légers and herbs from Zach Woods Herb Farm in Hyde Park.
Orleans, named for the Vermont town, is honey-colored in the glass. And though there is a small dose of honey on the palate, it's not overly sweet — it's more akin to drinking a dewy field, herbaceous, slightly tart and with a hint of licorice. What initially seems like a tangle of herbs on the nose is actually just anise and basil, both of which had a week's worth of contact with the apple wine fermented by the Légers.
Orleans was bottled and labeled this week, and at the launch party Tuesday, the hosts offered a spread of Asian-inspired dishes for pairing (shrimp with fermented black beans, marinated tofu, braised bok choy). The restaurant filled slowly, with friends and colleagues cooing over the libations. Heekin offered Orleans three ways — straight up (and slightly chilled); over ice with some Prosecco and a spritz of lime; and in a Boule de Neige, with cream, simple syrup, lemon, lime, egg whites, and mint. Each had its own appeal, though I was partial to the Prosecco cocktail, which showed off the delicate flavors without disguising them. On a steamy summer afternoon, it could sub for Lillet or a Pimm's and lemonade.
Orleans' first bottling is only 1300 bottles, and though it's not for sale anywhere just yet it should start appearing soon, for about $30 a bottle. At 15.5 percent alcohol, it can land on the bars of restaurateurs licensed for beer and wine but not for spirits. This was a deliberate stroke.
Deirdre Heekin plans to stay pretty busy through the year: this summer, she'll begin rolling out a line of artisinal wines from her own vineyard, La Garagista; she's also partnering with Rafael Flores of Artisinal Cellars to select European wines for import. Prost!