Friday, January 25, 2013

Time to Uncork after Chilling

Yes, it has been a while.  So what have I been doing since September? Aging on a rack? No indeed! I have achieved a few personal goals, overcome personal adversities and have moved forward in my career path.

 I have acquired my Wine Specialist Certification as of December 2012.  I began working, full time at the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets store #39 (in Wolfeboro of course) . Presently, I am compiling a syllabus for a basic wine class to be held early spring.

I will be resuming my visits to wineries and blogging on a more regular basis. Hold on to your wine glass because 2013 will prove to be an exciting year for NH Wineries with many changes and strides. I hope to share them all with you.

Please watch for the next post on the NH Winter Wine Week Spectacular blog to be posted this coming week.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Vineyard of Dreams: A Sweet Baby Story

      With a vision of a winery and vineyard, Lewis Eaton surveys the modest backyard of his Kensington home. He hears a voice:
                                                       "If you build it, he will come."

     Holding a business degree and giving up a promising career in bridge construction, Lewis begins his quest of making fine New Hampshire wines with quality local fruits. He purchases a stainless steel tank and begins to ferment his first batch of purchased Concord grapes. Before long he plants his one acre of grapes (Marechal Foch, Niagra and Leon Millot) and continues to produces wine in his converted garage.
     "If you're going to continue with this stainless steel fetish of yours, you'd better start selling some wine to support your habit." Says Stacey Eaton, who hears the voice and sees the vision too.
     Thus in 2008, Sweet Baby Vineyard is born. Their first year goal of producing 250 cases of wines is surpassed three-fold. In just four short years the total number of cases produced has soared to over 3000. This baby is just getting started though, as they have outgrown their garage production and have recently moved into a 5000 square foot winery and warehouse, complete with a finely decorated tasting room large enough for a modest gathering of 40-50 people and more acreage to be prepared for future plantings.
     Much like the characters in the movie, "Field of Dreams", Lewis and Stacey continue on their relentless pursuit of their dreams. Make quality wines and use only local fruits. Truly they have overcome many obstacles and have accomplished much in very little time.  What have these goals realized thus far?

Produce Quality Wines:  In just 4 short years, Sweet Baby Vineyard has won 34 awards for their outstanding wines. They have also made their way into not a small number of local markets and larger regional chain grocers such as Shaws and Market Basket with even further growth potential.
      "I didn't realize just how well known our wines were until I went into the bank to make a deposit and the teller says, 'I just love your wines.', that really suprised me." says Stacey. These wines include all varieties and styles. Sweet whites, dry reds, crisp fruit wines just to name a few.

Use only local fruit: They have produced a few wines from imported grapes, such as their Kensington Red made from Italian Amarone style grapes, the awarded Chilean Malbec, and their dry oaked Chardonnay called Kensinton White with grapes from New York state. By far, their most popular wines come from the fruit grown right here in New Hampshire. The blueberries are grown in Alton. The apples, peaches and strawberries are from Hampton Falls and the raspberries are picked in West Moreland.
     " I could get some of my fruit from less expensive sources but I want to keep it local." insists Lewis.  Perhaps it's this unwillingness to comprimise that gives their wines unmistakeable flavor and appeal.

     So what does the future hold for this baby? Besides continued growth in wine sales and production, Stacey has developed a line of homemade jellies from the wines themselves. Lewis continues to find new places to market the wines including expansion into other states. More on the horizon including added grape plantings and maybe even a sparkling wine in the near future. Watch as the cars are coming in the distance to their new location in East Kingston, all to enjoy fabulous wines with consistency and staying power. Perhaps you too will hear the voice: "If he makes it, they will come....and drink wine."  Maybe you will come too.

Sweet Baby Vineyard "must try" wine list:

Callum's Red:  Leon Millot grape
Aromas of earthy forest floor with a kiss of sweet red berries similar to a port, that greet the palate with soft tannins and firm acidity that finishes with hints of tobacco.

Niagra: Niagra grape
Flinty aromas of burnt matches and sweet notes of floral. Flavors reminiscent of honeysuckle, lily of the valley and even banana peel. Long finish, balanced acidity.

Sweet summer rasberry sorbet notes and velvety sweet raspberry flavors without being cloyingly sweet. Perfect with scones, or shortbread.

Marachal Foch: Marachal Foch grape
Light aromas of berry and raisins, medium bodied wine with moderate tannins and rounded mouthfeel yet broody complex finish.

Kensington White: NY Chardonnay grape
Light flinty aromas with notes of apple and fig. Lightly oaked with bright fruit flavors, hints of teaberry and rhubarb on the finish with bracing acidity in a effervescent feel.

Malbec: Chilean Malbec grape
Dreamy aromas of rich dark berries, vanilla and buttered toast with bold fruit flavors of blackberries and raspberries with french vanilla coffee with peppery feel on the tongue

Apple Cranberry:
Sweet apple blossom greets the nose with notes of Jolly Rancher apple candies and tart cranberry flavors with a lingering citrus flavor that lasts

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Appellation Winnisquam: Hermit Woods Winery

     A magical journey into a wine-making wonderland awaits you. So put on your blue and white dress (metaphorically of course) and follow the Orange Snail into the heart of Sanborton, New Hampshire and along the road to Steele Hill Resort.  But alas, you must take the road less traveled to reach your whimsical destination. And by that I mean take a left onto a dirt road just before the main entrance of Steele Hill Resort.
     As you arrive you are greeted by a fast talking, tail wagging Orange Dog named Kayla. She guides you on foot along a snail flanked path to the land of mystical wines and meads, the like of which you have never tasted before, I promise. Upon first glance it appears to be a humble homestead of Jerilyn and Bob Manley but do not be fooled for within this home is a winery like no other. Established in 2010, the first years' production (2011) of only 350 cases this innovative winery will keep you guessing and anticipating what's next. 
    While I call this area Appellation Winnisquam, there are certainly no stodgy AOC-like rules here.  Ken Hardcastle winemaker extraordinaire has a knack for fermentation. If it has fermentible sugar, is edible and grows indigenously, he will find a way to incorporate it into his wine-making process.  Deep in the heart of this winery you will find innovation and creativity that expresses itself in some of the most complex and radical flavors your mouth will ever find. Wines such as Knot Tomato, made of 70% tomato (local of course) 28% Rhubarb and Japanese Knot Wheat and 2% Apple. Then there's Three Spice Mead with Coriander, Cardamom, and Black Pepper and my personal favorite, the Hermitage, a combination of seven grapes plus, who knows what else.  "It's all about the process" Ken says as he shares his latest batch of fermenting crab apple wine. Much of the material from their wines are foraged, donated in their program called "Hermit Shares" or derived from local bee farms.
     While Ken is working hard in his fermenting cellar and "fruit laboratory", Bob works hard at promoting and marketing these enigmatic concoctions. Their trademarked logo of the Orange Snail has made it's way around the state and beyond. Including my own kitchen unbeknownst to me! When returning home with my newly logo-ed stemware my son's comment was "you had one of those glasses before."  Indeed I had! Until I recently broke it in the sink. (I knew I'd seen that logo before!)
Bob is currently working hard to promote their upcoming Lakes Region Barrel Tasting Weekend, with six wineries participating. An absolute must attend event.
     Bob being a bit of a sommelier himself, having lived in California, visiting many off-the-beaten- path vineyards, proudly displays the awards they have received for their work thus far (with more to come for sure). He pours the samples and one-by-one I am amazed and sometimes stumped for descriptive words.

Harvest Apple:  A pale yellow wine with bright acidity and fairly dry apple-forward flavors that finish with crisp bubbles.

Three Spice Mead:  Made from local, raw honey and blended with cardamom, coriander and black pepper. This sweet floral aroma gives way to a sweet and peppery palate with subtle flavors of licorice, ginger and anise.

Knot Tomato:  A complex yet quite unorthodox blend of tomato, a weed known as Japanese knot wheat and apple. This wine presents aromas of broody spiced tomatoes and persimmons. With tight acidity and dry finish.

Blue Mead: Wild foraged blueberries and raw honey, this draws aromas of lily of the valley and other wildflowers. sweet on the palate with a slight gently tannic and pepper sensation. Even smooth finish.

Three Honey Mead:  This mead is the base for the Three Spice Mead has a very pale and oily appearance on the glass. Aromas of Gardenia and lilac with flavors of lavender, honey and thistle. Soft, sweet longevity.

Blue:  Hot buttered blueberry muffin aromas!  Sweetness that quick gives way to the strong tannic astringency with lingering blueberry flavors.

Heirloom Crab Apple: Inspired by Bob's own crab apple tree. This blush wine smell of spring apple blossoms which blend nicely with the perfumey sweetness and balanced acidity.

Hermitage: WOW! A seven variety grape based wine that will make your a tongue a stage for vaudevillian flavors. Lightly floral aromas and a host of morphing flavors including honeysuckle, pear, honey, watermelon rind, spice and delicate red berries. Don't think you can quantify or qualify this wine, it will keep you guessing all the way to the final act.

As I conclude my wistful journey through this viticultural wonderland, I take with me my own little piece of this history-in-the-making winery.

I do believe the label says "DRINK ME".  Indeed I shall.

Please visit for yourself:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oh quit your wine-ing!

I found it was necessary to give myself the above counsel. As I looked forward to uncorking the fabulous vineyards and wineries in New Hampshire, an industrious and brilliant young writer beat me to the punch in this well written article published in the September edition of New Hampshire Magazine.
I will take her work as further inspiration and carry on.
Kudos Amy Kane!
New Hampshire's Vineyards and Wineries -

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Rosé by any other name...

So what's in a name?
How does one choose a name?
I can't help but think of what it takes to come up with a name, be it business, pet, child's and yes even a blog name. Invariably we tend to lean on what we know, what is familiar. After all it brings a certain simplicity. Some like to come up with names that are full of meaning and others use names that evoke an emotion.  It has come to my attention that the name of my blog has caused some confusion. Therefore I thought it necessary to make a brief and perhaps enlightening explanation.

So what's with Côte de Granit?

A pun. Simply pulling from the various well known wine regions of France such as Côte de Nuit, Côte du Rhone, and Côte d'Or and making it a New Hampshire setting.  Hew Hampshire and France have a lot in common, latitudes for instance. France being 50° to 43° latitude and New Hampshire being 46° to 42°. Both have mountain ranges that run through it and both have rugged winters.

One might think that with those factors involved, New Hampshire might be able to grow the same type of grapes with the same reputation for excellence in wines. Indeed there has been great recognition given to some of New Hampshire's great wine pioneers, such as Dr. Peter Oldak, owner and founder of Jewell Towne Vineyards. Yet the grapes grown in New Hampshire-not the same.

Because of Dr. Oldak's and others research and development, New Hampshire now has a number well known hybrid variety of grapes growing that have produced some highly acclaimed wines. All of which have weird names that sound kinda...well French.  Most of them are named after the farmers that created the varieties listed, but not all. One was named after a highly decorated general instrumental in the negotiation of the peace accord between Germany and France after World War I.
Who knew?

Seyval - Named after Bertille Seyve, credited with creation of this hybrid
De Chaunac - Named after Adhemar F. de Chaunac, a pioneer in the wine industry
Cayuga - Named after one of the finger lakes of New York
Marechal Foch - Named after French Marshal Foch, the famed general
Vidal - Named after Jean Louis Vidal, credited with creation of this hybrid

So a hard to pronounce French-ish style name, with a semi-dry pun.
You may find the wines much the same.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Inaugural Seacost Wine Tasting

I thought the best way to kick off a blog about New Hampshire wines and wineries would clearly be at the Inaugural Seacoast Wine Tasting event. I purchased my ticket early and with keen anticipation imagined how the entire event would play out. There were five representative vineyards offering their best wines with and energy an exuberance of a gala event. I must say the background of these and perhaps other wineries in NH are varied and fascinating, but that will be explored in future blogs.

On an (un)usual hot and humid August 3rd I awoke with a tickle in my throat and a sneezing fit that, with plague-like pace, took over my sinuses and eventually my entire head was to be my surprise curve ball for the day. Really! Of course, attend a wine tasting to be your own inaugural blog event with sinuses clogged like rush hour in Manhattan. Ugh!

Remain Calm. Carry On.
I don't even know whose slogan that is, but it fit.

Next thing to greet me, outside my apartment door was the Annual Huggins Hospital Street Fair. Yes, I live in Wolfeboro, NH (that in itself could be a blog topic). It is the annual garage sale extraordinaire. Where in two days, you can buy back all the yard sale fodder you so gleefully donated throughout the year. It lasts 2 days and promptly a 10 am on Friday morning, grannies in a dead heat descend upon the scene to lay claim on the first-fruits of this frenzied fair.

Again, Hakuna Matata. ( Lion King quote here)

I make my way to get my hair done (reference my photo-no explanation needed), and proceed on my merry way via, a less than known (to me that is), route towards Sandown. All is well until the temperature gauge in my car goes all redline. Swell. Being that temperature gauge outside the vehicle registers comfortably above 90 degrees, I blow out a sigh of resolution. I am going to this event.
I employ all my auto mechanical knowledge and intuition to this resolve.  My 2005 LaCrosse responds to my efforts with a fickle mood, not knowing whether it wants to overheat or not as the gauge dances between moderate and dangerously overheating.

Upon arrival I am greeted by one of the most beautifully landscaped properties, clearly catering to nuptial events. Stepping out of my car I am greeted by the thick heat saturated air that quickly puts my congested head in the same unfortunate state of my car. When I played this moment out in my head I expected to step elegantly out of my car with perfectly coiffed hair, feeling cool, confident and ready to drink in (pun attempted) an atmosphere for which I would easily grasp poetic prose. Instead, because I had shut off my air conditioner and rolled down the window, I stepped out of the car looking rather like a disheveled addict with a swollen nose.

Onward to the wine. As I stated at the beginning five wineries (and much needed air conditioning) awaited my arrival, along with more than 200 other neatly dressed, cheerful tasters. Upon arrival I traded my coveted ticket for a junior-sized wine glass and a raffle ticket. As I surveyed the room I again drew upon my vision of how this evening would go.

For this post I will limit my expressions to my overall impression of the wineries. In the future I will delve into, with greater detail, about tasting notes and history.

Zorvino Vineyards 
Besides being the host of this event had perhaps the most extensive wines available (for sampling anyway), 15 or more. From varying varietals and fruit blends, it's easy to see the appeal of both their wines and winery for more than just everyday quaffing. They bring a modest yet sound sophistication to both everyday wine taster, and the educated aficionado. They provide a list with a great deal of description that makes their presentation quite appealing.

WindRoc Vineyards
Down to Earth group of people,  is my first impression. For those who are just getting into wines these people present a very approachable manner. They are the new kids on the block but keep a close watch on them. They have a zeal for wines and no fear of experimentation. I expect good things for them in their future.

Flag Hill Winery
Clearly the busiest table of the evening. It would appear that they perhaps had the most widely recognized label in the Granite State. Located in Lee, they also offer a picturesque wedding location. I attended my husband's sister's wedding there. A beautiful venue for other events as well. Bold innovative company expanding into spirits and liquors as well. They have, become (at the very least) a business model for NH wineries.

Jewell Towne Vineyards
Claimed as "NH's Oldest Winery" Jewell Towne quietly leads the way in wine styles and blends. (Zorfino hot on their heels). With 22 wines and over 100 awards, this winery sets an example to be lauded. They have even received a rating of "Excellent" by Time Magazine. Impressive indeed! They border the state of Massachusetts but still claims NH as their rightful home.

Sweet Baby Vineyard
Here is my first admission of guilt. I fell in love with Lewis and Stacie's Malbec. Okay I said it.
This is the little vineyard that could. They bring a family warmth and love for wines that make them quite an approachable winery. Being in their own "infancy" this baby is beginning to walk. With plans to move to a larger facility and to update their quaint family image, this winery like all babies, makes you wonder what they will be when they grow up. I know I can't wait to see what's next.

One vineyard that wasn't represented that I hope to include in the future is Labelle Winery. Keep posting and I will too.      -Lauren