Could you soon be going on a maple syrup tasting tour?

Crown Maple Syrup. Photo: Wally Gobetz, CC some rights reserved

We'll well into the second half of sugaring season, reports suggest a productive season (especially after last year's terrible spring for syrup), and our delicious golden offering to the world is getting a lot of press.

First, there was the infamous heist from Canada's maple syrup strategic reserve, even engendering its own segment on The Daily Show.

Senator Chuck Schumer stopped by a Clinton County syrup producer to say New York taps just 1% of its sugar maples and urge more production in a growing industry.

And today the news breaks that maple syrup is becoming so valuable that people are stealing sap in Maine. According to the AP:

Maine Forest Ranger Thomas Liba says as far as he can tell, the culprits are taking the sap home and boiling it down to make syrup for personal use. But they’re damaging valuable maple trees and dissing landowners who haven’t given them permission to be on their property.

But the story that fascinates me is the New York Times story about a private equity firm manager who's built perhaps North America's biggest and most sophisticated maple syrup production facility. Robb Turner is also one of the first to specifically brand his maple syrup – Crown Maple. And he's opened up a tasting room and restaurant at his sugarbush in Dutchess County. It's the wine connoisseur approach applied to sugaring, replete with sommelier:

Mr. Turner shared his syrup with Nathan Wooden, the sommelier at Per Se; the two had become friends after the builder of Mr. Turner’s wine cellar in New Jersey recommended Mr. Wooden to fill its racks. Mr. Wooden loved the similarities to wine: how different soils and temperatures can produce different tastes. The two men now speak of “single batch origin” syrup, and a committee at Crown Maple produces tasting notes for each batch.

This totally makes sense to me. Wine tours have become huge business. Craft breweries and microdistilleries aren't far behind. Isn't it natural for maple syrup to follow?

A maple-paneled tasting room is a long way from the sugar shack, though, where many of us are more used to huddling around the boil, drinking cans of Blue, and playing cards while stoking the fire.

What do you think of this new direction for our most cherished ritual of early spring? Are you excited to see growth in the industry, with maple syrup finally getting its due respect? Or do you hold dear the folksy roots of metal bucket, hammering in the taps, and keeping the boil company as mushy snow turns to mud outside?

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2 Comments

  1. Both David. My operation is strictly old-school, with metal buckets and a wood fire, but I'm 100% behind anything that raises awareness of both the product and the process. I think there's plenty of room for more people to start a syrup business, and I think that those at the top of the ladder do us all a favor when they push it up a notch, and push up the price for everyone.
    I sold a gallon to my elderly neighbor yesterday. She asked what the going price would be this year, and I told her $42. She said "No, that's too much hard work for $42…I'm giving you $50". So now my price is $50

    • I'm all for promoting yet another "value added" foodstuff made right here in good old New York.

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