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Monday, Feb 26, 2024

Sip on this: Your guide to local tastings and fine beverages

The interior of Dedalus Wine Market and Bar.
The interior of Dedalus Wine Market and Bar.

For many Middlebury students (sans thesis writers, language learners and STEM majors), J-term is a time for play and exploration. While some prefer to ski and snowboard, others to collage in their dorm rooms, I prefer to eat and drink. For those upperclassmen who have done the usual Middlebury culinary shtik — a flight at the Woodchuck Cidery, a lunch at Sabai Sabai and a $5 tasting at the Schmetterling Wine Shop (returning in February) — I wanted to suggest a handful of spots worth the schlep for tasty snacks and beverages. For this first issue, I will be highlighting places to grab a drink or a taste in Middlebury and Burlington that I’ve been to and adored.

For the Sippers! 

Golden Rule Meadery 

Alexander Aphel’s tasting room at 8 Elm Street near Royal Oak Coffee is the best choice if transportation out of town is not an option. Aphel makes all of his mead from 100% local honey, employing only wild yeasts and never adding sulfur to his products. His mead was recently showcased at the Vermont Wine Fair where he poured about 15 of his meads — all differing in taste profile, ABV, body and color.

Aphel also spoke to the environmental impact of glass bottling and shipping, suggesting the use of kegs for those winemakers willing to forego tradition. You can talk to him more about this and taste a diverse selection of meads Friday through Monday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. He encourages customers to bring their own reusable containers up to 64 oz. to be filled with the mead of their choice.

Zero Gravity Brewery

It can be overwhelming to select a brewery outside of Middlebury. There are just too many options! But I believe Zero Gravity’s tasting room (or should I say warehouse) to be top tier. Located at 716 Pine St. in Burlington, Zero Gravity has options for all kinds of beer drinkers from the après IPA sippers (me) to the Guinness enthusiasts to those who prefer something with more fruit and less hops. Their Conehead IPA is their flagship easy-drinking hazy IPA, but the Little Wolf APA is a good option for those who want something a bit more floral and aromatic. Their stouts are constantly rotating, but currently on draft is their Irish stout Extra Stout displaying notes of coffee, cocoa and caramel. Patrons can also try their sour selections (which I can’t handle but please my friends) such as the I Carried a Watermelon gose ale and their Strawberry Moon sour. I also appreciated their experimental approach to their fermentations which blur the line between beer and wine, including their Mungo Berry kettle sour brewed with an assortment of berries that could be mistaken for a zippy and energetic orange wine or their Funkytown sour ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels, which gives it a beautiful rose pink color. There is too much to try at Zero Gravity, so I suggest going with a group of friends and passing your glasses around. The tasting room and restaurant is open every day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Their banh mi is to die for. 

Dedalus Wine Market and Bar

Now, as an impassioned Schmetterling Wine Shop employee, it’s difficult for me to suggest another shop to fulfill your wine drinking needs. But until our own tastings start back up in February (stay tuned), Dedalus is a great option to taste exciting new wines and maybe even learn something in the process (also see Wilder Wines in Burlington).

Located at 388 Pine St. in Burlington, Dedalus specializes in fine wines, boasting an extensive Burgundy and Napa Valley selection, while also offering cheaper and more approachable options for the college-aged wine drinker balling on a budget. Some of my favorites to note: Domaine Dupeuble’s 2022 ‘Beaujolais Nouveau,’ carbonically macerated (meaning the stems and seeds placed with the grapes in the fermentation tank) and aged in stainless steel, is a fantastic expression of the traditional natural winemaking methods of the region (Domaine Dupeuble was established in 1512) and is personally a favorite style of mine; Bilo Idro’s ‘Plavac Mali’ from Dalmatia, Croatia has been blessing the many shelves of Vermont for a while now, and the secret of the indigenous grape is still just that — put it in the fridge for an hour and taste with friends; finally, up the ante with any of Contravento (‘against the wind’ labeled for their experimental winemaking style) wines from Abruzzo, Italy — they zing and are best enjoyed with chinese food or pizza.

Although they have a large wine shop where they do free tastings (Thursdays 4–7 p.m.), Dedalus also runs a wine bar and restaurant in the same space. It’s classy and surprisingly inexpensive. Wines by the glass range from $9–17, and who wants to pay $17 for a glass of suffocating champagne anyway. Try Jean Paul Thevenet’s ‘Beaujolais Villages’ with their boquerones and thank me later. 

Editor’s Note: Sam Lipin ’23.5 is an employee at Schmetterling Wine Shop.

Sam Lipin

Sam Lipin '23.5 returns this fall for his third semester as an editor for the Sports section. A Classics major with an Italian minor, Sam worked as a reporting intern this summer at the Addison Independent. He has hosted four radio shows through WRMC and tells his friends he plays rugby though he has not been to a practice in a year and a half.