When flora and fauna bid summer goodbye with color and ripeness worthy of celebration and fermentation, this is autumn in New Hampshire. This is grape harvest season!
The tree canopy bursts forth in such breathtaking palettes of amber, carmine, canary, and crimson that foliage reports track the changes across the Granite State. Orchards hang bright with assorted apples waiting to be picked straight from their branches. Local farms offer profusions of pumpkins and gourds for baking and decorating. And artistic mazes, cut intricately into harvested corn fields, beckon a wending sense of adventure.
These autumnal signs mean harvest time in the vineyard too. From September through October, New Hampshire vignerons watch their vines for the perfect time to harness fermentation already begun by the fruit itself. Some wineries also collect overflow fruit from local orchards or forage wild heirlooms to craft hard ciders, co-ferments, and spirits.
What an exciting season to visit New Hampshire’s wine regions and meet the people behind its harvests. If you’d like to add “pick-your-own” wines (and ciders and spirits) to your fall traditions, enjoy the following spotlight on 4 of our 16 member wineries and what they have to share with you this autumn, including suggestions for nearby events and attractions.
Alpine Garden Winery, in Bartlett, NH, is our newest member winery, run by wine and wild-fermenter Ryan Classen and vineyard-pest-vigilante Jamie Robinson. Their tasting room is located on the grounds of Alpine Garden Glamping, a boutique destination where you can enjoy yourself for the day or a stay in the Mt. Washington Valley.
After starting their first vines in 2009, Ryan and Jamie opened their winery in 2021. As of today, they have planted 2500 vines, curating them with the experience Ryan gained from years of viticultural work in Australia and New Zealand. Dedicated to holistic, low-intervention regionality, they grow natural wines (“nothing added – nothing taken away”) and forage heirloom apples to feature fine ciders and co-ferments in the Pétillant Naturel style, a subcategory of natural wines.
Ryan is drawn to pét-nats for their artisanal roots: “This is how people enjoyed bubbles before aristocrats developed Champagne.” Unlike traditional sparkling wines, pét-nats are bottled during their first rather than after a second induced fermentation. The fizzy results range from gently dry to delicately sweet and are often softly clouded with the yeast a fruit makes of its terroir.
Not far from the winery, Ryan and Jamie’s vineyard nestles amidst remnants of apple orchards that won awards in the mid-1800s but that succumbed to neglect during prohibition. Ryan marvels at the feral fruit he and Jamie find on these historic trees, which they forage only biannually until they can find the right orchard to graft and plant them: “The most compelling flavors I’ve ever witnessed in apples are of wild trees growing on the edge of a forest. On one of these old farms, somewhere behind an old barn or broken down farm truck, is an apple tree holding the future of New Hampshire cider.”
This spirit of discovery also guides Ryan’s co-fermenting, which has yet to produce the same thing twice: “Sometimes I take the skins of a wine, press and toss them into a tank of cider for a few weeks and repress.” Other times he ferments wine and cider fifty-fifty or sparkles a wine with ice cider, made from cured, frozen apples. “I’m enamored with the possibilities of making these apple-grape natty wines that make people rethink their understanding of wines.”
This September, Ryan and Jamie will pop open their newest Pét Nat Cider – cold, dry, and bubbly, with notes of tropical fruit from its ice cider blend.
They will also release two New Hampshire grown red wines from 2022 that were foot-stomped and spontaneously fermented. And on Mondays and Saturdays through October, they host live music.
So plan a trip to pick-your-own pét-nat this fall! When you do, consider these nearby attractions.
Just 5 minutes from the winery, September 22-24, The White Mountains Fat Tire Festival hosts camping, mountain biking, live music, and more. The winery also makes the perfect start or finish to a foliage drive on the renowned Kancamagus Scenic Byway, which marks one of its ends on Bear Notch Road, just around the corner from the tasting room. And look for Alpine Garden Winery in Return of the Pumpkin People, when businesses across Mt. Washington Valley display creative pumpkin people through October. Grab a pumpkin people map today!
Black Bear Vineyard, in Salisbury, NH, is one of the state’s largest wineries, set on 18
panoramic acres where owners Ted, Kelly, Nick, and Matt Jarvis follow the motto, “Wine is a Journey”.
They look forward to harvest season as the perfect chance to bring visitors into the vineyard for tours and tastings, so much so that they created their annual Harvestfest, now in its 3rd year, taking place over the weekend of September 30-October 1.
Nick Jarvis, co-owner and caretaker of the vineyard with his father Ted and brother Matt, proudly describes the scope of the event: “It’s a celebration of the harvest where we showcase the process that brings that beautiful glass from vine to wine. Guests can even try juice before it transitions into the wine-making phase.”
Along with its hands-on offerings, Harvestfest features live music, including dueling pianos, a food truck, and a pop up NHMade and artisan vendor booth section. This year, fifty percent of ticket sales will be donated to an individual expanding or continuing their professional goals in the agriculture, business, or service industry. Buying your ticket supports a good cause!
Harvestfest is the perfect time to pick-your-own bottle of Black Bear Vineyard wines, including their Amante De Chocolate. The raspberry chocolate infused red wine makes a great ending to any meal, including Thanksgiving.
If you have to miss Harvestfest this year, why not pair a visit to Black Bear with the Warner Fall Foliage Festival, taking place October 6-8, just 25 minutes from the vineyard. Also just 25 minutes away from the vineyard, Winslow State Park is a great spot for a picnic or for hiking its one-mile trail to the summit of Mt. Kearsarge.
SPOOKIEST NAME GOES TO...
Haunting Whisper Vineyard & Spirits, in Danbury, NH, has the perfect name and setting for autumn’s spooky side. Spanning 75 acres, it overlooks a pond and mountains that echo coyote and fox calls through the year’s fog and howling winds. With an old cemetery across the way, the mystique is complete.
Winemaker Erin Wiswall and Managing Director Eric Wiswall may not tinker with Dr.
Frankenstein’s monster, but they certainly conjure creations worth writing about. They offer fruit forward, approachable red, white, and fruit wines finished dry, semi-dry, or sweet, along with neutral, barrel-aged, and flavored rum, whiskey, and brandy.
Leading their work is Erin’s PhD in BioChemistry and certification in Enology & Viticulture from UC Davis. Eric’s engineering background lends supportive troubleshooting for the complexities of individual harvests, which Erin explains are exciting to navigate each year: “Northern grapes tend to have a lot of acidity, so we apply our skills to reduce this while bringing forward the fruitiness and deep color from these varietals. It is a new experiment that we start in the spring and carry out for a year or more until the wine is done and enjoyed by our customers.”
As their sole employees, Erin and Eric offer their customers affordable quality by virtue of sustainability-minded work ethic: “We spend a lot of time from before bud break until harvest ensuring we maintain a clean vineyard. We prune and leaf pluck to allow the sun to help ripen the grapes. We employ IPM techniques to limit our use of pesticides while keeping pests (damaging insects, molds/fungi, and bacteria) out of the vineyard.”
To keep themselves fermenting year-round with something for everyone, Erin and Eric crossed into the spirit world – of distilling – with their well-honed fermentation skills: “This allows us to get high alcohol content into the still without any off flavors or aromas.”
The science and engineering behind the distilling process is something they truly enjoy: “It is amazing to see how the flavors and aromas change over the aging process and how different barrels affect the product.”
To help you pick-your-own Haunting Whisper this fall, Erin suggests trading lighter wines for “something a bit more deep, dark, and hearty,” like their Carmenere and Pinot Noir. For a special finish to your autumn table, try their Apple or Cranberry fruit wines or any of their many spirits, which make the perfect addition to your aperitif or digestif.
While visiting Haunting Whisper, consider checking out the Warner Fall Foliage Festival, running October 6-8, just 30 minutes away. An even closer 10 minutes away, on October 7, you can get your annual fill of allicin, alliteration, soups and more at Grafton’s Gargantuan Garlic Gathering.
RHYTHM OF CIDER SEASON
Seven Birches Winery, in Lincoln, NH, sits at the base of Loon Mountain’s south peak, makingB its central tasting room, located inside the RiverWalk resort, a perfect place to visit during the mountain’s fall festivities.
September through November, the winery features their cider season, when they craft hard cider (they call it, simply, ‘cider’) from local New Hampshire apples.
These award-winning ferments, sold under the brand Rhythm Cider, are available in the Rhythm Studio, the winery’s laid back, purpose-built cider tasting room, which is attached to their quaint Atrium Wine Bar, located in the Lincoln Village Shops. With three tasting rooms so close together, visit them all this autumn!
When you pick-your-own Seven Birches wine or cider, take the chance to “Get your Scot on” at the mountain’s NH Highland Games & Festival, September 15-17. Next up, October 7-9, the White Mountain Oktoberfest features an Oompah band, keg toss, kids fun, and more.
Whether your autumn wine travels through New Hampshire include one or many stops, be sure to view our complete list of member wineries where you can visit each of their websites and also learn more about New Hampshire’s wine regions, from mountains to ocean, including seasonal attractions and accommodations throughout them all.