Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Brother and sister team up for latest N.C. fruit wine/cider endeavor

c/o Botanist and Barrel
By Dathan Kazsuk and Jennifer Primrose

The brother and sister team of Lyndon and Kether Smith are into keeping the family tradition going. The Cedar Grove Blueberry Farm, which lies just north of Hillsborough, was purchased by their parents many years ago as a blueberry farm 'u-pick' for the surrounding community. This was just a portion of the original farm, which was later bought by Lyndon and Kether to bring the land together as one.

Right from the start, the siblings knew exactly what they wanted to do with the land. "Given our backgrounds as a chef and as a partner in a wine distributorship ... it was not a far leap to start fermenting ourselves," says Lyndon. And with full-scale production about to begin, they then brought in Rob Sievert, who left a 12-year career as a teacher to become the third member of the team.

Triangle Around Town visited Botanist & Barrel one Sunday afternoon, where we met Lyndon, Kether and Rob – and were able to sample just about everything on the B&B tasting menu that day. From the peach and blueberry fruit wines, to the different barrel-aged ciders, to a homemade sangria. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Botanist & Barrel.

Botanist & Barrel is new to the wine scene – with fruit wines and ciders. At what point did you decide you wanted to steer in this direction, and how did you prepare to head into this endeavor? We knew from the very beginning that we wanted to make bone-dry fruit wines. We look at cider, which is just a fancier name for apple wine, as one of the core fruits we work with, along with blueberry, blackberry and peach. All of us at B&B prefer to drink dry, so we naturally focus on creating dry wines.

We prepared for the endeavor by reading and reading and reading, and then making test batch after test batch after test batch. We also talked with every winemaker and vineyard manager we knew and asked a lot of questions. Having come from the wine business, as well as being lucky enough to travel around the world ... we had access to some of the greatest minds in the business. Kether also spent time getting cider certified at a specialized cider program through Cornell University.

We tried virtually everything you had available to taste the day we were at B&B. A blueberry wine. A peach wine. As well as some ciders and barrel-aged ciders. What else can customers expect from you guys in the next couple months?  We are especially excited about our new Fusion series, which focuses on co-fermenting multiple fruits together, such as our Cranberry Blueberry Grape Cider. That cider will be available straight up, or as an aged variety in maple syrup, Port and bourbon barrels. Also included in the Fusion series are a blueberry apple wine, blackberry apple wine and rhubarb blueberry grape cider. We will also release a dry-hopped blueberry wine, a dry-hopped cider and a rum barrel aged cider. Next up is a Muscadine apple wine, a raspberry cider and an elderberry wine. We use our neighbors apple and grapes, we sourced some raspberries from a friend's farm and elderberries grown at Lyndon's farm in Asheville. 

So it seems like you are focused on the fruit wines and ciders. But are there any plans down the road to maybe grow some vinifera grapes on your property. Maybe produce some Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. Because there are so many regions on earth that are better suited for vinifera grapes that are also coupled with a tradition of winemaking and thousands of years of growing experience, we feel that we should let those winemakers and regions create those types of wines. Non-grape fruit wines are so poorly represented and apples, blueberries, blackberries and peaches grow so well here. Part of our mission is to focus on what works best in our region. We will make some wines and ciders with Muscadine and Scuppernong grapes – which do grow well here.

With being relatively new, how do you plan to get the word out? Any events on the horizon? You recently had a cider/wine and chocolate pairing with local chocolatiers. How did that go, and do you plan on hosting other events such as that in the future? We are a true nano-winery and our tasting room reflects our small size. We do have plans on adding additional outdoor seating in the near future. Our plan to get the word out is to pour at great local events, farmers' markets, and to host more on-farm events. We don't have a marketing budget or a PR firm, so we are solely dependent on word of mouth and social media. We believe if we make a great wine and share our hospitality and passion that everything else will fall into place.

We do have some happenings lined up for October and November, including a wine and cheese pairing and a free cider pancake brunch which includes a pop-up holiday market and pumpkin carving on October 29 from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. We will also be at Ciderfest in Asheville on October 6th and have set up a few cider brunches the next day with two of Asheville's best restaurants. In addition, we will be a part of the first ever 'Our State Public House,' in the Carolina Sampler, at the State Fair from October 12-22; TerraVita Wine and Food Festival in Chapel Hill; the South Durham Barn Dance on October 21st; and Txchfest in Durham on November 18.

Check out B&B's Facebook page for a full list of events.

What’s next for Botanist & Barrel? What can we expect from you in the next 3 to 6 months? Maybe seeing your ciders in bottle shops or restaurants around the Triangle-area? Maybe tastings at local shops? You can definitely find us at many local bottle shops and restaurants across the state. We also do have several in-store tastings lined up for 2017. Appalachian Vintners in Asheville on October 5, Pharmacy Bottle in Cary on October 25, Black Twig Cider House in Durham on October 26 and Hillsborough Wine Company on November 4. You can also find us many Saturdays at the Eno Hillsborough Farmers Market and the South Durham Farmers Market.  And of course on the farm in the tasting room every Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Be sure to like Triangle Around Town on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to follow our adventures of local craft beer, wine, cider/mead and travel. 

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