At the Block 15 Beer Dinner, Matt and I were talking about this particular series on the blog and he mentioned that there were a few wineries in his home state of New Hampshire. I chuckled. More of a guffaw, really. Well, next thing I knew the holidays had passed with Matt's obligatory trip home and my wine rack was suddenly graced with the presence of two bottles of New Hampshire's finest. Matt's only stipulation in sharing this delight was he be invited when I cracked it open. With a pending move to Seattle at the end of January, I needed to get rolling and drink some wine.
Sunday night I invited Matt and Chris over to play some scrabble, but I had ulterior motives. It was the perfect time to crack open the first of the New Hampshirian selections. Jason and Clare, new friends of the Blog, joined and we had us a party. I asked Clare to bring some "snacks" suitable for wine expecting a hunk of cheese and some crackers, boy was I surprised when she unloaded a veritable cornucopia of awesomeness on a platter in my kitchen. On the pairing menu included:
- Whole grain herbed bread with dill, cumin, flax, and sunflower seeds
- Organic extra virgin olive oil with cracked pepper and rosemary
- Herbed Utah chevre and Salem bleu cheese
- Moab apricot and nutmeg preserves
- Roasted garlic hummus
- Balsalmic vinegar and honey reduction
With snacks, friends, and a few words on the Scrabble board we were ready to taste.
The Location and Winery
New Hampshire is relatively new in the world of wine production, starting in 1994 with vintages produced by 2 wineries. While still small with 5 vineyards and 15 wineries, the state produces primarily white and specialty varietals. A number of the wineries use imported fruit from New York, California, and Canada.
Located in Amherst, New Hampshire, LaBelle Winery produces wines made with grapes and other fruit from New Hampshire and New England that reflect the orchard spirit. The winemaker, Amy LaBelle, is a corporate attorney turned winemaker, a pursuit of her lifelong passion.
LaBelle Winery Blueberry Wine
When Matt brought the wine too me, he mentioned that it had been marketed as a merlot-like style despite it's blueberry roots. My only experience with blueberry wine was from the Flying Dutchman Winery on the Oregon coast, a super sweet dessert wine. I really didn't know what to expect. Here's what LaBelle has to say about the wine:
This wine is not sweet… it’s like a dry, light Merlot in body and style. A light red, meduim bodied wine, it pleases the palate with rich but soft notes of vanilla and fresh fruit. Made with 100 % New Hampshire wild blueberries and aged in French oak, this light dinner wine has something for everyone with a hint of sweetness and a lingering, dry finish. LaBelle Winery Blueberry Wine is light and refreshing for spring and summer, yet full bodied enough to accompany pork, turkey, chicken, pasta and even grilled meats.
We found a fruity bouquet of cherry and clove on the nose. If we didn't know better, none of the tasting crew would have predicted blueberry origin based on the aroma of the wine. A deep gorgeous purple graced the glass and upon first taste, Jason declared the wine to be different. That matched Chris' initial reaction of unique. It was dryer than expected, however, had we read the description of the wine beforehand I think our expectations would have been a bit different. On the palate the cherry and fruit-forward characteristics continued, although the finish was relatively mellow and almost flat. When sipped with some of the bleu cheese, the wine picked up some depth and complexity that led Matt to the analysis that it would pair well with traditional Vermont style apple pie, cheddar cheese and all. We had pie later in the evening, but the wine was gone by then.
All in all, the wine was good although I was slightly disappointed. Based on comparisons to either merlot or a dessert wine, I was looking for something close to one or the other when I tried this wine. Finding neither, my expectations weren't met although in reality I should have been looking for an entirely different wine all together. Darn those preconceived notions! I'll still take Oregon or Washington any day!
Next up in the series, Utah.