Tasting New Hampshire’s local drinks has offered me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. People who are passionate about their work, as well as the products and services they provide. One such family, who are excited to share the product they make, is the Eaton Family. They own and operate Sweet Baby Winery.
Sweet Baby has all the charm anyone would love to find in a local business. When my husband and I walk into Sweet Baby we were greeted by Lewis Eaton himself. Personally I love this touch in neighboring businesses. It gives one the feeling you are entering a friend’s house for drinks. This is what I found when I visit Sweet Baby. Sweet Baby was hopping with guests trying the deliciously smooth wines offered as well as enjoying wedges of cheese and crackers with their wine. Bob Marley jammed on the iPod in the background and the atmosphere was so easy going, groups who had never met were mingling and chatting about New Hampshire and wine. Not to mention the setup of the room. It’s gorgeous. It’s very clean rustic with handmade tables and comfy couch.
Let be honest though, a good vibe is great and all but this blog is about wine. So let’s talk about wine. Sweet Baby had a delicious offering of wines available for tasting. All of which I enjoyed but I’m gonna pick out some of my favorites to share with you. Kensington White was a crisp refreshing white wine. This wine would pair really well with relaxing on the porch on a warm summer day. Since summer is coming this delight will be found in my house soon! Sweet Baby’s Marechal Foch is grown right in New Hampshire on the Eaton property in Kensington. It was excellent. It had a really smooth finish unlike most Marechal Foch. I never thought a wine could have a nutty flavor but Sweet Baby’s Pear wine which is a light semi sweet wine with a fun peanuty finish. Love this wine!! Lastly a wine I can’t pass up when it’s available… Blueberry wine! This wine was wildly blueberry! It was not overly sweet and it had a really smooth finish.
Needless to say I had a great time at Sweet Baby and was definitely impressed. The new building is fantastic. The tasting room was like a little friendly gathering. As I said it felt like a Saturday afternoon at a friend’s house. Oh and don’t miss out the Eaton children have their own side business at the tasting room, selling fresh eggs. The sign is on the hallway wall as you walk up into the tasting room. Who can pass up fresh eggs!
Drinking Around New Hampshire returns for blog number 2! This time I visited Flag Hill Vineyard & Winery in Lee, New Hampshire. Flag Hill is a little piece of California set in charming New Hampshire scenery. All of Flag Hill’s wines are local. The grapes are grown right on the property and all of the fruit is purchased locally!
Flag Hill was founded originally as a family owned and operated vineyard in 1990. Their first grape sale was in 1994 to the New Hampshire Winery in Henniker. Flag Hill produced its first wine in 1995 which was released in 1996. They produced 500 cases and 4 different types of wines. Today Flag Hill has six varieties of grapes and 13 types of wine as well as in 2004 they added a distillery.
So that’s a very brief history of Flag Hill, onto my visit to Flag Hill. Flag Hill is a really beautiful natural looking vineyard like something you would see in a photo from Sonoma. A large old farm house surrounded by vineyards on either side stands facing the road as you pull up to the well-marked winery. The tasting room is around the back in a well maintained vintage barn. It’s a large rustic building. Inside is a warm offering of wines and wine drinker gifts in the gift shop. In the back of the room is a large bar for tasting.
The tastings at Flag Hill was free. I was shown a menu of what was available for taste. The front of the menu was wines for tasting and the back was spirits. I enjoyed five different samples of wine while I was at flag hill; two white, two reds and a fruit wine. The first white wine I tried was the Vignoles. It was light and mildly sweet. It was summer day/ porch relaxing kind of wine. I enjoyed it especially since it was freezing outside the day I tasted it, and it made me think of summer days! The Cayuga White Had the same effect, which was the second white I tried, except it was a bit sweeter. I sipped some tasty red wines next. The first red was the Flag Hill Red. This red wine was earthy and dry. Next was the De Chaunac which was lighter in flavor but sweeter. From there I tried Flag Hills’ Wild Blueberry wine. This wine was hands down my favorite wine! It wasn’t too sweet and held onto the delicious character of the blueberry. Just for fun I also tasted the Sugar Maple Liquor. WOW, is all I can say! For those interested in a tasty breakfast martini, this liquor will make it or an apple pie martini?? Just some suggestions! It was a very tasty liquor.
Flag Hill works with Cocheco Valley Human Society in their Uncork the Love campaign. This campaign helps raise money for the animals in the shelter. One bottle of the Uncork the Love wines, raises almost $4.00 a bottle for purchased for the Humane Society. Great way to give back and enjoy a glass of wine! I purchased the Raspberry Rabbit. Flag Hill makes an excellent Raspberry Wine!
Flag Hill also provides beautiful wedding services. They can perform you ceremony and your reception. Our server told us they were almost completely booked for this year and were booking into 2014. Also on a fun note Flag Hill has name a liquor after our very our General John Stark, so if you are a Vodka drinker let me know what you think!
I’ve been dying to start my Drinking Around New Hampshire blog but the timing never seemed to work out. Holidays, busy schedules and blizzards have kept me from experiencing what New Hampshire has to drink, until Wednesday.
Now, many may not know this but New Hampshire may become the drinking capital of America. Currently New Hampshire has 28 licensed wineries. Twenty-one of which you can visit and they aren’t limited to just grapes. They also include fruit wines, meads, spirits and ciders. But when it comes to your favorite drink, New Hampshire doesn’t stop at wine. They offer at least 21 breweries, microbreweries and brew pubs and it’s still growing. With the new laws about nanobreweries, I predict beer brewing will continue to expand. Especially since New Hampshire is said to sell the most beer per capita. Looking for something a little bit more family friendly. Homemade soda can also be found here. This is the home of Moxie after all. Check out the links below for the new laws about nanobreweries and New Hampshire’s beer consumption
But now onto my Wednesday night adventure to LaBelle Winery.
LaBelle Winery isn’t a new winery in New Hampshire. It was start over six years ago by Amy LaBelle. In this time, LaBelle has grown and expanded, including their new building which opened on Route 101 in Amherst in October 2012. The new building includes a surrounding vineyard on rolling hills, and outdoor dining area with a large fire pit. The inside is beautifully decorated with a tasting room and gift shop, not limited to just wines but also jellies, chocolate and wine lovers’ gifts. The new building also has a stunning ballroom for functions. The room has already hosted 5 weddings. Check out LaBelle’s website from the link below.
LaBelle’s wines have received over fifty awards for their wines while competing against large scale wineries. Twenty-three wines are offered on the tasting menu and three cooking wines. An $8 tasting fee is required for five one ounce tastings, for an additional $5 you can taste 5 more wines. I tasted five wines. The menu is in order of dry to semi sweet, white to red, and finishes with dessert. So I tried two white, two red and a dessert. The first wine I tried was the Seyval Blanc. I found it refreshing and summery, lightly sweet with a crisp finish. This wine would be great for relaxing around the pool or to enjoy at a summer barbecue. It’s supposed to pair well with fish or creamy pasta dishes. The Apple Cranberry was my next wine of choice. The apples from this wine are from Walpole, New Hampshire and the cranberries from the cape. Thanksgiving turkey would love to be paired with this perfumed slightly sweet wine. My next wine was the Granite State Red. This wine is the best in house seller while the Cranberry wine is the best local wine seller according to my wine serving hostess, who was very charming and informative. The Granite State Red is a blend of a Marchel Foch grape that has been aged on French oak with a touch of blueberry to smooth out the finish. This is a wine I had to take home and enjoy again later. It was a flavorful smooth red that will pair well with grilled meat especially steak! The Virginia Mae Sweet Blueberry was my second red wine tasting. I love blueberry wines and I really enjoyed this one, but what I loved best about this wine is that this wine was named after Amy LaBelle’s aunt. Her aunt had suffered from ALS and now LaBelle’s donates a portion of the money made on the sale of this wine to ALS. My final tasting was the Dulce and all I can say is bring on the apple crisp on a cool fall day!! This wine is fantastic and this is when I got the chance to meet Amy herself. She came out when I tasted the Dulce wine. She was a fascinating woman with her passion for wine. I really enjoying meeting the winemakers and hearing what they think of their wines. Dulce is a hybrid grape variety that is enhanced with cinnamon, vanilla, and New Hampshire maple syrup and it begs for warm apple crisp and a side of ice cream on a crisp autumn day. But what I found most appetizing is the mixed drink recipe LaBelle offers for this wine. I suggest trying it.
Vanilla & Rum Eggnog
2oz LaBelle winery Dulce
2 oz Hood Eggnog
½ oz simple syrup
Dash of Labelle Winery Pure Vanilla
Dash of cinnamon sugar and nutmeg
Blend first five ingredients over ice in a strainer & shake to blend until frothy. Strain into martini glass with sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, nutmeg and a candy cane for fun!
Drink recipes aren’t the only wine instruction they offer. How about dinner ideas? Here’s a recipe they offer using their jalapeno cooking wine:
1 tbsp of olive oil 2 large red onions, chopped
3 tbsp chopped jalapeno with seeds 6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ½ lbs ground beef 1 tbsp flour, preferably Wondra
¼ cup chili powder 2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt 1 tsp paprika
1 can diced tomatoes 2 15oz cans kidney beans, drained
1 cup LaBelle Winery Jalapeno Pepper wine 1 14oz can beef broth
Optional: sour cream, grated cheese, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion sauté until brown. Add jalapenos and garlic; sauté about a minute. Add beef; sauté until brown, breaking up as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Add flour, chili powder, cumin, salt and paprika, then mix in tomatoes with juice, LaBelle’s Jalapeno Cooking Wine, beans, and broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chili thickens, Stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Can be made ahead, keep refrigerated. Serve with toppings.
But with Labelle’s new facility the buck doesn’t stop here. Make sure you check out their website for upcoming event and details. Here’s a list of a few:
Upcoming LaBelle Events
Feb. 20 – Princess K.I.M.: A Path to a Play. Hear how Maryann Cocca-Leffler made her book into a play!
Feb. 27 – Introduction to Wine. Learn from a LaBelle expert
Mar 10 – Winemaker Brunch (Reservation Recommended) An intimate, plated meal, made by winemaker Amy LaBelle
Mar 31 – Easter Brunch (Reservation Recommended) Seasonal delights from our chef, plus an Easter Egg Hunt!
Apr 25 – Beer & Wine Pair with White Birch Brewery
May 2 – Introduction to Winegrowing/ Viticulture. Vineyard Manager & Winemaker teach Grape Growing 101
May 12 – Mother’s Day Brunch (Reservation Recommended) Honor Mom with a delicious meal.
June 6 – Summer Music Series Kickoff. Live music every Thursday night on the terrace.
June 16 – Father’s Day Clambake (Reservation Recommended)
It was a comfortable over cast Saturday morning. The sun still hasn’t found her bright and cheery way through the clouds. The vineyard was still lightly damp with dew and on that August morning. The grapes sang the sweet song of harvest time. Due to the hot dry summer the fruit’s sugar numbers had been soaring above their normal August numbers.
Amongst the early morning mummers of the birds and the bugs, the buzz of the morning chatter from the early rising pickers, who had gather outside of the new tasting room which is well on its way to inviting its first guest into sip the delicious nectar from the grapes the rest in front of it, could be heard. They grouped together for the opportunity to harvest the first grapes of the season. Some were first time pickers, having only enjoyed the taste of wine, but never the thrill of the harvest labor. While other were return pickers ready to dirty their knees and work the cores in hopes of enjoying the delicious wine all the sooner.
Al Fulchino, owner and lead farmer of the vineyard, led the way by handing out grape-razors to the group and pointing out which rows of grapes to start picking from. The group headed off into the vineyard to begin their morning adventure. As they pick and grab a small taste here and there, they share stories and small talk as the morning flew by quickly. The pickers learn the best position to crouch down in and the best placement of the bucket to prevent too much bending and shifting while still getting the grapes into the bucket.
Soon the sun pokes her pretty little head out to see what’s going on down in the vineyard and the temps in the field rose quickly. The group, after picking for a steady 4 hours, disengaged from the work to take a short break. Knees were dusted off and hands were washed as samples of fresh squeezed grape juice were passed around for tasting. The juice was sweet and earthy. Purer and more natural tasting then any purchased juice ever could be. The liquid was delicious and refreshing after the fun but hard work. The decision was made to pick one more row before lunch came. So the group eager went back to work picking and tasting. Chatting and bonding, over fresh picked fruit which would one day soon be a staple for each picker to savor in after a long day.
When the row was picked over, lunch was served with wine to compliment the food. No food or wine ever tasted better than that served after a hard morning of work.
Fulchino’s wine is not your typical New Hampshire winery. While there are many great wineries found in New Hampshire, this winery offer something different in its complex flavors and the rich character of the wines. Every sip is an experience and should be savored and not gulped up. The family; Al, his wife Susan, their children and even the honorary wine guy, Pete, are often around and invite everyone into taste their wines as well as enjoy their nursery. They make sure everyone feels like another member of the family sharing stories about the wine, the harvest and the construction of the new tasting room!
I hope everyone has a chance to visit Fulchino’s to taste the wine and appreciate the wonder of the great little vineyard in Hollis! Check them out on facebook!