The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Winter Wine Spectacular photo by John Hession.

New Hampshire Wine Week

Monday, Jan. 22, through Sunday, Jan. 28
Visit for the most up-to-date information and updated events.
Winter Wine Spectacular
When: Thursday, Jan. 25, 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown, 700 Elm St., Manchester
Cost: $65 for the Grand Tasting in the expo room, or $135 for access to the Bellman’s Cellar Select VIP tasting room.  Cellar Notes tickets are $50. Purchase tickets online.

A wine wonderland

By Matt Ingersoll


More than 60 winemakers representing countries around the world will travel to the Granite State for New Hampshire Wine Week, which will feature dozens of wine dinners, bottle signings, tastings and seminars and will culminate with the Easterseals Winter Wine Spectacular.
From Monday, Jan. 22, to Sunday, Jan. 28, myriad bottle signings and tastings featuring many of these winemakers will be held across several of the state’s 80 Liquor & Wine Outlet stores, and there will be dinners at more than a dozen local restaurants. This year will also feature a special question and answer seminar called “Women in Wine,” led by four women winemakers who are actively influencing the industry.
Now in its 15th year, New Hampshire Wine Week originally featured just four winemakers but has consistently grown each year.
“New Hampshire has always been really known for [its] wine selection … and so I think our customers were looking for the education and intimacy of having winemakers come to New Hampshire to learn about their wine,” said Lisa Gosselin, wine marketing and sales specialist for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, which organizes New Hampshire Wine Week each year. “People just overall get excited that they are meeting winemakers and to actually get to talk to them. It’s almost like they are celebrities.”
Simply spectacular
This year’s Easterseals Winter Wine Spectacular is happening on Thursday, Jan. 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown. The expo-style tasting is the largest wine event in northern New England, attracting more than 1,500 people and featuring around 1,800 different wines to taste. In addition, more than two dozen local restaurants are serving food to go with the wines, giving this year’s event the largest number of participating food and wine vendors since its inception.
The event includes tickets for $65 that grant you access to the Grand Tasting in the expo room, or you can purchase tickets for the Bellman’s Cellar Select VIP tasting room for $135, which Gosselin said will be in the newly renovated ballroom for the first time.
“For someone who has never been there, their jaws typically drop when they walk in,” said Christine Pederson, senior director of events and corporate relations at Easterseals New Hampshire. “We have a nice complement of restaurants that are all New Hampshire-based.”
Pederson said when visitors arrive, they are given a program book and a map featuring each food and wine vendor, to help with navigating through the event. Gosselin added that the program book will likely be uploaded online ahead of the event as well, to give visitors a chance to map out their game plans.
There will be a wide variety of wines available to taste, from red and white to fruit wines, from wineries big and small and far and wide, as well as from right here in the Granite State. According to Gosselin, the Winter Wine Spectacular is unique because it gives people a chance to try something they may not otherwise get to taste and has opportunities to interact with the wine producers.
“It’s really amazing when you stand there with the winemaker or the vineyard owner and just learn the history behind the wine,” she said, “because when you have a story behind something, you remember it so much better … and you just feel connected to that person. So there’s a connection, and I think that’s why a lot of the winemakers come back year after year, because they enjoy making that connection with the people of New Hampshire.”
Lewis Eaton, owner of Sweet Baby Vineyard in Hampstead and president of the New Hampshire Winery Association, said he will be pouring six different wines at this year’s Spectacular, including Niagara, a white wine with hints of citrus and honeysuckle, and Callum’s Red, a semi-sweet dark red wine with hints of blackberries, named after his youngest son.
“The reason [the Spectacular] is so big is not only that New Hampshire is the largest seller and consumer of wines in the United States,” he said, “but [we] have a big agricultural community here too. … Plus, people seem to be trending toward trying something new.” 
Tom Zack, wine director of Zorvino Vineyards in Sandown, which has been a vendor of the Winter Wine Spectacular in past years, said the event is a chance to get some of New Hampshire’s best wineries together under one roof. The spectacular also serves as a precursor to several special wine releases, tastings and other events Zorvino Vineyards hosts from the end of January through the entire month of February.
“We do an author’s night, a chocolate madness wine dinner, a Valentine’s Day dinner, and a ’20s night, all in February,” said Zack, who also serves on the board of the New Hampshire Winery Association. “We do a lot of interesting things like a coffee-infused cabernet sauvignon, and other flavor infusions like blood orange and habanero pineapple. … I think New Hampshire makes some of the best fruit wine in the country.”
The Cellar Notes seminar
For a chance to interact with some renowned winemakers in an even more quiet and relaxed atmosphere, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission also organizes the annual “Cellar Notes” event, which always takes place the night before the Winter Wine Spectacular. 
The question and answer style seminar often has a different focus each year. This year’s event is happening on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester, with “Women in Wine” as its theme. Tickets are $50 for the Cellar Notes event and can be purchased at
Gosselin said the event is an opportunity to showcase some of the biggest women leaders in the wine industry.
“It’s going to be like a sit-down seminar type of tasting, where people will get to sample red and white wines from our women winemakers from around the world,” she said, “some of whom have historical families behind their names.”
One of the four Women in Wine participants will be Cristina Mariani-May, a third-generation winemaker and the co-CEO of Banfi Vintners in New York.
Her grandfather founded the wine importing business in 1919, naming it after his aunt, Teodolinda Banfi, who she said raised him and influenced his passion for Italian wines and wine products.
“She taught my grandfather all he knew,” Mariani-May said, adding that her grandfather’s aunt served as head of the household staff of the late Pope Pius XI, becoming the first non-clergy member ever to serve in the Vatican.
It’s anecdotes like those that Mariani-May said she is planning to share at the seminar. Today, she is also the family proprietor of Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, a town in Southern Tuscany, Italy, which has more than 7,000 acres of land she oversees.
“Running the company today as a third-generation [family member] and as a woman, it’s magnificent to be able to educate people about wine,” she said, “and also to see more and more women rise up through the ranks in the wine industry, to the heads of companies.”
The other three speakers of the Women in Wine event will be Cynthia Lohr, co-owner of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in California; Gina Gallo, a third-generation winemaker and the senior director of winemaking at E. & J. Gallo Winery, also based in California; and Dr. Laura Catena, managing director of Bodega Catena Zapata and owner of Luca Winery, both in Argentina.
Wining, dining and tasting
If you can’t make either the Winter Wine Spectacular or the Cellar Notes event, there are dozens of wine tastings across many of the state Liquor & Wine Outlet stores, as well as dinners at local restaurants.
Gosselin said the in-store tastings, which often feature appearances from the winemakers, offer a more casual setting for people to learn about different kinds of wines.
“If you’re someone who is not familiar on how to navigate a large wine tasting, you could always start with that,” she said.
The winemakers attend each of the dinners as well that feature their own product. Depending on the participating restaurant, most wine dinners are multiple courses and are designed specifically to pair with that type of wine.
Chef Stuart Cameron of the Hanover Street Chophouse, which is hosting a six-course wine dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 6 p.m. with wines from Silverado Vineyards in Napa, Calif., said the menu is still in the works, but the dishes to be served have never been done before and are not on the regular menu.
“It’s always a great opportunity for the kitchen to stretch its wings a bit and do dishes that can’t necessarily be pulled off seven days a week,” he said. “It’s always a great time and we look forward to it.” 


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