From the very first sip, VerVino, the dry vermouth released this week by Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton, is so mysterious and complicated and compelling that it’s hard to know exactly what to do with it.
(Or what not to do with it.) We drank it straight, on the rocks, and then, finally, with gin and soda and a twist. That same night, the 500-mill bottle (17.8% alcohol) was nearly empty. Which is sort of the point, and which makes winemaker Christopher Tracy chuckle. The amber-hued, ambrosia might be shared by fairies at a midsummer’s woodland gathering. A few recent tasters have called it “addictive.”
VerVino is the third vermouth to come out of the Empire State, alongside the Long Island-made (Upstate-grown) Atsby and Brooklyn-based Uncouth Vermouth. But VerVino is also breaking new ground. First, because it is made by a farm winery. Second, and most impressive, it uses all indigenous ingredients (“grown by us or our farmer friends all within a few miles from the winery”) a constraint chosen by a handful of West Coast vermouth makers, including Imbue, Vya, and Sutton Cellars, but rare nonetheless. (Edible editor and drinks contributor Amy Zavatto recently heard of a Pennsylvania-based chef experimenting with an all-local hops-based vermouth.) Channing Daughters’ Tracy, who has researched the subject extensively (and who writes a column for Edible East End), says there are not many all-indigenous vermouths, as they traditionally contain sugar, nutmeg, orange and other flavorings from exotic locales. For the first “dry” variation of VerVino, Tracy fortified sauvignon blanc wine with grape brandy, “macerated thirty different botanicals” in the wine, then “sweetened it slightly” local honey from Mary Woltz’s Bees Needs apiary.
As for the “30 aromatic herbs” mentioned on the label, Tracy will not release the full list, in keeping with tradition. He says vermouth makers always kept their proprietary recipes under wraps. But if you study the VerVino label, with a botanical guide in hand, you should be able to decode most of what’s in it (nasturtium, lemon balm, golden yarrow, beach rose). Tracy plans to make these batches throughout the year, using what flora he finds in a given season. He has commissioned farmers to grow certain little-known, herbs. Two summer variations—a white and a red—are already in the works, and due to be released in early fall.
The wine was released to Channing Daughters Wine Club members this week and it will be available at the winery all weekend long. It’s going fast, so you may need to join the club to ensure you get to taste this and future variations.