Tom Zack had planned to sell only 500 tickets for the first year of the New Hampshire Wine Fest at Flag Hill Winery but quickly extended that limit. When Zack, wine director at Zorvino Vinyards, sold all 800 tickets in only three weeks’ time, he knew that he would need to find a larger venue for the second year of the event.
Zack hopes to sell about 1,500 tickets to this year’s New Hampshire Wine Fest, which will be held at the Rochester Fairgrounds on Saturday, Aug. 6, from noon to 5 p.m. The wineries’ representatives and vendors will be spread among the fairground’s five buildings. Beatlejuice will perform at this year’s event.
“There is a lot of room over there at the fairground,” Zack said. “We are going to take [the Wine Fest] as far as we can.”
Seventeen of the Granite State’s wineries and members of the New Hampshire Winery Association have signed on to the event, with 13 pouring and four participating as “boutique” wineries. The boutique wineries are new to the state and will focus on marketing their products. Zack noted that some of the boutique wineries may also offer pours but at a lesser scale.
“It’s about really getting the word out about how much great wine there is in New Hampshire,” Zack said. “Not many people realize the extent of the New Hampshire wine industry.”
Rather than lump the local wine festival in with the state’s annual Wine Week in January, which already has a tight event schedule, Zack opted to hold the Wine Fest in the summer, when it can be held outside in “more of a festival atmosphere.”
The Wine Fest admission price of $20 includes 10 tasting tickets and an engraved souvenir glass. Additional tasting tickets will be available at the event for $1 each. Event-goers will be given a “wine passport” on which they will get a stamp from each winery booth they visit. Full passports can be turned in at the event for a prize drawing.
Zorvino will likely roll out a variety of whites, reds and fruit wines, Zack said, adding that he expects to go through 18 bottles of each of the wines that the vineyard will bring.
“It’s quite a good marketing event for us,” he said. Zorvino may offer samples of one of its biggest sellers, pumpkin dessert wine. “Not too many people in the country make pumpkin wine,” Zack noted.
“It’s a great chance … to let folks know that quality wine is being made here in New Hampshire and they don’t have to go to California to get it,” said Amy LaBelle, owner of LaBelle Winery in Amherst, of the event. “For us it’s really nice to be able to talk with our customers and see what people are interested in and what they want to know about wine.”
The Wine Fest will also serve as an opportunity for LaBelle to showcase the winery’s summer cocktail contest. She will be taking submissions of recipes that include LaBelle wines as one of their ingredients. “We love to do wine-tinis at the winery,” LaBelle said. Drink Skinny has signed on as co-sponsor of the contest, so LaBelle is encouraging entrants to also include the figure-friendly margarita mix in their creations.
LaBelle Winery will likely offer pourings of six of its wines at the event, including cranberry, raspberry, blueberry, Seyval Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. LaBelle hopes to debut her newest red, Americus, at the festival. She likened Americus to a classic Old World Bordeaux, with peppery and buttery undertones. “What we are trying to achieve is a Bordeaux taste, leaning toward a red zinfandel,” she said. “It’s a big, red, bold and dry wine that is not always an easily achievable goal with New England grapes.”
“We wanted to make a savory red wine rather than a fruit-forward red wine, and we’ve done it,” LaBelle said. “I can’t wait to get it in the bottle.”