VANYARDS

Balsalmic Vinegar from the Midwest

Balsamic Vinegar, a watery caramel colored liquid with a sweet and sour taste, wasn't well known while I was growing up. To be honest, I don't think we ever had a bottle in our pantry which isn't the greatest surprise being raised in the 80's on a dairy farm in the Midwest. Eventually balsamic vinaigrette became a popular salad dressing after graduation with many different flavor additives. After a term in the military I was informed about what true balsamic vinegar actually was. That is where this chapter all started. Vanyards, a quick combination or our last name and vineyard, was started in 2009 with the first 60 grape vines planted out on the front yard of my parents' dairy farm.
Vanyards, a quick combination of our last name and vineyard, started in 2009.
- Ben VanEgtern
While the vines were becoming established endless hours of searching online took place on how to properly process the product out throughout it's 12 year minimum aging process. I knew the general concepts of pressing, reducing and settling before moving into the decreasing sizes on the merry-go-round from barrel to barrel constructed from different species of trees. But was it doing it correctly?

A visit to Italy after completing an internship in Uganda verified what I was doing was one way...The truth is there is no set way! You can reduce more or less, clarify completely or none at all, as well as start with this barrel or that barrel. It all depends on how you want to impact your own flavor profile. The balsamic is as thick as syrup and the flavor profile can range from sweet to peppery and every combination in between. Each barrel impacts the flavor before it is transferred off to another barrel for flavor development. Each year the barrel gets a little smaller and the liquid thicker and thicker as the barrels breathe on their own and through evaporation in the summer heat.
Each barrel impacts the flavor before it is transferred off to another barrel for flavor development.
A set of unique barrels called a battery, will be started at the birth of a child, and passed from generation to generation. Some are over 100 years old!
A traditional balsamic vinegar can only be produced in two regions of Italy utilizing two varieties of grapes; trebbiano and lambrusca. After a 12 year process of careful rotation of the liquid from barrel to barrel the final product is sent off to a set panel that will taste and test and ultimately approve or send it back for further aging or blending. Typically a family will start a battery, a set of barrels ranging in size and types of wood, at the birth of a child and when they then marry and leave, the battery is gifted to them for them to continue on the tradition with their new family. There are some batteries that have been running for over 100 years and even older.
We are in our 5th year of having our own product carefully moving from barrel to barrel each year as another harvest comes in. For about three years the vinegar didn't turn. The flavor was that of a sweet port-like dessert wine. Then one summer that lingering profile of vinegar filled the garage where the barrels had been stored and we knew right away what had happened.

This year we are going to be removing some from the smallest barrel to test the acidity level to find the stability of the product. If the level permits we'll remove a small amount to bottle up for a few limited sales. Last year we also planted over 200 more grapevines that we will be expanding the process into a few more batches to bring a little more product online for others to experience here in the United States. 
Keep checking back for updates and limited releases!