A Time for Wine

Making new memories – both red and white.Al Fulchino of Hollis is capturing time in a bottle. The memories, the tastes and the family tradition of times past have fueled Fulchino’s lifelong passion for wines. His great-great-grandfather Angelo Fulchino made wine in Gesualdo, Italy, and he can remember as a kid going with his grandfather to Everett, Mass,. and buying grapes right off of a train from California. It was an Italian thing. Grandfathers made wine in the basement. Even the government acknowledged and sanctioned the process during Prohibition. Heads of households were allowed to ferment 200 gallons of wine for personal consumption. That was Roosevelt’s concession to get the Italian vote.”I have been making wine since I was 21,” Fulchino says. But three years ago he decided to take the passion into a productive business. He and his wife Susan now run a full-time winery that was just licensed in February. They cultivate and harvest the grapes with help from friends and family. Tastings are offered daily in their recently completed wine production room.”The kids had grown, we decided it was time to take the gamble, do something that we love. I figured there are 1,600 households in Hollis, so I could probably sell 1,600 bottles of wine. People appreciate local products these days.”The couple purchased the Hollis land off of Pine Hill Road in the ’90s and run a small nursery on a corner of the lot. Experience as a grower is beginning to bear real fruit now.In 2007 they planted the first grape vines in the rich, low-lying land that has two feet of rich topsoil – probably a former riverbed. Fulchino claims his wines are all about the terroir, or the characteristics of the land that bestow qualities on the wine. The rich earth holds moisture, limiting the need for irrigation. The dark color of the soil retains heat and his crop can be left on the vine longer. All this leads to sweeter grapes at harvest time.As September wears on, Fulchino tests random grapes for their sugar level with a simple spectral instrument called a refractometer. When the grapes reach low- to mid-twenties brix they are harvested by hand – each type when ready – with help from friend Peter Coppola.Red grapes go into the crusher/de-stemmer while whites go directly into a press. The juice is extracted with a small hand press after fermenting. Large plastic flex tanks that have micro-pores allow the wine to oxygenate while fermenting, reducing the number of times the wine needs to be racked – a process to siphon the wine off the lees or residual yeast at the bottom of the tank.Currently 2 1/2 to 3 acres are planted with 14 different varieties of grapes for a total of 1,400 vines – the largest percentage being red varietals. “I am experimenting with a broader range of types than other New Hampshire wineries,” Fulchino claims. He has tried a few vine types from UC Davis’ Genome Center and other American and Italian vines – which varietal specifically, he will not tell.Fulchino’s red wines taste like variations on a theme, that theme being big and fruity wines with a high alcohol content. You can see the “legs” as you swirl a glass.Fulchino’s biggest wine is one of his Signature Blends, the Cenare, almost a sensory overload. Fulchino says this wine needs a “big” food for a match, something like grilled and seasoned meats. Or it could be sipped for an after-meal enjoyment. Many red wines lose their appeal the day after opening, but probably because of the high alcohol content. His Cenare remains drinkable after a week. It has lost a few high notes, but is still mellow. This characteristic may be perfect for people who want to sip a little wine each evening.The other related wines include the very smooth Mirabella ($30) and Vivace ($30), with spicy notes layered atop the full mellow ripe berry flavors. Each of these are fully developed with soft tannins that don’t need to be tamed with time in the bottle.White wines are in more limited production. It took Fulchino a while to develop a few he liked. And more varieties will be available in September.Fulchino claims the art is in the blending of two to six varietals to create the wine that he enjoys, maybe one reminiscent of his grandfathers’. He says, “I don’t order wine in a restaurant; I only like mine.” He is making wine for people who can’t handle dry wine and prefer a smooth mouth feel with loads of fruit. He adds oak chips or oak staves to achieve the flavor profile he likes. “I blend with artistry and intuition, it’s what makes my wines unique.”Next spring the Fulchinos plan to build a separate tasting room similar to the stucco wine room added this summer, while the back lot offers more acreage to be cultivated. Build it and they will come has never been more true.This June, at the state’s first New Hampshire wine festival held on the grounds of Flaghill Winery, Fulchino found himself at the serving end of a very long line. “People told me they had saved their remaining tickets for our Cenare … Word had gotten around and people were asking for the Big, Bold One. I am tempted to rename it,” he jests.Would Grandpa be proud? I think so. Fulchino honors tradition at every turn. It’s a family operation that remembers its roots and invites all in for a taste of their love, terroir and ancestral history. NH

Categories: Food & Drink