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)