I think I’ll always remember the first time I indulged the nectar of the grape skin at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton, New York. It was a hot July day and the sun shined brightly overhead. I stood gathered with few friends around a large barrel upon which six green bottles were presented before us by our host and sommelier. Each one of these green bottles, filled with vermouth.
Bright blue skies began to descend into an evening glow. Rows of grape vines filled the horizon. We all stood a bit warm and flushed from the series of pinots, sauvignons and rosés we had just sampled. Murmurs and concerns of the onerous Sunday return to the city echoed about as the night drew near.
Vermouth is a spirit, it’s what happens to the grape skins once they’ve been shed for winemaking. Waste not, refrigerate not and that is the birth of vermouth. They get their flavor, scent and all around character from what’s in the ground, the air, the region, and in season.
Despite the “secret” recipes, one can induce the moment each of these vermouths was produced by the photograph on the label and imagine what he or she might be imbibing in every swig.
Channing Daughters Winery produces an incredible collection of vermouths, each bottle uniquely reflecting the changing seasons from spring through autumn.
For the tasting, each vermouth was poured into small port glasses which we sniffed, sipped and passed to each other, beginning with springtime. Not even a candle could hold a candle to the fresh scents of fennel, and from the vermouth bottled in the summer seasons — of melons and arugula. The final bottle was prepared in the fall. Unlike the others which ranged from pale and dark golds, this was red in color. Its smooth, yet spicy character delivered me to a cold evening by a fire. Each and every vermouth shared its own bottled up piece of a season in scent and taste — each one unique and phenomenal.
Once in a while, liberate vermouth from the martinis and negronis, and let it stand alone.