The word \u201chybrid\u201d might bring images of high-tech, fuel-\u00adsaving cars to mind, but hybrid grapes are cold-hardy, mixed-species offerings that \u00adprovide a unique expression of American terroir. Winemaker Deirdre Heekin talks about \u00adorganically farming 15 acres of hybrid grapes in the foothills of the Green Mountains in Barnard, Vermont.\r\n\r\nWhat exactly is a hybrid?\r\n\r\nDeirdre Heekin: A hybrid, as we know, is a cold-hearty cross made by a horticulturist in the nursery \u00adusing the native, American, indigenous wild material with different kinds of vinifera. It\u2019s a collaboration between man and nature.\r\n\r\nThe native labrusca and\u00a0riparia\u00a0grapes didn\u2019t make great wine, but blending the cell structure [of different species] produced grapes that would be cold hearty, adaptive to northern climates, but produce beautiful wine. That was the imperative\u2014to breed something that would do that.\r\n\r\nHow are they different from \u201cregular\u201d wine grapes like Chardonnay?\r\n\r\nDH: They grow semirecumbently, like an umbrella. They grow up and out. They are \u00adnaturally resistant to several disease \u00adproblems in the Northeast, so, in my mind, it\u2019s a no \u00adbrainer that you\u2019d want to take advantage of that and work organically. And that\u2019s never easy for anyone or any variety, but we\u2019ve got a little edge that\u2019s part of their natural resistance and their genetic history.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhy did you take a chance on hybrids?\r\n\r\nDH: I find the hybrids and the wine coming from them so interesting and so exciting [that] I don\u2019t feel like I\u2019m missing out on anything. I\u2019d started [in 2007] planting Riesling and Blaufr\u00e4nkisch, I just pulled it all out this last summer. My background is in Italian indigenous varieties. That\u2019s my specialty, so I love that weird regional stuff. For me, the hybrids are just that: regional varieties that speak of Vermont and go well with the kinds of foods we can grow and the kind of things we cook in the restaurant [Osteria Pane e Salute]. I like that the hybrids are uniquely American\u2014they\u2019re a melting pot. They\u2019re like all of us.\r\n\r\nWhat hybrid grapes do you use?\r\n\r\nDH: Marquette, La Crescent, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Noir, Frontenac Blanc, Brianna and St. Croix. We started planting in 2007 with 100 vines. Probably we have 1,000 vines by now. We\u2019re getting ready to plant another acre on our 8\u00bc [acre] home vineyard, and now we\u2019re leasing a vineyard across the street. I\u2019m thinking of experimenting with a couple of things\u2014I\u2019m enamored with Baco Noir.\r\n\r\nAre there specific flavor benchmarks or standards you try to tease out when working with hybrids?\r\n\r\nDH: I think we\u2019re in a unique situation with hybrids because there is no standard, so you can really examine terroir without the baggage of standards. We grow La Crescent in all three vineyards, and I can tell which one it is when I taste it. I taste slate and limestone from Vergenne; florality from West Addison. In the home vineyard, it\u2019s a totally different kind of minerality and stone fruit. It\u2019s been fascinating. Hybrids are very great telecasters for terroir. For me, that\u2019s super exciting.