I have to admit, I had a prejudice against New Hampshire wines. I would never have thought to buy a bottle of locally made wine as I walked through the wine section of the grocery store or the state liquor store. A display may have caught my eye as I looked for a zinfandel from Lodi or a Diamond from the Finger Lakes but it would not have caused me to buy local. Now my prejudice was not without some basis. In the past I had tasted local wines produced mainly from apples and had written off the local wines. A wine tasting at the local food coop changed my mind.
I have written before about how I went to this tasting and the first wines I tasted were from Labelle Winery. I was pleased with all of their offerings and had no idea they were local until later when we were deciding what wines to purchase. That tasting opened me up to trying our New Hampshire wines and appreciating what we have here at home.
Labelle Winery in Amherst, New Hampshire is my favorite local producer and I highly recommend it to all my friends. They have monthly tastings and they are always well attended. I reviewed them earlier this summer and don’t want to repeat it all here. I will update that review with the news that Labelle won medals at the 2010 Indy International Wine Competition with three of their wines. Halcyon, a semi-sweet white blend of Riesling and apricot wines came away with a silver medal. Two of their dessert wines, Three Kings and Corazon, took silver and bronze respectively.
While I like Halcyon, my favorite wine from Labelle is their Gewurztraminer, a classic version with just the right amount of pepper finish.
My experience with Labelle Winery opened me up to trying other local wines. My next local find took place at the local farmer’s market where Jewell Towne Vineyards was selling their wines.
Since we were at a farmer’s market tasting was not possible so I decided to buy a bottle on faith. I bought a bottle of Marechal Foch for drinking with friend’s that evening. The wine was a little sweet with tastes of cherry and I have to admit I loved the wine. I ended up back at the farmer’s market to buy a second bottle and have added a visit to the winery in South Hampton, New Hampshire, to my to-do list.
A couple of weeks after finding the wine at the farmer’s market, my wife and I decided to visit a couple of the wineries. We picked out two based on where they located and on information found on their websites. We were up for a short road trip.
Our first stop was Candia Vineyards in Candia, New Hampshire. We have to call and make sure they were open and knew we were coming. I had high hopes based on previous awards and reviews. I was looking for a local Cabernet to taste for Cabernet Day on twitter. When we arrived, the place appears to be closed (the closed sign was out first clue). As we were leaving, the producer came out and motioned for us to come in. If you visit, don’t expect a fancy tasting room. We were let into the basement of the house where we tasted the collection wines as well as some chocolate made.
I have to say that my overall impression of the wines was not good (maybe influenced by the initial arrival and expecting a better tasting environment). The cab I was hoping for had no real body to it. A couple of years in the bottle would help but I needed one to drink now. We did like the Diamond and the Noiret and purchased one of each.
The Noiret did take a silver medal at 2010 Indy International Wine Competition so I am willing to admit that my judgment may have been clouded. I do plan on purchasing it again for a second round of tasting with friends.
Our second stop on our trip was Flag Hill Winery in Lee, New Hampshire. The experience at Flag Hill is what most people would expect at a tasting room. They have a tasting room with a gift shop as well as a dining room and host special events. They also have a distillery producing vodka, gin, brandy and grappa.
The wines are produced from grapes such as Niagara, Marechal Foch, Vignoles and Cayuga. They do not produce a Cabernet but we did bring home bottles of Vignoles (2008) and De Chaunac (2009). The Vignoles was semi-sweet with pear tastes while the De Chaunac was sweet.
I recommend Flag Hill to friends who are looking for their first winery visit. They have wines that sip easily and the experience will be enjoyable. And for those so inclined, you can avail yourself of the liquor tasting (try the grappa).
In my looking over the results of the Indy International Wine Competition, I was surprised to find a New Hampshire winery that I had not heard of, Grape Time Winery in Nashua, New Hampshire. They are connected with Incredibrew. Incredibrew is a business that allows people to come in and make a batch of wine or beer (I am planning on brewing an IPA for the holidays) but they also produce their own wines for sell. At the Indy competition, they took a Gold Medal for their Chocolate Delight, a chocolate and raspberry flavored port style wine. The Chocolate Delight was also named Best in Class. Their wines also took medals at the 2009 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. I am now on the lookout for a bottle of Chocolate Delight.