Deirdre Heekin and Eleanor Leger found each other through their love of the wild purity of fruit and botanicals. Orleans is a collaboration by these two friends and a unique aromatic expression of Vermont's alpine landscape.
It was a snowy night at a hotel tavern in northern Vermont when Eleanor Leger and Deirdre Heekin met. Deirdre had just come out with her book Libation: A Bitter Alchemy, a collection of essays on wine and spirits. This was before the evolution of Deirdre's La garagista winery, when the idea of growing wine grapes on Deirdre and her husband Caleb Barber’s hillside farm in Barnard, VT was just a shadow at the edge of imagination. Because Deirdre, a practicing sommelier at the time, wasn’t sure she could grow grapes in Vermont suitable to make world class wine, her interests got channeled elsewhere, to what she thought at the time were more probable and reasonable possibilities for farming and fermentation in Vermont's northern climate (of course we all know how this turned out). She had become enchanted by the world of infusions and macerations, amaro and rosolio, etc. This seemed like a way to make something beautiful in the hills of Vermont and an agricultural expression that could also represent a sense of place.
Meanwhile, Eleanor and her husband Albert had embarked on their own dream of making top notch ice cider from their land in Northern Vermont. Albert, a native Acadian, and Eleanor with a family history tracing to northern Vermont, chose this outpost to create an orchard / farm. They wanted to work with the deep cold of snowy winters and began to riff on the idea of ice cider. They named their ciders Eden.
When Deirdre and Eleanor met, Eden already had a couple of seasons under its belt and they were beginning to refine the very particular process of letting cider freeze outdoors during the heart of the winter and then bringing that frozen juice into their cellar and drawing off the concentrated and condensed amber liquid to ferment into magical ice ciders. But like all efforts, sometimes plans change and life doesn’t go exactly as planned. One of the Eden tanks of cider decided it wanted to be something else in that It fermented completely dry. At first Eleanor and Albert weren’t sure what this something else might be. That's when Eleanor met Deirdre and listened to her read about the world of elixirs infused with different herbs, flowers and fruits collected from the countryside. This was a lighting strike for Eleanor and as they say the rest is history.