This past weekend was one of my favorite events: the third annual Lakes Region Barrel Tasting weekend at seven wineries. This gives guests an opportunity to meet the winemakers, take winery tours and taste wines right from the barrel or tank before they are done aging.
On Sunday, several wineries were reporting an outstanding turnout, with attendance numbers way up over last year, even with the weather being less than ideal. I made it to five of the seven wineries this year. Unfortunately, I was not able to visit Newfound Lake Vineyards in Bristol or Sap House Meadery in Center Ossipee. I did attend Newfound Lake Vineyards’ soft opening last weekend and was able to try owner Heidi Cojean’s Wicked Good Red, Sauvignon Blanc and some Carmenere still aging in the barrel. I can’t wait to see what else she produces in the future. My friend Carol and I had a great visit with her and her family and enjoyed their hospitality. I also heard that Sap House Meadery had its fabulous vanilla bean mead available for tasting, which is perfect during cool fall days.
On Saturday, my mom and I went to Haunting Whisper Vineyards in Danbury. Downstairs in their winemaking area, we tried vignoles that was ready to be bottled and a young syrah. Young marechal foch and carmenere were also available.
Upstairs, we tried a new apple wine made with cider apples from Apple Hill Farm in Concord. This recipe has some cinnamon, and it really tastes like apple pie in a bottle — delicious. It would be perfect for a cool fall day, warmed in the crockpot.
Another new wine I tried was Misty Bog, a sweet port-style cranberry dessert wine. This wine was intense but delicious, perfect for Thanksgiving dinner. It could also be mixed with sparkling wine for a great cocktail.
On Sunday, a group of us planned out our route and headed to Coffin Cellars in Webster first, where we tried a couple different wines, including their latest batch of cranberry pomegranate from the tank. This has always been one of my favorite Coffin Cellars wines and is currently sold out, but the wine from the tank was delicious.
I highly recommend their kiwi berry wine. It was made in a small batch, but it is sweet, fruity and delicious.
Also back in stock is their jalapeno wine. This wine may not be for everyone on its own, but it would be great in a bloody Mary.
Our second stop was Hermit Woods Winery in Sanbornton. First, we headed upstairs where owner Bob Manley told us all about the great wines the winery has made this year. We tried a few 2012 wines, including Kiwi, Knot Mead, Petite Blue and Deep Blue.
The Deep Blue, a port-style blueberry dessert wine, was my favorite. It is intense and flavorful. Manley called it a “party in the mouth” and recommended trying it with blueberry pie, vanilla ice cream and a slight drizzle of this wine on top. It is easy to see why this wine received rave reviews from a wine expert.
Downstairs, owner and head winemaker Ken Hardcastle let us sample the 2013 Blue right from the barrel. Once complete, this wine will be a deep, dry red similar to a pinot noir. The skins are left on the blueberries a little bit longer and the oak helps concentrate the flavors. This wine will also age well.
After Hermit Woods Winery, our group headed to Stone Gate Vineyard in Gilford, where Peter Ellis greeted us with a taste of marechal foch straight from the tank. Sadly, the winery is closing this month after many years of winemaking. But Haunting Whisper Vineyards will make their grapes into wine and Peter and Jane will get a much-deserved break and time with their family.
Our final stop on Sunday was at Gilmanton Winery in Gilmanton. First, we met John Jude, winemaker, where we were able to try peach and blueberry wine right out of the containers that had been going through first fermentation for about two weeks. They were cloudy in color but fruity.
Outside, we tasted a couple other wines including Seyval, Malbec, Graces and the House Wine-an intriguing blend with chocolate flavors.
Overall, this event was an even bigger success than last year. Even unfavorable weather does not keep wine lovers from hitting the trail.