On a Mediterranean-style July day, when haze smears the Adirondacks and thickets burst with berries, it's hard to believe the shores of Lake Champlain aren't prime grape-growing territory. They aren't - but that won't stop anyone from enjoying a glass of local wine.
Often as not, it comes with a lake view. Shelburne Vineyard's brand-new tasting room gives passersby a place to sample the Vermont-grown Whimsey Meadow Rosé (already the winner of a Florida State Fair gold medal), and the Meach Cove Red made with organic Zweigelt grapes, a rare dark-hued variety that thrives in our climate. On July 8, the annual "Toast to the Season" dinner pairs the vineyard's wines with tarts and salads from the chefs at neighboring Shelburne Farms.
A few miles farther down Route 7, you'll find no grapes growing at the Charlotte Village Winery, but plenty of dark, squat blueberry bushes. The Pelkey family expanded their U-Pick outfit into winemaking in 1999, but there's nothing syrupy about their dry, semi-dry and sweet fermented-blueberry concoctions, which received kudos from the American Wine Society. From the pine-raftered tasting room, visitors can look down into the bowels of the operation, where berries soak up the oak-barrel flavor, or watch the sun heating up the lake. The view goes just fine with the Pelkeys' crisp Pinot Grigio, crafted - along with a Cab, Merlot and Gamay - from grape pulp imported from the Lodi region of California.
That's one approach, but other local wine makers soldier on with cold-weather grapes. The weekly Burlington Farmers' Market offers a chance to sample the wares of a newcomer: Fresh Tracks Farm in Berlin, which just received Tasters Guild gold medals for its Little Piggy Pink Off-Dry Frontenac Rosé and 2006 Frontenac Gris. Other inland operations, Cambridge's hillside Boyden Valley Winery and Grand View Winery in East Calais, serve up the whole orchard, with dandelion, pear, peach, rhubarb, cassis, blackberry and blueberry vintages, hard cider, Seyval and Riesling.
For those who want to combine sipping and sight-seeing with aural stimulation, though, there's no better choice than the free Thursday evening Music in the Vineyard series at South Hero's Snow Farm Winery. At 5 p.m., the doors open to picnickers eager to tap their toes to rhythms ranging "from jazz to classical to swing to bluegrass" - and, the owners hope, to sample a Riesling or an award-winning Vignoles. Throw in a sunset and some homemade Island Ice Cream, and you've got all summer in a day.
Boyden Valley Winery, 70 VT Route 104, Cambridge. 644-8151. http://boydenvalley.com. Offers tours and $5 tastings (call for hours).
Burlington Farmers' Market, Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. in City Hall Park. www.burlingtonfarmersmarket.org.
Charlotte Village Winery, 3968 Greenbush Road, Charlotte. 425-4599. www.charlottevillagewinery.com. Free tasting daily 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. from Memorial Day to January 1.
Fresh Tracks Farm, www.freshtracksfarm.com.
Grand View Winery, Max Gray Road off Route 14 North, East Calais. 456-7012. www.grandviewwinery.com. Open 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. until late October, closed Tuesdays.
Shelburne Vineyard, 6308 Shelburne Road, Shelburne. 985-8222. www.shelburnevineyard.com. Open 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. "A Toast to the Season" dinner Tuesday, July 8, at 6 p.m. $35. Info, 985-8686, ext. 341.
Snow Farm Winery, 190 West Shore Road, South Hero. 372-9463. www.snowfarm.com. Open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours on concert evenings and Fridays in July and August. Music in the Vineyard concert series Thursdays at 6:30, June 12 to August 28, with picnicking starting at 5. Special Fourth of July concert features the Bob Boyd Band with Sam Spear.