The Best Time of Year in Vermont
By Lucy M. Casale
Published by Boston Herald
For Vermonters, fall is for craft cider and cheese—with a view. Follow their lead on your next leaf-peeping excursion and raise a glass to the Green Mountain State in all its red, yellow, and orange glory.
Venture north, south, east, or west during fall in Vermont and you’re guaranteed killer views. There’s peak foliage to chase, by car or by hike, and you can bet your plaid shirt the real Vermonters are out making the most of it. The leaves will change from approximately September 12 to October 31, but check Vermont’s Foliage Forecaster before planning your visit.
The state’s other main attractions this time of year? Hard cider and aged cheeses to stop and taste. Hard emphasis on the hard cider. Vermont’s craft cideries scene is booming and when paired with cheese and a colorful landscape, it is a road trip unlike any other. Here’s where to go.
Start your tour in the sweet little city of Vergennes, where Shacksbury Cider has a newly opened tasting room. They specialize in old-world style and experimental ciders from Vermont’s foraged and heirloom apples (ask them about "The Lost Apple Project.”) Sample dry, semi-dry, and Arlo ciders in full or half pours.
From here, head to Middlebury and the home of Woodchuck Cider. Before you pull out a seat at the bar, take their self-guided tour to learn about the cider making process. Then, make friends with a bartender because they’ve got 20 ciders on tap. And if you visit on a “New Keg Saturday” (i.e. any Saturday), your new bartender friend will pour you a taste of their latest batch straight from the cellar.
Trek out to Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, where they grow over 100 varieties of apples. Head to the Pick Your Own stand to catch spectacular views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Pick up apples and homemade cider donuts, and taste Champlain Orchards Cider in their farm market.
Stay: In Bridport at the historic Mountain View Inn at Morgan Hill Farm. It’s a working organic dairy farm, a member of the Cabot Creamery Co-operative, and a charming B&B. Tag along with owners Jerry and Cheryl on a farm tour: learn about how cows are milked and don’t miss the cute calves.
North Central Vermont
Begin your day at the Boyden Valley Winery Tasting Annex at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill on scenic Vermont Route 100 in Waterbury. Boyden Valley is first and foremost a winery, but they make delicious ciders, too. Try all five ciders, from Honey Hopper, with local honey, to Double Bourbon. Then shop around at the country-quaint Cider Mill (don’t miss their cider donuts) for Vermont souvenirs.
Next, cleanse your palette (or keep treating it) with cheese sampling at the Waterbury Cabot Farmers’ Store. You’ll be surprised at how many cheeses Cabot produces, from classic cheddars to specialty cheeses. If you want to stock up on snacks for the rest of your road trip, don’t miss Cabot’s new cracker cut slices: Pre-cut slices, perfect for a weekend on the road.
From here, continue along Route 100 to Stowe Cider in this well-known ski town and appreciate their aptly-named ciders, from “Tips Up” to “Safety Meeting.” Their core canned ciders come in dry, semi-dry, and dry-hopped varieties. You’ll also want to cheers to their barrel aged line, and ask about their limited edition and seasonal options.
Eat: Try The Hourglass Lounge at the Stowe Mountain Lodge for that apres-ski feel, or The Trapp Family Lodge. And Sushi Yoshi is a chill hibachi steakhouse.
Stay: In Rochester at Liberty Hill Inn at Liberty Hill Farm. The place is quintessential Vermont and farmers Beth and Bob Kennett will let you get as involved in the farm chores as your heart desires. Beth also cooks hearty delicious dinners for guests featuring Cabot dairy products, which the farm’s cows provide the milk for.
Follow Vermont Route 100 north to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The “NEK,” as Vermonters call it, offers some of the most stunning foliage vistas, plus plenty of beautiful roads that wind their way through Vermont’s tiny towns.
Along the road to Newport and the Canadian border, take a detour onto Vermont’s Grand Army of the Republic Highway, (aka Route 15), to the town of Cabot. In addition to taking a guided tour of the Cabot Creamery (with samples, of course), stop by Harry’s Hardware. Make your way to the back of the store, where you’ll find a quaint tap room. It’s as speakeasy as the NEK gets. While you’re there, sip on Citizen Cider, which is based in Burlington, but has wide distribution around the state.
Once you arrive in Newport at the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, head straight to the tasting bar of Eden Ciders. Learn about Eden’s unique biodynamic farming practices (to produce organic apples), while sampling their refreshing offerings, from ice ciders to sparkling ciders.
Eat: At the Newport Ciderhouse Bar & Grill, where you can order up more cider on tap from Citizen Cider, Eden, and Champlain Orchards.
Stay: At the charming Emergo Bed & Breakfast at Emergo Farms in Danville. It’s a sixth-generation working dairy farm, and one of the 1,100 family farms that own Cabot Creamery Co-operative. Lori and Bebo will let you visit the cow barns and tell you about their family’s rich history of farming.