Left to right, Ken Hardcastle, Chuck Lawrence, and Bob Manley
(Photos courtesy of Hermit Woods Winery)
MEREDITH — "What happens when you combine local ingredients - like berries, flowers and honey - with traditional winemaking techniques like fermentation until dry, then give them extended barrel aging? If you are the three partners in this venture, you have a hit on your hands..." writes the editor of Food & Wine Magazine.
Food & Wine has included Hermit Woods Winery on its list of Best 500 Wineries in America in its 2017 Wine Guide. Hermit Woods is the only winery in New Hampshire, one of only two in New England, and one of only 20 wineries in all of the Northeast – including New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey – to be included on this list.
Hermit Woods is on the list alongside some of the country's most prestigious wineries, including Napa Valley's Caymus Vineyards, who helped put California on the map in the early 70s; Harlan Estates; Opus One; Robert Mondavi; and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, famous for winning the "Judgement of Paris Tasting" in 1976 with their Cabernet Sauvignon. Also on the list are New York's well-known Bedell Cellars, Dr. Konstantin Frank Cellars, and Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, arguably one of the Northeast's most recognized brands.
But what is most notable about Hermit Woods Winery's inclusion on the list is the fact that it may be the only winery on the list not producing wine from grapes. Hermit Woods has developed its reputation for crafting classically styled, often barrel aged wines from the fruit that is native to New England.
Partner and Vintner Ken Hardcastle explains it this way, "Having developed a love for some of the world's finest wines from Burgundy and other classic wine regions of the world, we are exploring the depth and character that can be developed from our local fruits and the terroir that exists here in our part of the world. This is where we live, so we craft wine from the fruits that grow best here." Hardcastle's approach is a significant departure from the more common sweet fruit wine that the Northeast is better known for.
Hermit Woods first came to the attention of Food & Wine when its wine editor, Ray Isle, had a chance to sample the Hermit Woods Petite Blue Reserve, a wild blueberry wine crafted in the style of a Burgundy. Shortly thereafter, Isle asked Hermit Woods if it would mind if he shared its Petite Blue with Kathie Lee and Hoda on NBC's Today Show.
In the few short years, just six, since Hermit Woods was founded, many of the Hermit Woods wines have won medals at some of the East's most notable wine competitions, most recently taking home several medals, including a tie for "Best Mead," at "Drink Outside the Grape," a Virginia-based wine competition for fruit wine, cider and mead.
Bob Manley, one of Hermit Woods' three partners, said, "All of us here at Hermit Woods are so proud to be given this honor. We have worked very hard over the past six years to produce the finest quality wines that we can produce, the inclusion of our winery on this list validates all our hard work."
Manley wanted to thank the many Hermit Woods guests who have gone on this journey with them and contributed to getting the word out about the exciting things that Hermit Woods is doing here in Meredith. "Without them, we would not have achieved this milestone," he said.
Founded in 2011, Hermit Woods Winery is a small boutique winery producing fruit wine, meads, and ciders. "Our wines and ciders are local, as much as possible, vegan – except the honey wines, gluten free, raw and made from non-certified but mostly organic fruit. We always use whole fruit, never use heat, and always use gentle hand processing. Our wines, meads, and ciders are made with minimal to no chemical adjustments or additions and are styled after the classic dry European grape wines," explained Hardcastle. Hermit Woods sees more than 8,000 visitors at its tasting room every year, and its wines are available throughout New Hampshire and direct to consumer in 37 states.
Hermit Woods is located at 72 Main Street in Meredith. The winery is open seven days a week in the summer and fall and five days a week in the winter and spring. Wine tastings are offered during all open hours, while tours are available on weekends or by appointment. Visit www.hermitwoods.com to learn more.