Get ready for two days of celebrating great NH wine! Six wineries in the Lakes Region have pulled together and are planning to open house for one weekend of touring and tasting in the tradition of many California vineyards. The Barrel Tasting Weekend will take place on September 29th and 30th and is the first-ever coordinated event of its type in New Hampshire and maybe all of New England. Participating wineries include Coffin Cellars, Stone Gate Vineyard, Gilmanton Winery, Sap House Meadery, Haunting Whisper Vineyards, and Hermit Woods Winery.
At each winery, guests will have the opportunity to taste young wines directly from the oak and stainless steel barrels that are used to ferment and age the varietals. Not only will it be a unique opportunity to taste wine in the early stages of its development, visitors will be able to meet the wine makers, tour the wine making facilities, and learn all about the wine making process. In addition, many of the wineries will be hosting otherlocal vendors during the event, and offering special foods and wine-related items to guests.
For those who visit more than one of the participating wineries that weekend, there will be chances to win generous prizes donated by local businesses. The Inns & Spa at Mill Falls in Meredith, NH is the lead sponsor of the event, and visitors who get a stamp from all six wineries will be entered into a drawing for the grand prize of a two-night stay at Church Landing valued at $740. Other prizes for visiting multiple wineries include a two-night stay at Steele Hill Resort, dinner for two at Gilmanton Winery’s restaurantvalued at $100, a $50 gift certificate to the Flying Monkey Performance Center donated by the Common Man Family of Restaurants, and a gift basket with wines and wine glasses donated by each winery. Door prizes and gifts will also be available at all the wineries during the event.
“We are very excited to be a part of this,” says Jamie Austin of Coffin Cellars Winery. “We will be tasting apple wine, and we may have a few more surprises as well. We plan on releasing the apple later in the fall or early winter.” At Haunting Whisper Vineyards, guests can barrel taste Carmenere and Syrah. “They will be available for purchase in spring of 2013,” says Eric Wiswall, proprietor of Haunting Whisper. “We will have our 2012 vintage available in our tasting room for purchase.”
“This is our 5th year being open commercially and going into our 12th year of growing grapes,” says Jane Ellis of Stone Gate Vineyard. “We have not done a formal barrel tasting before, although we often, if time permits, allow visitors to taste the wines in the tanks. For the Barrel Tasting Weekend, we will be tasting an apple wine (our only non-grape wine) and Frontenac.” The Vineyard also hosts some special events throughout the season to raise funds for St. Baldrick’s, an organization that helps children with cancer. “We made a large donation this year from Stone Gate customers who were very generous,” says Jane.
At the Sap House Meadery, Matt Trahan frequently offers tastings of his honey wine. “We have small oak barrels for aging that we do occasional samples with our Sugar Maple,” he explains. “We also sell the barrels themselves to restaurants to have ‘mead on tap’ . . . the barrels lend a unique, wonderful, and powerful oak characteristic to the mead that takes to the honey very well.” For the Barrel Tasting event, the Meadery will be sampling a barrel-aged traditional mead, 15.6% semi-sweet. “It will have been in the barrel for almost 5 months as of the tasting and it was over a year old when we put it in the barrel. The oak has given it almost whiskey-like notes that balance the sweetness wonderfully.”
This is also the first barrel tasting event for Gilmanton Winery. However, they are open year-round and have a full-service restaurant where they serve dinners on Friday nights, brunch on Sundays, and special events for private parties. Of course many wines are available for tasting in the restaurant, and for the special weekend, the winery will be tasting Seyval, Concord, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet, Carmenere, and Blueberry, along with three special blends: Graces, Gilmanton House Wine, and Peyton Place Rosé. Gilmanton winery is located in the former home of Grace Metallious, author of the novel ‘Peyton Place.’ “The house was built in 1756 and is haunted!” says Marshall Bishop, proprietor of Gilmanton Winery. “One of the ghosts is the cousin of H. H. Holms, or Herman Mugdett, the first serial killer known in the USA.” Marshall and Sunny love to talk about their unique property, and welcome guests to come and enjoy the history of the place, the vineyards, and their alpaca farm, which will be open for the Barrel Tasting Weekend as well.
“I have very fond memories from attending barrel tastings in California and am excited to bring this unique kind of event to New Hampshire,” says Bob Manley of Hermit Woods Winery, the coordinator of the tasting weekend. “It’s a really great opportunity for people to learn more about the wine making process, as well as a chance for us to showcase the rapidly growing wine industry that is occurring in this great state! I would love to see it become a statewide event in the future.” Hermit Woods will be offering samples from their barrels of 2012 Chilean Carmenere and Syrah over the special weekend.
“We hope our customers get the same thing they get every time they come to The Meadery—an awesome and complete experience,” says Matt, “We just hope this weekend allows them to continue that experience through to the five other wineries in the region!”
All six Lakes Region wineries pride themselves on crafting quality New Hampshire traditional, fruit, and honey wines, many of which have received awards in national and international tastings. Most of the wineries grow their grapes in their own family vineyards, and all of them place the greatest emphasis on locally grown fruit and honey, working closely with local farmers and pickers to find the best possible fruit with which to make their wine. Lakes Region wines are available in the wineries’ tasting rooms and restaurants, as well as at local wine shops and eateries.