Drinking Around New Hampshire – LaBelle Winery

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

http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/02/05/new-hampshire-law-prompts-boomlet-tiny-nanobreweries-selling-craft-beer/Xt0ocVfMv6UPdIaPEBX6dK/story.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2012/10/11/beer-consumption-top-states/1627621/

But now onto my Wednesday night adventure to LaBelle Winery.

LaBelle Winery's new building on 101 in Amherst.
LaBelle Winery’s new building on 101 in Amherst.

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.

http://www.labellewinerynh.com/

LaBelle's new tasting room and gift shop.
LaBelle’s new tasting room and gift shop.

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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:

Spicy Chili

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.

Display of cooking wines and Jellies.
Display of cooking wines and Jellies.

Sounds delic!

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)

Exploring the Local Farmers’ Market – Bedford

In honor of New Hampshire Eat Local Month and NH Farmers’ Market Week, I’m dedicating this weeks’ blogs to New Hampshire’s Farmers’ Markets.  This way everyone gets a chance to see how great grocery shopping and eating local truly can be!

I’ve start my farmers’ market journey at Salem Farmers’ Market and continued on to Durham’s Farmers’ Market. Durham, which takes place every Monday June through October from 2:30- 5:30 p.m., is held in the parking lot by 15 Newmarket Rd.

Today I decided to explore Bedford’s Farmers’ Market. The market is held at Benedictine Park, which is located off of Wallace Road, signs letting consumers know what is available, line the road just after the turn off. Benedictine Park offers the potential for an array of activities, besides farmers’ marketing, such as hiking, skiing, picnicking, snowshoeing, bird watching or gardening but today I was there to enjoying the farmers’ market variety.

http://bedfordfarmersmarket.org/

The turn off from Wallace Road is a rough dirt road. The parking lot can be either dirt or grass. The first thing I noticed as I pulled into the parking area was the two police officers patrolling the parking lot. Next was the Mitt Romney booth which promoted his presidential campaign. These are touches I haven’t seen at any other farmers’ market. The market is otherwise peaceful and surrounded by lovely greenery.

Bedford had other offering that made it almost irresistible. The first booth I couldn’t pass up was Tomina’s. Tomina’s offered gluten free, vegan, organic cookie dough. The vendor, Tina Birdsall, provided patrons with a sample of her cookies. They were delicious. As someone who was gluten free for 5 year, to go to a farmers’ market and find someone who specializes in tasty gluten free treat, is great! Tomina’s offers an excellent alternative for vegans and Celiac’s at the farmers’ market.

www.tominascookiedough.com

Another exciting find at the farmers’ market was LaBelle’s Winery. I love my wine and if I can find a tasty local wine you know I’ll love it all the more. LaBelle’s is currently in the process of moving and will be located on route 101 in September.  When they open, they will be available for tastings Wednesday through Sunday. While I couldn’t try a wine at the market I did purchase the Granite State Apple. It is a semi sweet, slightly crisp bottle of wine quite enjoyable with a good sharp cheese.

www.labellewinerynh.com

While I was there I found a wonderful Maple Syrup vendor. He made the best maple cream I have ever had. It was rich like a frosting. It tasted heavenly. Sadly, I assumed when I purchased the cream the business’ name was on the label, it wasn’t. So all I can tell you is if you have a chance to get up to Bedford’s farmers’ market, find the maple syrup vendor and ask for a sample of the cream. Trust me it absolutely delicious! You won’t be able to leave without your own jar.

Laurel Hill is another fun vendor! They sell locally made jellies and jams. They are very tasty. They offer jams and jellies made from wines as well as fruit and veggie jellies. I purchased the “Zetz” Red Pepper Jam because I like a little heat and spice in my life. The two you women running the booth were charming and full of laughs!

www.laurelhilljams.com

Another vendor I really enjoyed was the Rolling in the Dough Bakery. The focaccia bread I was sold was wonderful and made an excellent bruschetta. The man running the booth was lively and passionate about his work. He was kind and attentive to his customers no matter their age. He sold a variety of baked goods from cookies to breads.

The vendors at Bedford were well versed in their crafts and loved talking about them. It was a very charming farmers’ market and I look for to tomorrows.