A Great Attraction in Northern VT Near Stowe…
Whether or not you are a wine lover, Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits in Cambridge, Vermont makes a wonderful day trip if you’re in the area. Not only is the setting splendid (rolling mountains and emerald green fields!), but the educational and culinary value of the farm is one of the best I’ve encountered.
Oh, and did I mention there’s cheese (LOTS of cheese), cider, a charming barn wedding venue, maple syrup (plus maple cream liqueur!), a working farm, and rare red ice wine for the tasting? Let’s take a walk through what a visit feels and tastes like.
A Tour to See and Taste How Wine is Made.
As a teacher for the past 15 years, I do indeed value learning experiences… especially when paired with getting to eat or drink the educational elements in question! Our Boyden Valley tour — which was arranged as a day excursion from Smugglers’ Notch family resort nearby (more on that excellent institution later) — began in the winery’s basement.
On that lower level, we got an overview of all the machinery (from unique stainless steel wine tanks, to bottling and labeling doo-dads) and a brief yet vibrant video explaining the history and reach of the farm.
The History of Boyden Valley Winery:
Lovely Boyden Valley farm was created over 100 years ago, back in 1914. The Boyden family has maintained its prolific function for five generations, and the working farm expanded to start producing wine (planting the vineyard in 1996), spirits, and cream liqueurs.
(Teaser: You will soon see a photographic depiction of one of these cream liqueurs in MILKSHAKE form, with chocolate on top…)
Fruit Wine, Ciders, Glogg, Brandy, and More!
What most impressed me about Boyden Valley was the vast VARIETY of quality beverages they produce. Yes, I’ve toured the famed Finger Lakes wineries of New York state, but none of those boasted rhubarb wine, AND cranberry cider, AND Swedish mulled wine, AND apple brandy, AND a whole range of white, red, and rose offerings — plus much more.
After our overview of the wine creation process, we trotted upstairs to the bar where our knowledgeable guide walked us through the extensive menu to plan out exactly what we would sample as part of our tasting. Above all, she insisted we sample their famed red ice wine.
“Ice Wine” is a Delicacy…
Even before learning about its background, I found the title “Ice Wine” mighty dramatic and impressive. I picture this wine in sparkling blue robes, twirling around and shooting sparks of frost out of its bottle neck while singing “Let it Go.”
But — ahem — that is just my fantasy of course, so let’s get to the actual facts of this coveted beverage.
What is Ice Wine, and Why is it Special?
You’ll notice from the Boyden Valley price list (yes, you can order these Vermont wines to be shipped to you, dear reader!) that ice wine is, er, not cheap. The reason for this premium pricing is that ice wine is nail-bitingly difficult to produce successfully.
Ice wine is created from grapes that are frozen on the vine, thus creating sweeter, more concentrated extract which requires a perfect series of weather patterns from Mother Nature. One single day that is too hot or cold can ruin the entire set of grapes. Drama! Diva wine!
Rare Red Ice Wine at Boyden Valley:
White ice wine is rare, but red ice wine is even harder to find. Boyden Valley Winery is one of very few vineyards to produce it, and it’s worth a sip or three!
I usually don’t like sweet drinks, but I found this famed red ice wine (and all of Boyden’s artisanal and fruit wines for that matter) to be so wonderfully complex that there was nothing cloying about it at all.
Want a Vermont Cheese Platter?
On to the cheese and the outdoor patio! After tasting numerous petite and tantalizing samples, my partner and I were instructed to each pick ONE beverage from the dozens of offerings to be poured into a full glass. (Note: Non-alcoholic yet wonderful drinks are also available during this part of the tour for children, and adults who don’t imbibe.)
These quaffs were to be accompanied by a massive plate (well, artisanal stone slab) of local cheeses to be consumed on the outdoor patio facing the insanely idyllic vineyards, or in the 1800s carriage house. YES PLEASE! For sure, every piece of that gourmet cheese pictured above was swoon-worthy delicious.
Which Beverage to Pick for the Outdoor Patio?!
After trying so many unique and nuanced drinks, it was not easy for us each to narrow down the options. Ultimately we decided to split the following: First, the Marquette Reserve 2016: a dark, crazy rich red wine which is made in limited quantities and was too special to pass up. (Runner up: The Brut Rosé is delicious, and would likely be the most beautiful option to photograph if that’s your objective.)
Second, the maple creme liqueur MADE INTO A MILKSHAKE with whipped cream and a local chocolate slab on top. Ahh! I did not even know this could be possible until our guide suggested it, but it exceeded all expectations of frothy, buttery bliss.
Don’t Be Over-Ambitious For the Rest of the Day…
A brief PSA: You will absolutely want to eat all of the cheese on that platter, and it will be phenomenal. Then, you will become a humanoid ball of cheese, despite any sluggish yet scenic strolls around the vineyard after the meal.
It is not a bad thing to become a humanoid ball of cheese temporarily — just be advised that your creamy state will make it difficult to, well, do much of anything besides nap or loll for much of the remaining day. Plan accordingly.
Wine Tastings and Driving:
Now, in the previous section, I was talking about the soporific effects of the cheese platter — not the drinks. In fact, the alcohol in this Boyden Valley Winery tasting actually only equals two glasses or less, including the final full drink.
This is because the sample amounts are petite-ly proportioned to keep your head from spinning out of control. Use this information to plan responsible and safe driving, friends!
The Romance of this Vermont Attraction…
I found this Boyden Valley “French Gourmet Winery Experience” — as Smugglers’ Notch family resort calls it in their activity catalog — to be incredibly romantic. My spouse and I have two rambunctious young children, and it’s as rare and precious as ice wine for us to have the chance to sit together in a beautiful natural surrounding, sipping and eating delicacies slowly.
Over our cheese platter, Marquette, and milkshake, we were able to chat, laugh, and bond in happiness, all while looking out at the glistening Green Mountains! Speaking of romance…
Seeking Vermont Wedding Venues?
Are you or someone you know on the prowl for a great place to throw a wedding? While I was content to just have my nuptials on a reality show, the giant red Barn at Boyden Farm has become a beloved destination for tying the knot in New England.
Getting Married at the Barn at Boyden Farm:
When Colin and I were visiting the vineyard, we did a wander around the grounds and observed the set-up for what promised to be an epic wedding at Boyden Farm. It even had classic old-fashioned cars to tote the guests!
My guess is that any wedding at the farm takes full advantage of posing on the bright red and green tractors. I almost did… but at that point in the day my belly was so swollen with cheese that I would have damaged the poor farm equipment, and thus had pity on it and walked away.
Don’t Forget… this is an Actual Vermont Farm.
Before I talk about the farm, did you like that photo you just scrolled past of maple syrup sample shots? I sure enjoyed drinking them — er, I mean just “it”… just one. I didn’t drink three. Really I didn’t.
Ahem. Moving on to other transgressions. Do keep in mind that beyond the wine tasting building, shop, and patio, Boyden Valley is a working farm! I learned this after getting politely reminded by an employee that if I continued to wander the grounds beyond the boundaries, a tractor could zip through and mistake me for its mowing duty. Always remember to follow rules of a farm, friends! Be a better bunny than I was and stay safe.
Resorts and Hotels Near Cambridge, VT:
Looking for a place to stay in northern Vermont, north of Stowe? Our family had a fabulous and fun-filled time at Smugglers’ Notch (click here for the Tripadvisor affiliate link to see rave reviews of the resort). While we were hosted guests of the resort, I want to point out two particularly helpful features of “Smuggs” which are relevant to my (and possibly your) wine and cheese interests.
First, Smugglers’ Notch offers a quality 9am to 4pm camp for kids of all ages and abilities (including an adaptive program and an infant program), which is the ONLY reason that my husband and I were able to eat an entire platter of cheese in a leisurely and truly vacation-esque manner, while gazing out at nature. (If you have tried to eat a meal with kids, you will see what I’m getting at here — one does not SIT when around kids.)
Activity Options at Smugglers’ Notch:
The second reason Smuggs made this vineyard day trip possible is that Colin and I wouldn’t have even known Boyden Valley existed if it weren’t for the extensive list of activity options available to Smugglers’ Notch guests — which includes the famed LLAMA hike (yes, I said “llama”) through the Vermont woods.
If you want to do an even more adventurous jaunt to your Boyden wine and cheese, you can opt for the “Water and Wine Canoe Trip” from right by your Smuggs condo, which precedes the tour and tasting with a boat journey there! Kids are allowed on either trip, and are served ice cream and cider or seltzer instead of booze, don’t you worry.
What is YOUR Take on Vermont Wineries?
So what do you think? Did you even know Vermont had vineyards, or that ice wine was a thing? Had you heard of any of Boyden Valley’s famous products, and if not, which most intrigues you? Are you now curious to get married while standing on a tractor? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!