It’s a roadside curiosity for its enormous wine cask — Vermont’s largest — that greets travelers on Route 7 in Brandon. But Otter Valley Winery is serious about wine — and now food.
Owners Steve and Ursula Zahn released Otter Valley’s first vintage in the spring of 2011. On July 6, they celebrated another first — the opening of an eatery on the winery grounds called the Chowder House Restaurant.
Steve Zahn says pairing wine with food has long captured his fancy. Opening a restaurant seemed like a natural use of his already bustling property, which includes lodging in 20 cottages dating from the 1930s. Finally, Zahn is a seafood fan who has been disappointed by the lack of a dedicated fish restaurant nearby. So he decided to open a casual fish-fry-style, counter-service spot that specializes in fresh seafood, shipped from Boston and paired with the winery’s seven varieties.
Zahn recommends pairing his sweet, white Boston Bull with oysters, clams and other shellfish. Other possible accompaniments include the restaurant’s eponymous New England clam chowder, lobster rolls, whole-belly clams and Gulf shrimp. As for his newly bottled white, Arctic Goose, Zahn suggests quaffing it with fresh haddock dinners or scallops. Landlubbers can order hot dogs or hamburgers, while those craving a hoppier pairing will find local beers.
For dessert, Zahn has creemees and brand-new Chocolate Mousse, a red wine flavored with chocolate. Otter Valley is also introducing a wine made from Vermont maple syrup, using a recipe Zahn learned from a vintner in Nova Scotia. “It’s really a nice flavor — you can really pick up the maple syrup in the taste,” he says. “It’s a smooth, higher-alcohol-content, dessert-style wine.” An appropriate end to a winery dinner.