A Winemaker discussion on the fermenting of vinifera and hybrids grapes, fruit, and honey

Posted 05/23/20
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I hope you can join us as we explore some of the differences and similarities of Fermenting with vinifera grapes, hybrid grapes, local fruit, and honey. Joining us will be Ethan Joseph, Shelburne Vineyards, VT, Ash Fischbein, Sap House Meadery, Ossipee NH, Craig McNaught, Stonybrook Vineyards, South Africa, and Ken Hardcastle, Hermit Woods Winery & Deli, Meredith, NH. Also included will be Kenneth Albert, owner of Shelburne Vineyards, and Chuck Lawrence, Hermit Woods Partner.

Each of the people on this panel has made outstanding contributions to the world of wine within each of their areas of expertise. I look forward to moderating this distinguished panel of winemakers and learning about what each has to offer.

Information about the panel  

Ethan Joseph, Winemaker

Ethan Joseph, Shelburne Vineyard

Ethan has been growing grapes and making wine at Shelburne Vineyard since 2008. He is responsible for all aspects of production, from vineyard to glass, and appreciates this integral role in the full cycle of winegrowing. As such, he is committed to highlighting the potential of northern varieties through responsible viticulture and premium winemaking.

Most recently, Ethan has developed a sub-brand for SV called Iapetus, which represents wines with a strong sense of place and applies minimalism in the winery.

Ethan also shares his experience and expertise as a speaker at national conferences, serves as Treasurer for the Vermont Grape and Wine Council, and is on the planning board for the 2022 Vitinord conference.

Kenneth Albert

Kenneth Albert, Shelburne Vineyard

In 1998, after many years as an IBM engineer working on computer chips not bigger than a quarter inch on each side, and growing grapes in his backyard, Ken made the jump to full-time grape growing and winemaking.

Although a New York City Native, Ken was always interested in growing things.  Upon moving with Gail and two young girls to Shelburne in 1971, he immediately planted some grape vines in his suburban backyard. 

To educate himself on grape growing and winemaking, in the days before the internet, Ken searched out every wine and vine related book in the UVM library.  Since Shelburne Vineyard’s first planting on the Shelburne Farms site, Ken has been attending wine making and viticulture conferences held each winter by Cornell University in the Finger Lakes Region on New York State.  

After his family and growing grapes, Ken’s other compelling interest have been in Shelburne town politics and town planning and Vermont’s unique landscape.  He served 10 years on the town Planning Commission and the 18 years as a member of the town Selectboard.

But on to the Wine: Our first planting was in 1998 on 3 acres of land leased from the large Shelburne Farms agricultural estate.   It was all French-American Hybrids influenced by the commercial vineyards across the VT border in Quebec.   Wineries there started 10 years before our VT pioneering effort had begun.   Twelve years ago with the emergence of the Minnesota hybrids, (grape vines that turned to be both hardier and made better wine) we made the decision to invest in our own land, built our LEED certified winery and greatly increased our production. We now have a total of 20 acres of mostly MN hybrids and a small planting of Riesling.   We are emphasizing sustainability, minimal intervention in the vineyard and in the winery, producing wines with little and no additions of non-grape ingredients.  Ethan Joseph upon graduation from a UVM environmental program joined us at the time of this expansion.  He has grown into a widely respected grower and winemaker with these hybrid grapes, and has developed our second label “Iapetus” emphasizing wines of minimal intervention.  We are now shipping some of our wines to our neighboring states as well as to California. 

Ash Fischbein

Ash Fischbein, Sap House Meadery

Ash is a passionate mead-maker, brewer, and serial entrepreneur who is based in Ossipee, New Hampshire. While he was too young to buy it at the time, he started making mead (honey wine) and beer during high school. He has been infinitely dedicated to crafting the perfect brew ever since.

Throughout his career, Ash has received extensive acclaim and awards, including the 2014 NH SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year, the 2014 NH Business Excellence & Sustainable Business Practice Award, and the 2017 GOACC Business Person of The Year Award as well as numerous accolades for mead and beer making. He is also a proud graduate of Moonshine University in Louisville, KY, and a BJCP Mead Judge.

Currently, Ash is a co-owner of the multiple award-winning Sap House Meadery and, most recently, a two-time winning GABF Bronze and Silver Medal winning brewery called Hobbs Brewing Company. Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co. is New Hampshire’s premier 300 seat brewpub. Ash and his team just opened the second brewery location in Placencia, Belize, Central America. 

With an unwavering entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic, Ash is on a mission to serve as a catalyst for fellow entrepreneurs to launch their businesses in the hub of growth and opportunities.

When he isn’t immersed in the mead world, Ash Fischbein enjoys fly-fishing and playing guitar. Devoted to his community, he volunteers as a Founder and Chairman of the Ossipee Economic Development Council. Most importantly, Ash loves nothing more than spending quality time with his family and friends.

Ken Hardcastle

Ken Hardcastle, Hermit Woods Winery

As a professional geologist and lover of nature, I find that fermentation is one of the most exciting processes in the world and I love to foster it.

Born in Stoneham Mass, but grew up in So. Cal.; went to the Waldorf School, Highland Hall in Northridge, then Occidental College for undergrad., both in California.  Moved back east, NYC, for my Masters, and then to western Mass (UMass Amherst) for my PhD in structural geology.  Have been exploring for groundwater ever since 1989 with the great group at Emery & Garrett Groundwater, Inc., here in nearby Meredith NH.  Have a wonderful partner in life/true love, Maya, and two wonderful kids, Max and Liana – both currently off in the world at college.

My beer making started in early 1990s, and then I expanded to include honey (for mead) and then grapes and other fruits for wines.  Now in my backyard I grow apples-berries-rosehips, tend old-vine Marachel Foch grape vines, and raise bees … all for wine and the fresh organic produce.  I also work with my partners, Chuck and Bob, to tend the vineyard at the winery and we actively seek fresh fruit of any type in the region … the more local and organic the better!

As a trained scientist, I find it natural/easy to quantify/track the analytical/chemical side of fermentation; this then allows for the artful side of wine making to be done with more foundation.  I am comfortable with pH/TA measurements, paper chromotography, malt/hop bills, decoction mash, etc. as well as a firm believer of not just using numbers but following my taste and intuition.  Yeast are key.  It is really exciting to me to have a few different, single fruit wines I have made, and then to blend those in different proportions to see/taste what works … I let the ‘science’ of acidity/fruit/tannin balance to provide the foundation for the creative side … of taste and satisfaction.  I am a self taught beer and wine maker, with many hundreds of batches under my belt … and I look forward to the next batch as much as my first.  Come share a glass with me and I’ll tell you about the history of all the components and my efforts … and how, now, you too are part of its life and all of life.  Cheers, Ken.