The Hippo


Apr 22, 2019








Jack Carnevale of Bedford Village Inn and Eric Wiswall of Haunting Whisper Vineyards during last year’s Winter Wine Spectacular. Courtesy photo.

The big pour
Get a taste of fun during wine week


 If the wine industry had an event like the Oscars, it might look something like New Hampshire Wine Week. The state’s week of all things wine has grown each year to offer more events and more wine personalities, and this, the ninth year, is no different.

Monday, Jan. 27, through Sunday, Feb. 2, will be chock full of wine tastings, wine dinners and wine education to give consumers the unique opportunity to interact one-on-one with vintners from Italy, California and right here in the Granite State.
“Consumers don't get the opportunity to meet these titans in the wine industry that often,” New Hampshire Liquor Commission Wine Marketing Specialist Nicole Brassard Jordan said.
The Winter Wine Spectacular is the big-ticket event of Wine Week with sold-out crowds each year. This year marks the 11th annual wine tasting event — the largest of its kind in northern New England — that benefits Easter Seals in New Hampshire.
The Hippo has everything you need to get the most for your toast during Wine Week. From the Winter Wine Spectacular to the VIP experience at the Bellman Cellar Select tasting room, we’ve got the details on how to tackle all the week’s events. Plus, Granite State winemakers share what they love about the annual celebration. And, for wine newbies who don’t know the difference between a riesling and a zinfandel, we’ve got a cheat sheet that will help you navigate Wine Week events like a pro.
Walking in a Winter Wine Spectacular
Wine Week’s main event, the 11th annual Winter Wine Spectacular, takes place on Thursday, Jan. 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel Manchester. It’s not any ordinary wine tasting. Nearly 1,800 wines will be poured for a sell-out crowd of about 1,500 (which was last year’s capped attendance) with over 50 wine personalities in attendance.
Winery presidents and head winemakers pour glasses of their own wines from around the world and speak with guests one on one. Each winery represented will have as many as 15 wines ranging in body and flavor.
While guests navigate the hall from one winery to the next, chefs and local restaurants will have food available to pair with the wine samples.
“The experience is not just about the winemakers, but it is about having really great food with the tasting,” Brassard Jordan said. 
LaBelle Winery in Amherst will be one of many returning wineries, but this year owner and winemaker Amy LaBelle is also featuring food from the winery’s bistro to pair with her own wines.
“We’ll be doing the most unique thing on the floor, I think,” LaBelle said.
Participating restaurants include Firefly, Granite Restaurant & Bar, Aquablu, Tuscan Kitchen, Fratellos, Copper Door, Bedford Village Inn and The Quill (Southern New Hampshire University’s restaurant for its culinary arts program), to name a few.
For first-timers attending the Winter Wine Spectacular, Brassard Jordan recommends planning what to eat and drink during the Grand Tasting event. 
“When you grab that booklet, go there with an idea of what it is you want to focus on, because there is a lot of wine,” she said. “It will help your experience for sure. So, if you like a specific varietal — cabernet, pinot noir, whatever it may be — if you do that, I would encourage you to try Old World wines from that varietal, and New World.”
Brassard Jordan also recommends visiting tables by selecting favorites among the wineries. 
“Go and spend time with the personalities at their tables,” she said.
With nearly 1,800 wines to sample in all, there is a lot of opportunity to discover new wines and revisit favorite varietals. Guests can place orders throughout the event — with a smartphone if they choose — then pick up purchased wines at a New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet of their choice.
“You’ll be able to build a basket and process your orders that evening,” Brassard Jordan said. “[This] has been a lot of draw for the industry titans. … They do a lot of those events, but they may never get to see the sales from the event.”
Over the past decade, the annual Winter Wine Spectacular has raised just under $1.2 million for Easter Seals in New Hampshire. This year, the funds raised will directly benefit Easter Seals’ early intervention program in the state, which impacts hundreds of children with developmental delays and physical disabilities between 3 months and 3 years old.  
Exclusive sips for wine connoisseurs 
Call yourself a wine geek, a wine snob, a wine aficionado — whatever the term, if you seriously love wine, you’ll find yourself surrounded by fellow oenophiles (people who are devoted to all things wine — but you probably already knew that) in the Bellman Cellar Select tasting room.
“I think there are so many people — and this is my experience — that want to get into this room that it sells out almost instantly once the tickets go on sale,” said David Bellman of Bellman’s Jewelers, which sponsors the event. “Those people who do enjoy the better wines are chomping at the bit.”
The Bellman Cellar Select is part of a VIP experience during the Winter Wine Spectacular that includes both the Grand Tasting (the main tasting event) and the Bellman Cellar Select tasting room, where high-end wines are available for a rare tasting opportunity. It costs $125 for access to both tastings, and attendees qualify to win a jewelry door prize valued at $1,000.
“I think a clientele that appreciates fine wine and Champagne appreciates fine jewelry as well,” Bellman said. 
“In general, the price points are $30 and up, and there are some really special wines,” Brassard Jordan said about the wines chosen for the Bellman Cellar Select room. “That one sells out even before the Winter Wine Spectacular sells out, because it is a limited amount of tickets.”
Michael Mondavi, founder and president of winemaking of Michael Mondavi Family Estate, will be there — “Which is fantastic. He’s an icon in the industry,” Brassard Jordan said. 
She said she believes he will be pouring M by Michael Mondavi, a high-end cabernet from California. 
“A lot of the wines that are in that room are very unique,” she said. “They’re special, hand-crafted wines, which are more expensive because they’re hand-crafted.”
Bellman’s Jewelers of Manchester has been the sponsor for the Cellar Select tasting room for the past decade, and Bellman himself has been involved with Easter Seals of New Hampshire for the past 20 years. 
Get the most of the toast: Wine Week tips
The Winter Wine Spectacular may be the “crown jewel” of Wine Week, but the week itself has evolved into a spectacle of its own over the with more tastings, wine dinners and educational opportunities than ever.
• Cellar Notes was first introduced as a program last year to feature four wine industry experts for a special panel tasting and discussion the evening prior to the Spectacular. The event was so popular that organizers scheduled two Cellar Notes programs for Wednesday, Jan. 29. One will be held at the Puritan in Manchester, the other at the Portsmouth Harbor Events & Conference Center. 
“The reviews were great,” Brassard Jordan said. “Personalities that were there loved it. Consumers were really engaged.”
Cellar Notes is an intimate evening that operates like a seminar or meet-and-greet with winemakers like Michael Mondavi, Farrah Felten-Jolley and Stefan Jolley in Manchester, and Joseph Carr, Michael Phillips and Melissa Stackhouse in Portsmouth.
“You’re going to hear from them, how that specific vintage worked out that season, what the challenges were, … and you'll be able to hear what they think when they taste it,” Brassard Jordan said.
• Wine dinners are small and intimate dining experiences with winemakers and chefs at local restaurants.
“There is a spark between winemakers and restaurateurs,” Brassard Jordan said. “The wine dinners are really fun. Wine dinners are a really neat experience because you get to enjoy wine with food, which is really what it’s all about.”
The chef prepares a menu to be paired with the wines, made by the winemaker in attendance. Maria Helm Sinskey of Robert Sinskey Vineyards — who also happens to be a chef herself — will be doing a wine dinner at Hanover Street Chophouse in Manchester.
“It’s really interesting because I’m a chef and that’s what I did for my career until I married my husband, and then I got into wine,” Helm Sinskey said. “Food is always evolving, and you always learn from people. I like to go into a dinner and see a chef do a menu … it kind of opens this whole new playing field.”
• Wine tastings at Liquor and Wine Outlets are held throughout the week and are free for customers shopping at any outlet store. Although wine tastings are held regularly throughout the year in the outlets, Brassard Jordan added that this is the one time consumers can interact with the winemakers in the aisles.
“Sometimes those are definitely overlooked, because it’s not every day I've got Joel Peterson standing in the store,” Brassard Jordan said. “You have to come sometimes to seek them out.”
• Wine seminars provide a real education on wine. Philip DiBelardino (vice president of Fine Wines, Banfi Vintners) is a regular Wine Week personality who always hosts educational events during the week, Brassard Jordan said.
“These wine personalities that have come over the years have built a following,” she said. “When he’s doing one of his educational seminars they pretty much just sell out overnight.”

As seen in the January 16th, 2014 issue of The Hippo

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