North River Winery - Jacksonville, Vermont
By Jan Sevene

Wine lovers…head for
the hills! The Vermont hills!
Specifically, find Jacksonville
and you’ll find Vermont’s
first bonded winery:
The North River Winery.

Winding through the center of Jacksonville, heading South on Rt. 112 (just off
Rt. 100), to the left you’ll spot their sign, and the wooden bridge that leads
over the babbling North River, to an 1850s farm house the winery calls home.  

It’s the quintessential Vermont setting. Yet, inside this farm, it’s not livestock
and feed, but the production of delicious fruit wine that takes center stage.

Present owner, Dan Purjes, of Whitingham, Vermont, purchased the winery in
1997 from the Metcalf family, who founded the business in 1985. Today, North
River is co-managed by Clyde Reed, North River’s winemaker, and wife
Annmary Block-Reed, who oversees the business end.   Under their careful
supervision, North River Winery produces 11 different wines.  

About 90 percent of the fruit used to make their wines comes from Windham
County’s Dwight Miller Orchards - certified organic by the State of Vermont.

Types of wines range from a very dry Vermont Pear, to their sweet, dessert-
style Vermont Harvest (with  cinnamon and maple syrup), described as akin
to a sweet sherry, and “great chilled or heated.”   

Their 100 percent organic Rhubarb contains no sulfates. Other semi-dry and
semi-sweet wines delight the palate with the flavors of fresh raspberries,
blueberries and crisp varieties of Vermont-grown apples.

“Our Vermont Harvest, Raspberry Apple, Woodland Red, and Rhubarb, are
probably our top four sellers,” Clyde Reed notes. “All the processing is done
in Jacksonville,” he says.

The traditional Vermont barn contains all the modern equipment necessary to
begin their first step in the winemaking process: fermentation. After sitting
and stabilizing for 3 to 5 months, the process of filtering the sediment from the
wine begins. Reed holds up a container of Diatomaceous earth powder, the
product of the fossilized shells of one-celled plants.  Its addition to the wine
allows a natural cleansing to take place, eliminating the use of chemicals. This
is followed by a second micro filtration system, to remove any bacteria, as
small as .45 microns.  

From there, three bottling operators swing into action.  Bottles are filled and
checked for correct content, a shot of CO2 fills the headspace, then the bottles
rotate under a capping machine, which sets the cork and shrink wraps its
cover. Bottles are then placed in cases and labeled upon demand.  Processing
a batch takes about six-and-a-half hours.  “We typically bottle in 800-gallon
batches…that’s 4,000 bottles, 320 cases,” Reed says.

Expanding the operation to neighboring states may be in the future, but for
now, it’s Vermont. The Green Mountain State has become accustomed to
North River’s wines, which are currently featured at the Skyline Restaurant in
Marlboro, the White House in Wilmington, and many other fine restaurants
throughout the state. The Simon Pearce Restaurant, located at The Mill in
Quechee, features their hard cider.

A tasting room graces the Hogback Mountain Gift Shop in Marlboro, from late
May through October. In the fall of 2001, another tasting room opened at the
Brick Cottage at Camelot Village Antiques in Bennington, Vt. In 1999, their
Ottauquechee Valley Winery opened in Quechee, VT, offering six wines for
tasting, and, like the Jacksonville location, a variety of wine related gifts and

Back at the Jacksonville farm, there’s plenty of opportunity for sampling. “We
give tastings and tours on a regular basis,” Reed says.  “The tastings,” adds
Annmary Block-Reed, “are year round. The tours run from Memorial Day
through December.”  Large groups are by reservation.  That includes seven
days a week, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

“We have earned a multitude of awards,” Clyde Reed says, proud of the
recognition their wines have earned over the years. Competing at the 1999
Indiana International Wine Competition, 8 selections netted 4 silver medal
winners, 3 bronze, and their Vermont Harvest took the gold.  At the 2000
International Eastern Wine Competition held in Watkins Glen, NY, North
River came away with three medal winners: Woodstock White, Autumn
Harvest and Vermont Harvest.

With the arrival of the vibrant reds and yellows of fall foliage, it’s the perfect
time to set your course for the Vermont hills.  Enjoy the wine sampling and
Clyde Reed’s winemaking tour – both free! Call North River Winery, and meet
Annmary Block-Reed, who will tell you, “Ninety-eight percent of the people
who have never tasted fruit wines before, are very surprised. It’s a good

To learn more go to:, or call 800-585-7779, or 802-

About the author- Jan Sevene is a freelance photojournalist living in southern
New Hampshire. She loves New England, history and cooking, and frequently
writes about the region, its diverse people and foods.
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