Donning work boots and tromping through the snow might seem like it's a far cry from pouring wine at Per Se.

But the change is a reality for Nathan Wooden, who left the latter to do the former at Crown Maple Farms, a new maple-syrup company in Duchess County, New York.

While many questioned the move, we see the logic: The maple syrup we sampled from Crown's first season of tree-tapping is among the finest we've had.

Wooden is part of a team led by farm-owner Robb Turner, another city skipper. After buying 800 acres of densely wooded land, he spent more than a year researching maple tapping and production techniques, enlisting the expertise of foresters and scientists at Cornell University.

The resulting operation is exacting in its standards, using custom-built, energy-efficient machines and a three-part filtration process to produce syrup that is all flavor and no impurities.

And chefs agree with our assessment: The syrup has already appeared at such New York restaurants as Colicchio & Sons, Vinegar Hill House, Blue Hill and Brooklyn Fare. Whether you're eating it with pancakes or with tasting menus, this sticky sweetener meets the need.