Wine groupies! That’s what Amy LaBelle called us when we walked in, wine groupies. Last Saturday, I along with my wife and several friends visited LaBelle Winery in Amherst, New Hampshire. The winery, owned and operated by Amy and her husband Cesar Arboleda, is only open for tastings once a month and you have to make reservations ahead of time. It has been three months since I first tasted their wine and I have been at all three tastings at the winery since. Wine groupie may be correct.
In our defense, we did bring new people with us each time to introduce them to the winery and to share the wine tasting experience. And there was a new wine available for tasting each time (there will be a new wine next month as well – guess where I’ll be).
I first came across LaBelle at a wine tasting sponsored by our local food co-op, the Concord Cooperative Market. Cesar was at the first table when I walked in and poured me one of the few wines I purchased. One thing we noticed was that, of the wines being tasted, this was one of the few locals. I prefer red wines, leaning towards zinfandels and merlots, while my wife likes whites and sweet reds. With LaBelle’s selection of white and dessert wines, my wife is very happy but they also produce a nice red to keep me coming back.
My favorite is the Granite State Red, produced from Marechal Foch with 20% blueberry wine added, which tastes and feels like a merlot – a smooth feel with a longer finish than I expected. Though it won’t replace my love for a good zin out of Lodi, it does satisfy my desire for a nice red wine (and it’s locally produced). I had no problem opening it and serving it to guests by the pool as we talked about wine and beer and what we liked.
When I taste wines, I use a very subjective scale of stars, hastily scribbled next to the name of the wine on the wine list provided to me. Using my personal 5 star scale, I give 3 stars to Granite State Red (and have backed that up by buying it to take home).
I, along with my wife, like several of their white wines, but if I had to choose a favorite it would be the Gewurztraminer. When you swirl it, you pick up a pear aroma with a taste of pineapple and the expected peppery finish (4 out of 5 stars). Other whites we can recommend include the Seyval Blanc, the Granite State White (oak-aged made with Seyval Blanc), the Riesling, and Halcyon (a blend of Riesling and Apricot wine).
Something that I looked upon as a curiosity at first are the three wines they produce for cooking – an Onion wine, an Heirloom Tomato wine and a Jalapeno Pepper wine. I have tasted the onion and jalapeno wines and there is no question they are for cooking only (unless you want to have fun slipping them in at a home tasting for your friends). I have had gazpacho at a local café that used the jalapeno and it was excellent. They will add a new dimension to your cooking.
At the September tasting, they will have a new wine, Virginia Mae Sweet Blueberry, available for tasting. Guess I need to make reservations now.