On June 13th, 2010 fifteen of New Hampshire’s commercial wine and cider makers and over two dozen related vendors set up their tables at Flag Hill Winery in Lee, NH. The NH Live Free & Wine Festival was sponsored by the New Hampshire Winery Association
a group of local wine, cider and mead makers of which we have been members in the past. With 700+ tickets having sold out in advance I’m sure each proprietor was well aware of how long of a day they were in for.
We arrived at right about noon for the beginning of the event, hoping to avoid a line and potentially not being able to taste popular wines that hadn’t lasted as long as others. The logistics for an event like this can sometimes be an issue, but we found the parking and organization of the event to be flawless. There was live music, a food court and beautiful views of the vines on the Flag Hill property. For your $15 admission you received a souvenir glass and 10 tickets for tastings. Additional tickets could be purchased or $1 each. Margot and I took a quick scan of the room to prioritize how we would sample wines from the new faces and of course from our friends at some of the NH wineries. We took tasting notes on each of the wines we tasted and ended up finding a wonderful wine and cheese pairing that we passed along to the cheesemaker.
(look at Margot's wine fueled grin!)
Sweet Baby Vineyard – Kensington, NH
Marechal Foch – fruit with a little residual sugar and the signature grape leaf aromas.
Blueberry – strong blueberry aroma, semi-sweet and lacked the “weird” flavor I have always tried to figure out in blueberry wines I have had before.
Walpole Mountain View Vineyards – Walpole, NH
LaCrescent - wonderful floral perfume aromas, dry with some light spice on the finish.
The Sandwich Creamery – Sandwich, NH
Incredible smoked cheddar smoked over maple wood. The Caerphilly was slightly tart and went fantastically with the Jewel Towne Rhapsody in Blue Vidal Blanc dessert wine.
(lots of thirsty attendees!)
Flag Hill Winery – Lee, NH
Cayuga – Margot said the aroma was like cutting into a peach, off-dry with some pear flavor
Flag Hill White – a white blend with light oak. The oak was apparent on the nose and the wine was dry with some citrus and Granny Smith apple flavors.
LaBelle Winery – Amherst, NH
Riesling – off-dry, steely & minerally on the nose, excellent flavors of peach and citrus. A truly excellent representation of a Riesling.
Jalapeno – dry and spicy, and very drinkable as a cordial or as part of mixed drink.
(Cesar & Amy entertaining guests)
The action over at LaBelle was catching lots of attention. Everyone who tasted the Jalapeno had to hold a fiesta sign and got their picture taken and Cesar would ring the cowbell. Surviving the Jalapeno wine was the daily sporting event!
Stone Gate Vineyard – Gilford, NH
Stueben – wonderful floral aromas, off-dry with white grape flavors.
Marechal Foch – aromas of grape leaves and cherry, medium-dry with a finish of cherry flavored cigar. It tasted “purple” if you can taste a color.
Haunting Whisper Vineyards – Danbury, NH
Cranberry – smelled of Sweet Tarts, dry with very pronounced cranberry flavors.
Leon Millot – medium dry with, red raspberry flavors and a nice smooth finish.
Blackberry – blackberry & citrus, like eating the ripe fruit and NOT something made with it!
Candia Vineyards – Candia, NH
Classic Cab – leaves/grass and black pepper on the nose and light tannins.
Sauvignon Blanc – fruity nose with citrus flavors and light acidity.
Fulchino Vineyard – Hollis, NH
Barbera – spicy nose and flavors, the empty glass smelled of raisins.
Zinfandel – some residual sugar, fruity nose with lots of berry. Not a typical Zin. Al Fulchino explained that the 2008 Zin had such high sugar numbers and alcohol that he had to let it age longer than expected to let everything integrate.
Jewell Towne Vineyards – South Hampton, NH
Rhapsody in Blue Vidal Blanc Ice Wine – mild nose with flavors of candied pineapple, dried fruits. Plently of sweet with a good balance of acid. We found a good pairing for it in the Sandwich Creamery Caerphilly cheese, some of which came home with us for closer study.
Silver Mountain Ciders – Lempster, NH
Honey Apple Cider – smells of apples of honey, small bubbles, medium dry with rich honey/mead flavors. Margot decided that she doesn’t like sparkling ciders because it makes it hard to taste the flavors. I had decided this years ago when I first started making cider. I only make a style with no carbonation to allow the delicate flavors to come through.
Olde Nutfield Vineyards – Chester, NH
Landot Noir – light in color and body with aromas of berry jam. The burnt rubber aroma and flavor was present and whether this was a flaw or not I am not sure.
Our tastings were fun and listening to other attendees talk about what they had tried and who had what was entertaining for sure. We visited the table where Chris and Nancy Obert, wine friends of ours going back a few years, were signing and selling the book “The Next Harvest” about their adventures touring some of the wineries in New England. Chris and Nancy have invited us to their house on a number of occasions and asked us if we would bring our homemade wines to share with their friends and family. This is something I happily do and the feedback has always been a great honor. At the same time we also met Paulette Eschrich the new wine writer for the Hippo Press
. As weekly readers of the Hippo for their local food and wine columns this was exciting. We’ll be sure to send her a link to our review of the NH Live Free & Wine event!
(me, Bob from Candia, Chris & Nancy)
Wandering out of the wine & cheese tent we took a walk up to the area where the band was playing and additional food & craft vendors were setup. We tried some hot sauce with sausage, and stopped in at the table of Grab Your Bag Travel where I met Lynn from the Manchester Area Wine Lovers Club from Meetup.com.
Tom Zack from Zorvino Vineryards was playing away on the guitar as part of the Spaceheaters band who were entertaining a considerable line of attendees waiting to be admitted. After a quick conversation with Frank Reinholdof Flag Hill we understood why. He explained that the fire marshal limited them to 250 people in the tent at any one time and running it by the book was smart business. He further mentioned that all the wineries were also under a lot of pressure to run things by the book since there were at least 4-6 liquor commissioners and enforcement officers in attendance at the event. This was the first, and hopefully not the last annual event, and getting a chance to do this again would only be possible if things were done correctly.
(it was worth a wait)
Margot and I struggled to pick wines in different categories to highlight, but if you don’t get the opportunity to try all these wines in a setting like this you might want to know what NOT to miss.
Best Red Wine – Marechal Foch from Stone Gate Vineyard
Best White Wine – Riesling from LaBelle Winery
Best Dessert Wine – we only had one, but the Rhapsody in Blue from Jewell Towne is out of sight!
Most Interesting Wine – Blackberry Wine from Haunting Whisper Vineyards
Surprise of the Day – Blueberry wine from Sweet Baby Vineyard
New Wine from a Familiar Face – Sauvignon Blanc from Candia Vineyards (we actually bought one of these to take home)