"Local distillery toasted for its self-sufficiency
Westford Hill focus of documentary"
By David Hinchey
ASHFORD - With rising energy and fuel costs, one filmmaker has focused on an Ashford distillery to
showcase what he believes might be a shift back toward self-sufficient food production.
Andy Blood, director and photographer from Wolf Gang Pictures in Middletown, said he and his
crew wanted to capture what they think is the growing trend towards self-sufficiency.
"There's no reason to think gas prices won't keep rising," Blood said, adding if gas prices
reached $10 per gallon, it would be difficult to get food trucked in from California or shipped from
Peru or Mexico.
"You sill have to east, you still have to transport food, which could get very expensive,"
Blood said, adding the reason he chose Westford Hill distilleries was because they were taking fruit
from area orchards and making brandy from it.
Blood said in the future there might b e a trend towards self-sufficiency. He said that
inventors in the state were once world renown.
"We'll have to revert back to a partially agricultural state or a more self-sufficient state,"
Blood said, adding towns may have to be more concerned with preserving farmland, than using it to build
condominiums or office space.
Blood taped his film from October through December during peak activity at the distillery and
said he was impressed by what he saw.
(Subheading from second page - Distillery toasted for its self-sufficiency)
"Their approach is just intelligent," Blood said of Margaret and Louis Chatey, who own and
operate the distillery and 200 acres of farmland on the backside of Westford Hill.
He said he shot what he considers an "objective documentary style," where Blood would ask the
Chateys to explain what they do while the cameras were rolling.
Blood said it's not like a documentary where he would sit someone down and ask them questions
on camera, he said the camera just captures what they do with the only voices being those who were
He is pitching the idea to local public television stations and is looking to have the
yet-to-be-named documentary aired as part their "100 Portraits" series shown on public access stations
in the state.
Chatey agrees with Blood, saying she believes in the need to preserve local food producing land
rather than centralized food production.
She said she doesn't believe the nation will ever walk away from having food trucked in from
other areas, though, even with the high cost of fuel.
Chatey said the American consumer is too used to walking into a grocery store and seeing
beautiful green peppers - even when it isn't pepper season.
She said she could see the value of land increasing, adding a 5-acre parcel might be worth more
than just a grass-filled plot as people might farm on it.
Her biggest worry is that people may eventually - if they haven't already - lose the knowledge
and understanding of growing crops, she said.
Blood also complimented the couple on their operational concept.
"Everything about their operation is intelligent," he said, adding they've taken specialized
knowledge from the "old country" and are using area-grown fruit to make brandy.
"We have great fruit in New England," Chatey said, adding she buys from New England and New York
because local orchards don't have the high sugar content necessary to make their line of eaux-de-vie or
"water of life" clear brandies.
Chatey said brandies are big in France and in German-speaking countries and people drink them to
help aid digestion.
Chatey explained the process of hand-sorting the fruit as it comes in, selecting the best fruit
which then goes through the chopper before sitting in tanks.
The Chateys add wine yeast to the tanks for fermentation before it gets pumped into a
German-made Holstein still, where it's distilled in 65-gallon batches.
Catherine White, who has distilled for five years, was in charge of distilling the batch of
apple brandy last week during the visit.
It takes about 90 to 120 minutes per batch with White making a batch that was 166 proof, or a
little more than 80 percent alcohol during the visit.
"We don't want to mess with the fruit too much," Chatey said, adding the quality comes from slow
Chatey said she enjoys what she does because she's supporting agriculture and she also enjoys
seeing the complete product.
She plans to, one day, grow all the fruit on the property, but right now they felt it was best
to have the fruit shipped.
Chatey isn't allowed to sell directly to consumers, but she has a license to sell to liquor
stores to carry her product.
She said she hopes to increase the number of stores that sell her brandy, and she recently
expanded into New Hampshire, in addition to Connecticut and Massachusetts, which already carry her
For more information log on to www.westfordhill.com. For more information on the documentary