La Garagista, Vermont, USA
Deirdre Heekin's remarkable naturally made wines from a biodynamic farm in Vermont


Deirdre Heekin’s La Garagista winery is a remarkable project. It's a natural winery in Vermont, USA, using local hybrid grapes. As you can imagine, when I was invited to meet the owners and taste the wines over dinner at Brawn, I was intensely curious. Wine from Vermont? Natural wine from Vermont? Worst case scenario: the wines are terrible. Then I still get to hang out with interesting, nice humans and eat at Brawn (whose food I love). So the risk is low.

Deirdre and her husband Caleb Barber run a restaurant in Woodstock, Vermont, called Osteria Pane e Salute, and wine is Deirdre’s thing. She’s a self-taught sommelier and runs the wine program at their restaurant, specializing in indigenous Italian grape varieties (the restaurant is Italian-themed). In 2008 she decided to plant some vines. ‘Winemaking was just an educational element for myself,’ she says. ‘I wanted to experience harvest.’ She’d heard of other vineyards in Vermont – which is not a promising place for wine growing, with very cold winters and a short, humid growing season – and this inspired her. ‘They were making nice wine, so we started planting our own vineyard.’ But Deirdre decided to make things tough for herself, and farm biodynamically.

It turns out that the Garagista wines are interesting and good. More than that, they are compelling and delicious. They are made from varieties new to me: La Crescent (which has Muscat parentage), Marquette (which has Pinot Noir parentage) and Frontenac Gris, Blanc and Noir. The focus on hybrid grapes is dictated by the Vermont climate (winters are cold enough here to kill Vitis vinifera varieties, although Deirdre is playing with a couple of vinifera varieties on her farm), and they have a reputation for making wines that taste a bit odd. But this is when they are vinified conventionally. Vinify them naturally, and suddenly the oddness is lost. 'Conventional wines here illustrate the difficulties that hybrid wines can have when they are made that way,’ says Deirdre.  

The vineyard has evolved over the last several years. First vintage was in 2010, and since then they’ve had the opportunity to lease two more vineyards. Currently they farm 2.5 hectares of vines, and produce a total of 500 cases annually. Their goal is to get production up to 1000 cases, and there’s room to grow to 3000 cases. The main markets are Vermont, New York, Boston, California and Montreal. These wines are now being brought into the UK.

Deirdre has recently written a book based on her experiences on the farm, titled An unlikely vineyard: the education of a farmer and her quest for terroir (link here)which is well worth a read if you want to know more about this fascinating project.


La Garagista Harlots & Ruffians 2013 Vermont
12% alcohol. A blend of La Crescent  (which spends 6 weeks on skins) and Frontenac Gris (foot crushed and then fermented in glass). Such a lovely, detailed wine. It tastes quite natural with lovely peach, pear, apple and spice notes. Appealing with nice complexity and fine acidity. 92/100

La Garagista Damejeanne 2013 Vermont
Raised in demijohns, this is 90% Marquette and 10% La Crescent. It’s inspired by old fashioned Chianti and Côte Rôtie, where a little white fruit is included in the blend. Juicy, bright, fresh and berryish with some spiciness and hints of earth. Very fresh meaty, spicy cherry fruit with lovely focus and some elegance. Delicious. 91/100

La Garagista Loups-Garoux 2013 Vermont
Deep coloured and vibrant with lovely acidity and juicy bright black cherries and plums, with a hint of lift and some appley notes. Spicy, vivid, juicy and fresh with delicious cherry and raspberry fruit. 90/100

UK agent: Les Caves de Pyrene

Wines tasted 02/15  
Find these wines with


Back to top