New Hampshire has an ever growing local wine industry. Currently there are about 21 wineries in New Hampshire that have wine you can purchase locally, whether it is from the grocery store, the state liquor store or directly from the winery itself. The New Hampshire Winery Association has even published a map of all of the wineries in the state.
Of course wine drinking doesn’t stop at local wines, although they are amazing. New Hampshire does provide a state liquor store on most major highways. Wine can be purchased at the grocery store and even local wine shops, like the WineNot Boutique in Downtown Nashua or the Wine Studio in Manchester. If you’re in a pinch some beer stores like Beer Store NH also offer wine. There is always the gas station which often sells wine as well.
Oh course now we are all curious where I’m going with this, well here it is… WMUR posted on their website that New Hampshire has the #3 highest wine consumption rates per capita per state. Now #1 was DC, which, well to be frank isn’t a state since we only have 50 states not 51. With that said New Hampshire is still really high on the list. So is this because we are super wine drinkers or is it because Mass, Vermont and Maine jump the border to buy their wine here because it’s cheaper or does New Hampshire really enjoys their wine? I can’t say for sure but I found the stats interesting. Check out the link below for WMUR’s post.
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!