It's a well-kept secret of our nation's colleges and universities that one can, in fact, make wine for a living. It's because this fact is so little known that Brian Smith spent his undergraduate years studying wildlife and fisheries biology at the University of Vermont – but it wasn't long before he discovered the truth. This discovery came during Brian's time working on Snow Farm Vineyard in Vermont, where he ended up working for three years – meanwhile, his future wife Allie Willenbrink was finishing college.
Soon his two loves (wine and Allie) converged, when the couple took a 2005 cross-country road trip to Fresno State in a Volkswagon Rabbit pickup that they'd bought on eBay and converted to run on vegetable oil. There, Brian studied viticulture and oenology, honing his skills before heading back east with Allie and ultimately settling on a 57-acre, 1770s-era farmstead in Warren, Maine – Allie's home state. In 2008, they planted three and a half acres of vines: Vidal Blanc and Traminette on two acres, La Crescent (specially bred to withstand frigid Maine winters) on the third. Their first wine, The Villager White, was released in 2008 to statewide acclaim.
By spring 2011, Brian had determined to never again run a heavy tractor through the vineyard. Not being one to settle, he started doing all cultivation in the vineyard with draft horses – his first horse, Don, is "basically an extension of [Brian's] mind" (he also helps Brian deliver farm-fresh goods to locals in a horse-drawn carriage during the winter!). And in an effort to use only organic and biodynamic methods, a flock of Indian Runner ducks picks Japanese beetles and other insects from the vines. Hand cultivation and tractor cultivation with a special disc eliminate the need for herbicides, and manure and grape skins are combined and composted to use as fertilizer.
A few years ago, Brian got excited about fermenting apples to make traditional bottle conditioned cider. For now, he's sourcing his apples from his neighbors, but he's also been planting apple trees on his farm so eventually he'll have his own supply. We are so excited to have his Hoboken Station Cider as part of our growing cider offerings.