Wineries To Visit During Summer Sipping Season
Five New Hampshire wineries with outstanding patio experiences
If you’re celebrating being able to go back inside for a bite or a drink, you’re doing it wrong.
It’s patio season, and many Granite State wineries are putting their best foot forward by offering a glass or a flight that pairs perfectly with summer.
The twisting, curling vines are beginning to grow heavier with fruit this time of year, rewarding visitors with sweeping views to toast. Here are five New Hampshire wineries with outstanding patio experiences.
Lewis Eaton doesn’t sleep much.
As the owner, winemaker, designer and vino evangelist (along with his wife, Stacey) at Sweet Baby Vineyard, there’s just no time for luxuries like rest.
This Hampstead winery’s outdoor seating is spread throughout the rolling eight-acre property — from a covered area facing the tall trees lining the property, to a series of comfortable seats along the bocce and cornhole courts. As lines began to form outside the tasting room on a recent warm Saturday, Eaton rushed across the lawn to set up yet another table for eager visitors.
“I guess people are happy to be back out,” he says. “That’s what I’m hearing. Also, since we’re so close to the Massachusetts state line, we’re getting a lot of people from across the border.”
Relax alongside the vineyard and retrieve samples from the tasting room at your own pace. Tastings are $5 per-person for six samples. Sweet Baby produces a range of whites, reds, fruit wines and a sparkling wine called Minnie’s Bubbles made from New Hampshire-grown Niagara grapes. Eaton and team have also added a wine slushy machine to the tasting offerings, providing a welcome treat perfect for the warm weather. During a recent visit, the slushies were available as a rosé and Sweet Baby’s Niagara wines.
Just head for the intersection of Routes 111 and 121 in Hampstead and look for the big, white farmhouse, the rolling vines and the smiling, talkative winemaker.
260 Stage Rd., Hampstead, NH
Brian Ferguson has some big ideas. He also has the ability to make them real.
Just visit Flag Hill Distillery and Winery in Lee, and you’ll see Ferguson’s vision spread across 110 acres. A rustic tasting room and distillery sits at the top of a hill that overlooks the vineyards, rye fields, rows of corn and livestock just off of Route 125 and North River Road.
There may be no better place to take in the sweeping views than Flag Hill’s outdoor patio. Tables arranged under a shady tent look out over the vines and fields. Visitors can order a glass of wine or try a range of Ferguson’s handiwork in a $5 tasting.
Choose five samples from an extensive menu of reds, whites, sparkling wines and a list of spirits also crafted on-site. “The sparkling wines are where we really excel,” Ferguson says. “We’re really good at aromatic white wines. Where we are and with the grapes we grow, that’s what’s in the cards for us to produce.” Your choices are whisked table-side, flight style, along with some cheese or a charcuterie board — much of which comes from the greenhouse, fields and farm at Flag Hill.
New this year are the wine smoothies — a tall glass with Flag Hill wine mixed with fresh fruit and a dose of summer refreshment.
“They’re incredible,” Ferguson says. “The last couple of years there’s been a push for wine slushies, but we wanted to do something similar and maybe elevate the concept a little. People love them. They’ve become the hot ticket.”
Reservations are recommended, and outdoor tastings are limited to two hours.
297 North River Rd., Lee, NH
It’s a warm Thursday afternoon and Jim Zanello is making the rounds on the patio (“Z Patio”) outside his Sandown winery. It’s a rare afternoon when you won’t find Zanello checking in on his guests, making sure they’re comfortable and very likely throwing in a joke or gentle ribbing for good measure. The embodiment of the Italian host, Zanello has created a comfortable, welcoming sanctuary in the middle of this quiet southern New Hampshire town.
“A big part of the charm here is the family,” Zorvino Wine Director Tom Zack says. “And that’s Jim. He’s out there again visiting everyone and he loves it.”
The Napa Valley-style tasting room sits to one side of a two-level, flagstone patio and a shady pergola. While traditional tastings inside are still on-hold, guests can order from one of several new different themed flights. Select from a lineup of themes including Reds, Whites, Fruit, Blends, Bubbles and Blushes or the Z Wine Labs. The winemakers/mad scientists down at Z Wine Labs consistently create inventive, unique wines, such as Cafe Vino, Lemon & Lavender and Piña Picante. Flights range from $12-$15.
(Pro tip: For a completely unexpected experience, seek out the Z Wine Labs Peanut Butter and Jelly wine.)
“People are loving it,” Zack says of the patio experience. “People really need to get out, and this is the perfect way to do it. Everybody wants to go to the winery.”
He’s not exaggerating. Zorvino set sales records for the previous three weekends, Zack says.
Guests can also take advantage of Summer Nights & Lite Bites — a menu offering everything from Blistered Shishito Peppers and Parmesan Truffle Fries to a range of flatbreads. Z Patio is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. through July 31, and then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. from July 31 to Oct. 30.
Reservations are required for patio seating, but if the patio is full, guests can pull up a piece of lawn and enjoy the view, the bocce and a glass of wine while inspecting the vines that stretch out to the back of the property.
226 Main St., Sandown, NH
It’s said that grapes don’t like to get their feet wet. Sidle up to a wine barrel on the patio at LaBelle Winery, on which tastings are currently being served, and the view from this spot along Route 101 in Amherst looks directly down into a sloping vineyard packed with very happy grapes.
Outdoor tastings are available for walk-up guests, and hosts will assign you a wine barrel you can use as your personal tasting room table.
Representatives guide visitors through the process. Choose from a list of more than 35 wines – five wine tastes for $10 and 10 samples for $15. The wines are brought to your table/wine barrel, and tasting notes and descriptions for each are provided.
Fans of dry wines can opt for the Dry Riesling, made in the Alsatian style, or the Dry Blueberry (made with local blueberries), while those who prefer a sweeter wine can indulge in the Moscato or the Dulce dessert wine enhanced with maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla.
When the flight has flown, visitors can take a glass of wine and tour the grounds. Adirondak chairs sit among the vines, providing an ideal spot to enjoy the natural surroundings.
A bar at the entrance of the bistro also offers cocktails, and offerings from the LaBelle Bistro can also be enjoyed on the patio.
345 Route 101, Amherst, NH
Follow the curving, winding Pine Hill Road through Hollis, past fields and neatly tended lawns, meadows and stands of tall evergreens long enough, and you’ll emerge at a completely unexpected destination: an Italian villa in the woods of southern New Hampshire.
Fulchino Vineyard is essentially a portal that transports visitors straight to the Italian countryside. A sun-bleached villa, complete with a bell tower, watches over 1,400 vines in the vineyard (one of four), with a patio out front and a pergola running alongside the vines.
Tastings, offered on the patio and under the pergola, often find Al and Susan Fulchino personally hosting guests. And there have been plenty.
“It’s been very busy,” owner and winemaker Al Fulchino says. “Generally speaking, everybody is super excited and exuberant to be outside and having a good time again.”
Visitors can choose a range of tastings from four to 10 samples, and can add-in a wide variety of food — meats, cheeses and chocolates, typically — to enhance the experience. Select from more than three dozen wines, of which 85 to 88% are made from grapes grown on Fulchino property. The diverse range spans from reds to whites, sweet to dry. Among the most popular is the Fulchino Classico, which is semi-dry, plummy and cherry, with traces of white pepper, chocolate and a hint of coffee.
Quite often, a Fulchino wine enjoyed on the patio will be paired with conversation with the winemaker himself, which can range from barrel aging techniques, growing regions and food, to Cicero, Augustus and the Roman Republic.
Guests can drop in, but Fulchino strongly suggests making reservations for weekend visits.
187 Pine Hill Rd., Hollis, NH