Pioneers of Vermont Wine Expand: Shelburne Vineyard Buys Lincoln Peak VineyardSep 30, 2021 01:54PM ● By Pam Hunt
Back in 2001, a writer’s encounter with budding winemakers sparked a twenty-year relationship between Chris Granstrom and Ken and Gail Albert, owners of Shelburne Vineyard and Wine Tasting Room and the brand-new owners of Granstrom’s Lincoln Peak Vineyard in New Haven. Granstrom, who wrote about Shelburne Vineyard and two other pioneering Vermont winemakers for Vermont Life, started out as a strawberry grower.
Lincoln Peak History
He soon added a grape nursery to his business and became one of the first licensees of the University of Minnesota for their new-at-the-time cold-weather-loving Marquette grapes. Seeing the success of the grapes at other local vineyards, including Shelburne Vineyard, he converted his nursery into a full-blown vineyard and winery, featuring not only the Marquette grapes but also the La Crescent variety, a white grape with a wonderful apricot aroma.
Ken remembers the camaraderie among the grape growers. “We have been getting together each winter, comparing our wines, commiserating, and discussing.” He also notes that both Lincoln Peak and Shelburne Vineyard won best red wine in show for several years in the University of Minnesota-managed International Cold Climate Wine Competition.
Ready to Downsize
Over the past couple of years, however, Granstrom wanted to downsize his operation. He narrowed his focus to red wine production, which decreased the amount of land he needed for grape growing. When Granstrom offered a lease agreement for part of his property to Shelburne Vineyard, the Alberts jumped at the opportunity. “He leased about half the acreage to us,” Ken says. “We needed the grapes. If you plant a grapevine today, it would be three years before you got the first small amount and five years before you had any significant production.”
Then, in the winter of 2020–2021, Granstrom decided to sell his winery. “We and our longtime partner, Sam Coppola, had not initially planned on buying the whole thing,” Ken says, “but the more we thought about it… we used the phrase, ‘We became addicted to his grapes.’”
The Alberts felt comfortable taking over Lincoln Peak because they knew Granstrom well and knew the grapes were grown at a similar quality level to their own. Plus, as Gail explains, “It cut out three years of waiting for new grapes to reach production.”
Lincoln Peak Tasting Room Remains Open
Although the final sale won’t be wrapped up until the fall, Shelburne Vineyard is currently managing the tasting room at Lincoln Peak, where the retail operation is open three days a week: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Though some Lincoln Peak vintages are still available—“Precious little,” according to Ken—about 90 percent of the wine sold there is created by Shelburne Vineyard. “We wish we had more Lincoln Peak,” Ken says. “We will continue at least one label of theirs—the Marquette.”
The Alberts plan to close the New Haven shop for the winter season. “We have always done some events here [in Shelburne],” Gail says, “and Chris did events as well, but we took a break from hosting anything there this year until we get ourselves organized and settled.”
However, Shelburne Vineyard plans to host some pop-ups in Middlebury over the coming months, “To introduce us as the new owners, let them get to know our people,” Gail says. “They had established a community, and customers like that sense of community, that sense of knowing people at the vineyard.”
Ken adds, “I’ve been down there during the weekend retail sales, and people in the area are happy that someone relatively local is taking over rather than some brand X coming in and not understanding traditions.”