2021- A Retrospective of Hermit Woods Winery & Deli
Not only was this year one of the most amazing years Hermit Woods has ever had, in June, we quietly passed our tenth anniversary. So let’s reflect on some of the many exciting things this year has brought.
Not the least of our achievements this year was having successfully navigated the year 2020, a year that will go down in history as one of the 21st century’s most difficult. Yet, Ken, Chuck, and I, along with our outstanding team and a tremendous following of dedicated customers and club members, pulled through 2020 without significant setbacks and in the black. No small feat, given we were closed for three months.
We completed our third floor remodel, a project that was suggested to take just a few months, and dragged on to over a year and a half. Nonetheless, it was worth the wait. It has been a tremendous addition to our winery, opening the door to increased seating, events, piano nights featuring our new concert grand Yamaha C3. Soon, a Listening Room with regular concerts on our new stage and our sound, lighting system, WHB Concert Productions installed. A fitting way to ring in our tenth year of operation.
Since our third-floor completion, we have begun hosting numerous events and private parties. For example, we started our “Loft Tasting Experience,” which includes a wine tasting accompanied by a history presentation given by myself, and including images and video on our new 12′ screen. This event will morph in the months to come to include wine and cheese pairings, small bite wine pairings, and other educational events. In addition, we have begun planning a Movie night series that we will be holding this winter, featuring eight feature films to be enjoyed with wine, food, and popcorn from our new popcorn machine.
Included with our third floor remodel was the inclusion of solar panels on our south-facing roof installed by Revision Energy. It was an absolute pleasure working with this group. They were highly professional throughout the process and installed our new panels on time. As a result, we have produced over 20 MWh of electricity, almost half our electricity needs. 31,922 lbs of CO2 emissions saved, or the equivalent of planting 241 trees.
We purchased the property across from us on Dover Street at 62 Main Street in February, opening up the doors to a significant expansion of Hermit Woods in the coming years. Our creative juices are flowing, and we are working with a local Architect, Misiaszek Turpin pllc, to envision the future of this property. In the meantime, we wasted no time putting the new space to work for us with the creation of a Beer and Wine Garden, complete with food trucks, Angry Hog BBQ, Pours and Petals, and Rory Black’s, and a dozen picnic tables and umbrellas to enjoy this new space. On most Sundays, when it wasn’t raining, we featured live entertainment in our new garden. Our new garden also introduced wine slushies.
With all this expansion, we were challenged to build the best and largest team we have ever had at Hermit Woods. During one of the most challenging years for recruiting new employees, we swelled our ranks to over 25 people by the end of the summer. We were so fortunate to have so many dedicated and hard-working employees join our team this year, and, of course, we couldn’t have done it without them. As part of this expansion, we gained a new Tasting Room Manager, Merike Youngs, an Assitant Manager, Jessica Cheverie, a new Chef, Travis Greene, a new Event Manager, Danielle Clairmont, and a new Winemaker Assistant, Noah Bolmer. We look forward to seeing what this talented and dynamic team brings in 2022.
Our new Monday Night Live broadcast has come to you every Monday at 5:30 on Youtube and Facebook this year, except for one. Ken, Chuck, and I, with our new sidekick, Merike, broadcast live from Hermit Woods and other locations sharing stories about everything, wine and beer-related. We have interviewed numerous wineries, breweries, and other partner businesses along the way and met some incredible people.
We look forward to seeing what 2022 brings for our Monday night live show. If all goes well, we hope to add a podcast in the future. You can revisit all of our broadcasts, including our latest retrospective on 2021, on our website.
Ken was busier than ever in the wine cellar this year. In addition to producing 5,500 cases of the over 35 wines we have become known for, Ken continues to improve every one of them year after year. Ken also found the time to introduce five new wines, Wild Blue, Crabapple Cider, Black Port, Deep Honeyberry, and Northern Berry Red. All have been a big hit with our guests and are likely to show up again in the future.
This year, we received numerous local, regional, and national awards and recognitions, including the fourth-best Tasting Room in America by USA Today’s readers. You might want to read that again! There are over 9,000 wineries in the US, and our little winery has stood out amongst the best, yet again. But, of course, we would never have gotten here without all of you, our guests. So many of you voted tirelessly for this thirty-day poll, and we can’t thank you enough. You have, yet again, made us very proud.
Yankee Magazine recognized Hermit Woods Winery & Deli as the Best Winery in New England. Considering all the good company we have across the region with hundreds of wineries serving the New England area, this too has made us very proud. Additionally, following Yankee Magazine, this past month, Corporate Vision Small Business Awards awarded Hermit Woods Winery the Best Boutique Winery – Northeast USA.
On the local front, again, thanks to our dedicated fans and club members, Hermit Woods was voted Best of the Lakes Region in the Laconia Daily Sun’s annual poll, in the following categories: Gold: Best Winery, Gold: Best Sandwiches, Silver: Best Outdoor Eating, and last but not at all least, Silver: Best Deli. Again, considering the tremendous competition for these awards across the Lakes Region, we are very proud to have been honored in this way. Also, among our local awards, we once again were recognized by the Greater Meredith Program in their annual scarecrow contest for having the best business-related scarecrow. Many thanks to my Hermit Woods team for their fun and creative scarecrow.
In addition to our many awards, we were written up in Pix Magazine, the Portland Herald, Forbes Magazine, and numerous articles in the Meredith News and the Laconia Daily Sun. There may be more mentions out there that we have not seen or been able to keep track of.
Needless to say, this has been a hectic year for all of us at Hermit Woods, and as a result, we had our best year ever. We surpassed all our expectations. More guests visited our winery than ever before, our wholesale distribution grew across the region, including numerous Hannaford supermarkets. In addition, more people across the country found us, purchased our wine, and shipped it to thirty-eight states. It indeed was a fantastic year.
As has always been the practice at Hermit Woods, we are committed to sharing our success with our employees, town and local communities, and our state, and this year we were able to do it like never before. To start, it is our employees who have made it happen this year. We were able to offer them the most significant bonuses ever given at year’s end, and starting this year, we have extended health care benefits to our full-time staff.
With the help of our club members, we contributed over $700 to the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction and nearly $1,000 to the GMP Sculpture Walk Committee. Through sales of our Winnipesaukee Rosé, 10% of profits went to the Lakes Winnipesaukee Association for a total of over $6,000. In addition, we raised over $3,000 for the Greater Meredith Program. Finally, through the sales of our Hermit Hard Apple Cider, 5% of the sales went to fund our local Humane Society, for a total of over $1,500.
Furthermore, we have contributed thousands of dollars in in-kind donations, gift certificates, and wine tastings to dozens of charities across New Hampshire. In addition, we have donated on numerous occasions to our local food pantry and participated in Sonya Misiaszek’s effort to raise money for the Children’s auction by riding a bike with her for an hour of her 12-hour marathon.
While it genuinely has been a busy year for all of us, Ken, Chuck, and I have still found the time to be together and imagine our future while engaging in the things we love. We spent three days sailing Casco Bay in Maine and camped at “The Goslings Preserve” for an evening. As always, this trip was a mix of business and pleasure. We spent time researching our plans and meeting with a new partner who will be joining us in the next phase of our business. In addition to our one multiday sailing adventure, we sailed Lake Winnisquam numerous times until November 8th.
Last winter, the three of us hit the slopes of Cannon Mt. and Bretton Woods ski areas numerous times. If you are going to live and work near the lakes and mountains of NH, you need to take the time to enjoy them, and we always make that time. Although our time together is always fun, Hermit Woods is never far from our thoughts. Quiet to the contrary. We value this quality time together to think about and plan our business from its daily operations to our long-term goals and plans. Were it not for the fact that the three of us get to spend this time together; Hermit Woods would never have achieved all the things outlined above.
Lastly, with the help of one of our club members, Matt, the three of us purchased a triple bike; yes, you read that correctly, a bicycle built for three riders or three winery partners if it were. Matt heard us quip about the concept of riding a triple across the country on one of our Monday night shows and took us seriously. A few weeks later, Matt informed us that he had found a bike. It was being offered for sale in New Jersey, and Matt generously offered to pick it up for us and deliver it to Meredith along with a home-built triple bike trailer that Matt crafted for us.
We spent the summer adjusting, repairing, and outfitting our new ride, including a test run around Squam Lake. We hope this coming year will allow us to get more training on the bike with the ultimate goal of riding it across the country in celebration of craft beverage makers across America. Stay tuned for this lofty goal. It is in its infancy now, but with a bit of determination (which we have a lot of) and a little luck, we should be hitting the road in the not too distant future.
To conclude my retrospective, I want to end with the most significant part of 2021, and it has nothing to do with us. The best part of 2021 is YOU! So many of you have been on this journey with us, some of you since the beginning, and many more along the way. You have stood by us through hard times and the good. You have shaped our story and added its color. You bring love and enthusiasm with you with your every visit. Were it not for all of you, we, of course, would not be here. But, it is only because of you that we want to be here. You make the hard work worth doing. It warms our heart to see you returning year after year with the same level of joy and enthusiasm that we have for Hermit Woods. To see your smiling faces as you discover what’s new, to share your stories with us, and take the time to hear ours. You, our customers, local fans, and club members are the backbone of Hermit Woods Winery, and we can’t thank you enough!