It’s Time to Pay Attention to New Hampshire Wine

Don't think of New Hampshire as wine country? A number of pioneering producers have turned to local grapes, fruits and honey to craft unique offerings.
The vineyards at LaBelle Winery in Amherst, New Hampshire / Photo courtesy LaBelle Winery

One could argue that the New Hampshire wine industry has a justifiable chip on its shoulder. The small, New England state is home to more than 25 wineries that grow not only a wide selection of cold-climate grapes, but also produce unique and interesting fruit wines and meads.

Wineries here are known to go above and beyond the typical tasting experience. Some offer barrel samples, accommodations and good old-fashioned grape stomping. Check out these eight wineries that focus on a mix of traditional grape, fruit and honey wines on your next jaunt to the Granite State.

Among the vines at Flag Hill Distillery & Winery
Among the vines at Flag Hill Distillery & Winery

Flag Hill Distillery & Winery | Lee

Launched in 1990 on a 110-acre land conservation, Flag Hill Distillery & Winery is the state’s largest winery. About 16 acres of that land is planted with grapes, which produces cold-tolerant, French-American and Minnesota hybrid grapes. On land not under vine, the producer grows grains used in the distillery’s offerings, like Flag Hill’s rye whiskey, vodka, and New Hampshire straight Bourbon. They also grow local vegetables for events, including their celebrated Sunday brunch held five times a year.

Married owners Maddie and Brian Furgeson have had the property for the last three years and plan to include onsite lodging next year. Flag Hill specializes in aromatic white wines like their La Crescent and Vignoles offerings, as well as fruit wines crafted with regionally sourced apples, blueberries and cranberries.

Weekends at noon, take a tour of the property to explore rows of grapevines, the couple’s heritage breed pigs and chicken pens, a greenhouse garden and the production facility. Self-guided tours are also available via a walking map and audio tour on its website. Visit the tasting room for a sampling of up to five wines or spirits, as well by-the-glass options and a small food menu.

Tours: Weekends at noon ($5). Tasting room open daily from 11 am–5 pm ($5).

Local wines by the fire at LaBelle Winery's tasting room / Photo courtesy LaBelle
Local wines by the fire at LaBelle Winery’s tasting room / Photo courtesy LaBelle

LaBelle Winery | Amherst

Winemaker Amy LaBelle has built one of the New Hampshire’s most all-encompassing winery experiences. What began as an experimental one-gallon batch of blueberry wine made in her Boston apartment has morphed into a 20,000-square-foot space that includes a bistro, tasting bar, art gallery, gift shop and event space.

Roughly 2,000 vines grow on LaBelle’s three-plus acres of vineyard, and the winery also sources grapes from other growers in New England, the Finger Lakes region of New York and Washington State. If you’re looking for a 100% New Hampshire wine, try its Amherst Vineyard Red and Amherst Vineyard White.

Guided tours of the vineyard and cellar are available on weekends. The winery hosts acoustic performances on Thursdays, monthly cooking with wine classes as well as talks with local artists, book signings and power yoga classes.

Tours: Weekends from noon–5 pm, with self-guided tours available weekdays. Tasting of five wines is $10, or 10 wines for $15.

Tasting glasses at Ancient Fire Mead & Cider
Tasting glasses at Ancient Fire Mead & Cider

Ancient Fire Mead & Cider | Manchester

Diagnosed with cancer in 2003 at 29 years old, Jason Phelps and his wife, Margot, began to re-evaluate how they were spending their time. What started as a hobby to craft beer, cider and mead evolved into the 2017 launch of Ancient Fire Mead & Cider, where the husband and wife team host tastings and educational tours.

The couple realized quickly that people didn’t seem to know what mead is or how to drink it. At their taproom, they host an hour-long “blossom to glass experience” that involves a quick overview history of mead, a sampling of various honeys and honey bee trivia (for instance, did you know honey bees, on average, fly 15 miles per hour?).

There’s also a look at the production process and a flight of seasonal meads, served alongside the honey that created it, as well as a glass and sticker to take home. The mead menu changes every two weeks, but regulars include the Nitro Hum mead crafted with cold brew coffee, and Sweet Burn Dude!, made with hot chilis.

Tours: Saturdays at noon and 3 pm, which includes a flight of four meads ($20).

Why Wine Lovers Need to Give Mead Another Look

Gilmanton Winery | Gilmanton

Fans of novel Peyton Place, or the popular 1960s soap opera based on it, will want to make the journey to Gilmanton Winery. The fictional small town from the book is based on Gilmanton, New Hampshire, and the winery is housed in the former home of its author, Grace Metalious.

The current owners, Sunny & Marshall Bishop, include nods to Metalious throughout the space and wine list. Grace’s is a light, dry blend of Seyval and Concord grapes. An event space, “Grace’s Room,” hosts regular attractions.

Guests are welcome to wander the four acres of planted vines and enjoy a tasting flight that includes a glass to take home. Or explore the farm at the back of the property to visit the ducks, chickens, goats, rabbits and pig.

Tours: Self-guided tours are available Thursday through Saturday from 11 am–6 pm, and Sundays from 1:30–5 pm. Tastings of five wines at the bar is $12, while seated flights are three wines for $5 or six wines for $9.

Tasting room and offerings at Hermit Woods Winery / Photos by Jen Bakos
Tasting room and offerings at Hermit Woods Winery / Photos by Jen Bakos

Hermit Woods Winery | Meredith

If you hesitate to call yourself a fan of fruit wine, you may reconsider after a visit to Hermit Woods. This urban winery is located in the heart of downtown Meredith, and it prides itself on not just a lack of grapes, but that it primarily crafts its fruit wine with produce that grows or can be grown in New Hampshire. The bounty includes berries, apples, crabapples, kiwi berries and currants.

The result is rich, Old World-style fruit wines, most of which are dry enough to stun the most educated wine connoisseur. Wines including the 2015 Hermitage, a blend of blackberries, blueberries, elderberries and black currents, and the 2015 Elderberry Wine are barrel aged—a rarity for fruit wines. Guests are invited to try barrel or tank samples during tours led by winery owners Bob Manley and Ken Hardcastle.

Enjoy New England-sourced charcuterie and cheese plates, paninis, flatbreads and French onion soup from the onsite deli and the indoor/outdoor lounge space.

Tours: Weekends from Noon–5 pm ($25).

Winnipesaukee Winery | Wolfeboro

Although its recently planted Seyval Blanc, Traminette and Edelweiss vines are too young to be harvested, Winnipesaukee Winery has much to offer. In addition to a wealth of educational opportunities, enjoy tastings of fruit wine as well as bottlings made from grapes imported from California and Chile.

New Hampshire’s only winery that doubles as a bed-and-breakfast, a trip here can easily become a weekend stay. An onsite antiques shop where more than 30 vendors offer wares resides in a barn that dates to 1767. Visitors can sample four wines in the barn’s tasting room, try an heirloom apple-and-crabapple wine slushy or enjoy a wine and cheese pairing.

The Georgian colonial-style B&B was built in 1810. Its three sizable guestrooms offer whirlpool hot tubs, a cozy Hearthstone cast iron stove and homemade breakfast served each morning.

Tours: Self-guided tours and tastings ($7) offered Thursday through Sunday from noon–5 pm

Selection of canned offerings at Sap House Meadery
Selection of canned offerings at Sap House Meadery / Photo by Jen Bakos

Sap House Meadery | Ossipee

Matt Trahan and Ash Fischbein started as craft brewers, but they felt that the market had become too saturated. So eight years ago, they opened Sap House Meadery to help their community and boost tourism to their hometown.

On Saturdays at noon, the duo hosts a Hive to Bottle tour that covers the history of mead, how mead is made and how to drink it. Visitors can also take in a tasting of their four signature offerings: Traditional, Sugar Maple, Hopped Blueberry Maple and Vanilla Bean.

Sap House’s nearly two dozen meads are crafted with New England honey, and many utilize fruit from New Hampshire, including blueberries, apples, cranberries, peaches, raspberries and honeyberries.

Traditional wine or spirit drinkers should try Echoes, a barrel-aged, wildflower honey mead aged in former Bulleit Rye whiskey barrel. Another option is Matilda, a coriander honey mead aged in a Cabernet Sauvignon barrel.

Make a day trip out of your visit (and soak up some of that mead) by enjoying lunch or dinner in the dining room, and stay for events like live music and paint nights.

Tours: Saturdays at noon, which includes tasting of four signature meads ($10).

Seven Birches Winery | Lincoln

Located within the RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain, Seven Birches Winery will plant its first vines next spring. However, it crafts wine from state-grown grapes as well as from California, the Finger Lakes, Washington State, South Africa and South America. It also makes fruit wines from local apples, blueberries, strawberries and peaches.

Although the tasting room is open daily, visit on a Wednesday or Saturday for the hour-long “Meet the Winemakers” class and tour. There, visitors will learn details about where the grapes are from, how they’re pressed and fermented, how yeast is used and why they barrel-age. During the tour, guests can taste from the strawberry wine tanks or sample from still-aging wine barrels, followed by a full tasting of five finished wines.

Seven Birches also hosts the annual White Mountains Crush Festival, an all-day event in October that offers grape stomping, tour and barrel tastings, live music, craft vendors and an Italian feast from La Vista restaurant.

Tours: “Meet the Winemaker” tours on Wednesdays at noon and Saturdays at 1 and 3 pm, which includes tasting of six wines ($20).

Your New Hampshire Wine Trail Road Map

Published on November 8, 2018
Topics: Wine Destinations



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