Welch’s Vineyard Dedication with Celebrity Chef Alton Brown Concord, MA

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Standing outside the Welch’s Company Headquarters Concord, MA

On June 25th, I attended a ceremony at Welch’s company headquarters in Concord, MA with fellow bloggers Jane Doiron and Kimberly Shipley. Welch’s teamed up with Food Network star Alton Brown to dedicate a new vineyard grown from cuttings of the original Concord grapevine that was cultivated 160 years ago.

It all started in mid 19th century, in the 1850ies to be exact, when Ephraim Wales Bull set out to develop a grape that would thrive in the harsh climate and soil of the Northeast. This photograph of Mr. Bull, pictured in 1856 with his Concord grape creation, was on display near the podium in front of the vineyard.

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Ephraim Wales Bull pictured in 1856 with his Concord grape creation.

Sitting in the front row at the ceremony was Susan Hines. Mrs. Hines is the great, great, great granddaughter of Ephraim Wales Bull. She appeared to be quite happy and honored to be present at the ceremony.

Mr. Bull’s original vine still bears fruit on the property where he lived, nearby Welch’s headquarters. Upon moving to their new location, Welch’s took the opportunity to propagate the original Concord grapevine right at the company headquarters in their newly dedicated vineyard shown here.

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Concord Grape Vineyard at Welch’s Headquarters dedicated on June 25th 2013.

Alton Brown was the first to speak. If you are not familiar with Mr. Brown, he has an impressive resume. He is an American television personality, celebrity chef, author, actor, and cinematographer. He is the creator and host of the Food Network television show Good Eats, the mini-series Feasting on Asphalt and Feasting on Waves, and host and main commentator on Iron Chef America. He is also the author of several books on cooking.

Before the event, he was kind enough to pose for a photo with Jane and me.

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Photo with Food Network Star and Celebrity Chef Alton Brown

Alton embraces the Concord grape as a purple super food with many health benefits. He created exclusive recipes for Welch’s that we tasted after the ceremony. He has partnered with Welch’s on promotions since 2009.

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This 2009 image of Alton Brown is part of the Welch’s timeline display in their front lobby.

Alton spoke of Mr. Bull’s life and how he came to develop the Concord Grape.

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Alton Brown talks about Ephraim Wales Bull, creator of the Concord grape.

According to Alton, Mr. Bull moved to Concord in the 1800’s due to an illness. He was a “fan of agriculture” and this hobby became a passion as he set out to create a new grape – one that was juicy and delicious, yet hardy enough to withstand New England’s harsh winters and not so favorable soil conditions.

He spent a five year period cultivating 20,000 seedlings! Finally in 1849 he achieved his goal and he grew the very first Concord grape.

Here I caught the tail end of Alton’s presentation.

Dennis Rak is one of Welch’s family-farmer owners from Fredonia, NY that cultivated the vines at this new vineyard.

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Dennis Rak, the Welch’s family-farmer owner from Fredonia, NY that cultivated the vines.

The grape vines are propagated after the plant matures and becomes woody in a controlled greenhouse. The cuttings are planted in a peat mix and bottom heated to create growth and vines. According to Dennis, these grape vines were started the first week in February in a greenhouse.

Welch’s President and CEO Bradley Irwin stated,  “The town of Concord is steeped in American history. When we moved our corporate headquarters this year, we were proud to continue to stand with Concord and celebrate our legacy. We’re honored to be able to deepen and extend the connection we have to local heritage.”

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Welch’s President and CEO Bradley Irwin at Vineyard Dedication

We had another photo opp. and our picture was taken with Mr. Irwin after the ceremony.

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From left, Kimberly Shipley, yours truly, Jane Doiron and Welch’s CEO Bradley Irwin.

The dedication was concluded with the presentation of this plaque.

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Alton Brown and Welch’s President and CEO Bradley Irwin present the vineyard plaque.

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It was a hot morning. The temperature was in the 90ies. I was glad when we moved the gathering inside for a Q &A with the above mentioned gentlemen.

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Q & A with Welch’s President and CEO Bradley Irwin, Celebrity Chef Alton Brown and Concord grape farmer Dennis Rak.

It was interesting to learn that there are over 1,000 Concord grape family farmer/vineyard owners in different parts of the country. Farms are located in Washington State, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. There are some farms located in Canada as well.

Michigan has the most challenging weather and soils have different acidity levels in different regions. According to Welch’s CEO, Bradley Irwin, pictured left, reps. from the different regions come together at harvest time for a taste test, each claiming to have the best quality grapes.

For those interested in Welch’s products with lower sugar, they have a line of light juices and light fruit spreads. Mr. Irwin commented that he enjoys the Welch’s fruit spreads with less sugar as the natural flavor of the fruit comes through.

I had the opportunity to ask Alton Brown a question or two and I had to ask about his diet, and in particular his recipe for fruit smoothies. Going back to the Live and Let Diet episode on Good Eats, he refers to using Concord grape juice in his fruit smoothies. He again talked about the health benefits of Welch’s Concord Grape Juice and his longtime love for Concord grapes. And yes! He does use Welch’s grape juice, as his “purple juice” in fruit smoothies. I plan on giving that a try.

In regards to his diet, I asked if he still ate from “the lists”. Referring again to his Live and Let Diet Episode, he introduced his personal eating plan via food lists. One list of foods he ate from daily, another was 3 x weekly, another 1 x per week and lastly one list of foods he never ate from.

He lost 50 lbs. on his plan and he appears to be leaner than ever! He admitted that he sticks to his plan or “the lists” about 80 percent of the time.  He also said he never eats at the airport due to the lack of healthy choices. The key is to be prepared and have healthy food choices on hand. (I am going to give those food lists a closer look!)

Duck Confit Wontons and Concord Royale Beverages

Speaking of food, Alton created two very yummy recipes using Welch’s grape juice. His first recipe is Duck Confit Wontons with Welch’s Concord Grape Sauce. I’ve never tried duck before and these were very yummy. The Grape sauce is simmered and reduced to 1 cup. Several other ingredients, including Welch’s Concord Grape Jelly, are added and cooked for an additional five minutes.

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Duck Confit Wontons – Image courtesy of Welch’s

The other recipe that we were able to taste, courtesy of Alton Brown, was the Concord Royale non-alcoholic beverage, pictured on the right below. These were so delicious and unique. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it. These are  made with Welch’s grape juice, fresh rosemary, crystallized ginger and balsamic vinegar.

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Recipe created courtesy of Alton Brown – Concord Royale Beverages (shown right).

Before we left, we were presented with a small gift bag of some Welch’s products and our own Concord grape vine to plant at home! I thought that was fantastic. I am now thinking about where to plant this special Concord grapevine!

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Concord grapevine for my own vineyard! :)

About Welch’s

Headquartered in Concord, Massachusetts, Welch’s is the processing and marketing subsidiary of National Grape Cooperative. Welch’s is owned by this cooperative of more than 1,000 family farmers across America and in Ontario, Canada, who grow the delicious and inherently healthy Concord grape used in Welch’s juices and other grape-based products. Welch’s is committed to research and development that will meet the growing demand for products addressing consumers’ health and nutrition needs. Welch’s products are sold throughout the United States and in approximately 50 countries globally. Welch’s is an Equal Opportunity Employer- Minorities/Female/Disabled/Veterans. For more information, visit welchs.com.

I’d like to thank Heather Perkins and Erika Jubinville and all at Welch’s for inviting me to this event!

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Kristi Maloney is a work from home mom to two boys ages 9 and 12. Since 2009, she has featured in-depth product, and book reviews and hosted high-quality, exciting giveaways on her blog Moms Own Words. When she is not blogging about life in New England, tips on everything and anything, recipes and the antics of her boys, you can find her providing taxi, laundry, meal preparation and decluttering services for her family. Email at maloney(dot)Kristi@gmail(dot)com.


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Comments

  1. finajenny says

    I dont really know who they are not until this post. One thing I am sure off though.. I want to meet them too… and oh! Yeah I love wine.. particularly RED WINE :)

  2. says

    Great!! teaming up with a star chef wow. Thanks for sharing this post, i didn’t know about welch’s but now i found it interesting.

  3. says

    I know Alton Brown from Iron Chef. :) How fun that you got to meet him.

    This looks like a fun visit. Concord grapes are my fave,and no one does grape juice like Welch’s.

  4. says

    Wow! What a great post, Kristi! I had a great time and learned a lot about Welch’s! Alton was super nice to meet! :)

  5. says

    This looks like such a fun event! I always enjoy attending things like this because I learn so much about the company.

  6. Karine says

    That’s so fun! Thanks for posting this, I’m always curious as what the enterprise looks like, the owners, CEO, etc..

  7. Rosie says

    I had no idea all this history about Concord grapes – my favorite, too! Wow, this is the greatest post! I would love to see this vineyard!

  8. says

    Looks like a fun day! How great to meet Alton Brown, I love his show and had no idea he was so involved in the Welchs brand.

  9. kristi maloney says

    Well, Corinne, I just may have to post it. I have the recipe for both items that I referred to in this post. I was planning on the beverage at the very least! Thanks for your comments – all of them! :)

  10. Janet W. says

    Welch’s sounds like a great company!! It was interesting to learn some of these facts. Sounds like you had a nice, informative time!

  11. Karen Glatt says

    What a very interesting blog post about the history of Welch’s Grape Juice and where the grapes come from. This is my favorite juice because the grape juice is not heavily processed and has a rich grape flavor. I found it very interesting that this man Ephraim Wales Bull’s grape vines are still in a spot where he put them! You looked like you had a great time. I think it would be fun to go to this event!

  12. shelly peterson says

    Looks like you had a wonderful time! this was a great post with lots of info, loved reading about how the concord grape origianted from.

  13. vickie couturier says

    thats not too far from me in VT..what fun,I love welchs,,read up where to plant the vine at ,,we had ours close to the house so we could pick easier,

  14. Sherri Lewis says

    Thats interesting that there are over 1,000 Concord grape family farmer/vineyard owners in different parts of the country…. I always assumed it came from just one really large vineyard.

  15. Mayela says

    Looks like a fun day! How great to meet Alton Brown, I love his show and had no idea he was so involved in the Welchs brand.

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