In 1996 Phil Tonks began producing a hard cider in the barn next to what is now Grandview Winery in East Calais. Today the family winery produces around 30,000 bottles of award-winning rhubarb, pear, cherry, dandelion ("Eight cups of petals makes one gallon," he says) and other wines.
Tonks learned early on -- he's been dabbling in winemaking for 30-odd years -- that growing grapes in Vermont is a challenge, an unnecessary one given the abundance of available fruit in the state. "My own feeling is to to specialize in things that grow easily in Vermont.
Tonk's Grand View Winery does not use oak barrels or oak chips in order to avoid masking the true flavors of the wines. The varieties of wines that Grand View produces include Mac Jack Hard Cider and dandelion, Chardonnay, Seyval, Riesling, pear, peach, rhubarb, Montmorency cherry, Marechal-Foch, DeChaunac, strawberry-rhubarb, strawberry, blueberry infusion, raspberry-apple, raspberry infusion, blackberry, elderberry, and sparkling blueberry wines.
How to Make Dandelion Wine
Wine Expert Phil Tonks demonstrates how to make dandelion wine.
Phil Tonks: Hi, I am Phil Tonks, owner and wine maker at the Grandview Winery in East Calais. We're going to go into making Dandelion wine. Now the first thing you need to do, obviously is pick the Dandelion. So I'll spend some time showing you how to pick them, to keep the bitterness out of the wine. Next, we'll go through a little review of a kind equipment that you need, things like a nice 5 gallon bucket, a 5 gallon glass carboy, an airlock, a corker, some corks, some bottles. You do have to decide how much you're going to make. If you're only making a gallon, a gallon jug will work just fine. Once we've got all the equipment together, we'll then put together the wine itself, adding the sugar and orange juice and lemons. Add some yeast to it and let it start fermenting. And once it's fermented for a while and it's ready, then we'll bottle it.
Wine doesn't go bad, what happens is it gets converted to vinegar. So if you do something wrong, it's going to either smell funny or taste funny, you're not going to drink it. As far as the equipment in the process, there isn't any real safety issues other than, yes you are working with glass and if you do break a bottle, just be careful with it. And obviously, if you drink too much of the wine, may be you'll be a little tipsy. So how did I get started making Dandelion wine? I've made wine for fun for about 35 years and I tend to make the wine out of things that grow easily in Vermont. Grapes don't particularly fit that bill, dandelions on the other hand are plentiful. There are lots of them. We actually started the winery in 1996. We've been here in East Calais, we added a retail space over on a Route 100 just North of Ben & Jerry's. We've made a number of wines that have won both national and international awards. Dandelion is kind of fun. We're going to go through the whole process, so let's get started.