With its three basic ingredients—honey, water, and yeast—the making of mead sounds misleadingly simple. But Michael Fairbrother tinkered with the recipe for this ancient drink in his garage for 15 years before he felt ready to open Moonlight Meadery and share the results. The result is an award–winning meadery that for the past five years, has offered a sensory experience into the history, production, and craft of mead making. Michael has fine-tuned the fermentation process to craft batches of mead from ethically sourced, minimally processed honey, which imparts each sip with rich color, vivid aromas, and the pleasant buzz that "bees" make while wading into a hot tub. Michael’s traditional mead rests side by side with fruit-tinged and spiced varietals that meld flavors such as tart rhubarb and Madagascar-bourbon vanilla beans with wildflower honey. Moonlight has garnered nods from Mazer Cup International for the past four years for its high quality mead.
The inspiration for Zorvino Vineyards came to Jim and Cheryl Zanello in the same way it does for many American vintners—from a trip to Italy. Taken by the contrast in the quality of the wines and the pace of life between the two countries, the Zanellos brought over their own taste of the old country to an 80-acre New England estate. With grapes sourced both from their own vineyard and such regions as Tuscany, Chile, and California, the pair crafts a suite of red, white, and fruit wines that they sell on site and proffer to local restaurants and merchants. However, the winery itself is worth a trip, with its wrought-iron gate, lantern posts that seem to grow out of empty casks with recommendations for the best wine to pair with salmon.
At Djinn Spirits (the "d" is silent), visitors will find low-volume runs of gin and whiskey. Beat 3 white whiskey is an homage to the owners' Southern heritage and the moonshine produced in the dry counties of Mississippi. Beat 3 reserve whiskey, on the other hand, is aged in charred American white oak barrels for a smooth and spicy taste. When it comes to gin, each batch is flavored with botanicals for a distinctive taste that won a Best of New Hampshire award in 2014.
Dr. Peter Oldak and wife Brenda didn't have any specific plans when they moved onto a 12-acre New Hampshire farm. But in 1982, Dr. Oldak began experimenting with growing grapes. Through years of trial and error, he began improving his techniques, and in 1994 decided to bring his operation up to the commercial level. Since then, Jewell Towne Vineyards has gone on to earn more than 100 international awards, according to CBS Boston, and its Valvin Muscat wine earned an "excellent" rating in Time magazine's list of 50 American wines.
With a growing list of accolades, Dr. Oldak and Brenda, a clinical specialist in nursing, are still hard at work perfecting their wines. The boutique and community-supported winery occupying the former farm produces upwards of 6,000 cases annually and is now sold in over 150 stores. Daily tours lead visitors along the sunny riverside slope where more than 20 varieties of American and European grapes grow, and into the processing, fermentation, and barrel rooms. During said tours, guests follow the same path as the wines, all of which are made entirely from Jewell Towne's grapes. These libations are also available for sampling in the rustic post-and-beam tasting room that, along with an art gallery with some of Brenda's own paintings, fills the former farmhouse.
Winemaking began as a hobby for Sweet Baby Vineyard founder Lewis Eaton. In the summer, he and his family found themselves traveling to local farms to pick fresh strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and apples, which later made it into Lewis’s wines. Those creations later became the foundation for Sweet Baby Vineyard's now-expansive wine varieties. Today, the winery grows four grape varietals and the tasting room welcomes visitors for complimentary tastings of many of Sweet Baby’s creations, such as bartlett pear wine, the eternally embarrassed blush, and dry red.
The vintners at Flag Hill Winery know that the term "wine country" covers a whole lot of different climates. While they could easily import commonly-known grapes such as Merlot, Chardonnay, or California Raisins from warmer climes and grow them locally, they instead opt for grapes that flourish naturally in New Hampshire's colder temperatures. These include reds such as Marechal Foch and De Chaunac and whites Vignoles and Cayuga White. Each one boasts a distinct flavor profile that might awaken bored palates, and redefine what "wine country" really means.