Amherst winery takes home top prize in international competition

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Courtesy Nashua Telegraph
Sunday, May 6, 2012
By Danielle Curtis

AMHERST – LaBelle Winery took home a top prize from an international wine competition recently, earning a gold medal for its newest wine variety.

The award, handed out at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, was given to the winery’s Americus wine, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Noiret grapes that was first released in September 2011. The winery also won two bronze medals at the competition, for its Halcyon and Gewurztraminer wines.

Winemaker Amy LaBelle said Wednesday that while the winery enters many competitions each year, winning an award at the Finger Lakes competition in Rochester, N.Y., is a particularly big honor.

“It’s one of the more difficult competitions, so we’re really excited about the gold,” she said.

A team of 64 judges participated in the competition to pick winners from 3,198 wines, entered by wineries in 49 states and 22 other countries, including Canada, Australia, England, Germany, Israel and France.

LaBelle said the Americus wine is not just an award-winner, however; it also fulfills a personal goal for the winemaker of creating a bold red wine with New England grapes.

Creating such a wine is difficult to do with this region’s grapes, she said, and creating the wine took a lot of trial and error. She finally settled on a 50-50 blend of two types of grapes to create a savory red with hints of spiciness.

“This blend worked out beautifully for me,” LaBelle said. “Now I can truly say that our portfolio is complete.”

And just in time, LaBelle said – the winery is opening a new event facility in September.

The center, which will be able to accomodate seated dinners for 250 people or up to 350 standing guests, will be available for weddings and other special events.

LaBelle said the winery also plans on hosting wine dinners and other events, like movie nights in the vineyard, once the event center is completed.