Jewell Towne Winery, New Hampshire
Southern New Hampshire is a perfect area for driving around and enjoying the fall foliage. This idyllic area is also the location of Jewell Towne Vineyards. The fine wines at Jewell Towne are created by winemaker Peter Oldack and vineyard manager Derek Brock. Both gentlemen were on hand during a recent visit to pour the wines, talk about the grapes and enjoy a fine autumn day.
The winery straddles the line between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and is located near the coastal attractions of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine. The winery itself is a new, country building with plenty of wine charms, picnic supplies and other fun items to supply gifts for those back at home. As lovely as the shop is, it's the wine of course that attracts a steady stream of visitors to this winery.
We began with the whites. The Aurore was light, with flavors of citrus, nectarine and pear. Peter commented that they grow all of the grapes here at Jewell Towne, with the exception of the Merlot which is grown out on Long Island. The Chardonnay is done in a German style, with stainless steel. This allows the true flavor of the grape to shine through instead of the flavor of the oak. It was very fresh and fruity.
Next, the Cayuga. Peter told us that this was one of their most popular wines this year, adding, "Cornell has this nasty habit of naming all of their grapes after New York geographical formations." Hopefully most wine drinkers will get past the strange name and try this delicious grape! It has a nice melon, tropical flavor. We asked if wine drinkers seemed adverse to trying unusual wines. Peter replied, "A lot of our sales are repeat sales. We're educating them about the types of French Hybrids."
The Jewell Towne Riesling is also made in a German style, with great apricot and tangerine flavors. Its clean, spicy flavor makes it very food friendly.
Jewell Town's flagship white is their 2001 Seyval. This does very well, with flavors of peach and pear. It's made from 50% New Hampshire and 50% Massachusetts grapes. This combination results from their interesting vineyard placement! Unfortunately the cross-state vineyard causes labelling confusion. Peter is hoping for a "Coastal Merrimack Valley" designation so that all wines from the winery can simply say they're from that region, regardless of which side of the state line a particular vine is on.
On to the reds! The Alden is also half New Hampshire, half Massachusetts. It has a nice nose of roses, and is a fresh summer wine. The Chambourcin is richer, with wild cherry and black raspberry flavors.
The Merlot is Jason's Vineyard, from Long Island. Peter mentioned that this has "a hint of clove, spice and black pepper, almost like a Shiraz." We definitely found it tasty. The 2001 Marechal Foch Private Reserve was fuller bodied, with cherry and red fruit flavors. The non vintage was more of a Beaujolais style, rich and full.
They only create 140 bottles of ice wine each year, so it's not available for tasting. Peter explained that they harvest after a frost hits, and store the grapes frozen until they are able to process them. It takes a long time to press frozen grapes, so they need to have time set aside to do this.
They harvest the frozen grapes in October, and press them in November. They separate the grapes with rice hulls and take them right from the freezer to a basket press. The grapes start at 40 BRIX (a measure of sugar content, VERY high) and end up at an average of 36 BRIX when they finish. Last year was a marvelous year for ice wine - the grapes came off the vine at 21 BRIX. We took two bottles of ice wine home with us. The one we've opened so far was rich and delicious as an after dinner sipper.
Most of the wines at Jewell Towne are released in May. They often sell out by the following spring, so fall is a great time to visit. "They're meant to be drunk early," says Peter. "We make them fruit forward." With their fruity flavors, these are great wines to buy now and drink without any aging time required. This makes Jewell Towne a perfect place to stop during your foliage and holiday drives. I know that we'll be back for more ice wine!
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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.