LaBelle Winery ferments success

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courtesy The Union Leader

November 29, 2011
by Kimberly Houghton

LaBelle Winery expects to quadruple its capacity for wine making with the opening of a brand new facility — complete with a ballroom — on Route 101 next summer.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new winery took place earlier this month, with supporters anticipating a surge in sales once the manufacturing space, retail store and event center opens its doors.

“We have been very limited in our wine making at our current location in Amherst.

We even had to hold back on requests last year,” said Danielle Mojonnier, director of marketing and events for LaBelle Winery. “We have continued to see growth and demand consistently over the last five years. We are packed to the gills right now.”

Owned by Amy LaBelle and her husband, Cesar Arboleda, LaBelle Winery opened in 2005 with the production of about 400 cases of its flagship apple wine within the first year. Now the winery produces more than 6,000 cases of 22 wine varieties annually. It is currently sold in more than 200 stores across New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

LaBelle Winery will relocate early next summer from its existing facility on Chestnut Hill to its new location now under construction on Route 101 on top of the Bragdon Farm hillside, surrounded by vineyards. A grand opening is tentatively planned for late summer 2012.

The estimated $4.3 million winery will be about 20,000 square feet, including a 5,000 square-foot elegant event center, manufacturing space, retail and tasting room, barrel room, two terraces, a private function space and threeacres of vineyard vines.

“We think we will be in a unique position with this new facility. It is designed to be a very contemporary, unique and upscale building with elaborate landscaping,” said Mojonnier.

The new winery’s event space will seat approximately 200 people for banquet events such as weddings, meetings and celebrations, according to Mojonnier, who said it will also be used to host five-course wine-pairing dinners, guest chef events, art exhibits, a music series and cooking and wine-making classes.

Despite the challenging economy, Mojonnier said New Englanders have continued to welcome LaBelle wine into their homes.

“We feel so blessed to be successful in these challenging times,” echoed LaBelle.

“We are thrilled that our new winery will bring new jobs and tourism to the Amherst area so that others may be successful, too.”

Mojonnier, who said the most popular wine they produce is cranberry wine, hopes the new facility will reflect the unique and delicious beverages being produced locally by LaBelle Winery, which now does all of its own bottling and labeling by hand.

In its current location, LaBelle Winery can ferment up to 14,000 gallons of wine each year. The new facility, however, will allow for up to 60,000 gallons per year, and a new bottling line to expedite bottling of the larger volumes, according to Mojonnier.

In addition, an undecided amount of new workers will be hired once the expanded facility opens. The winery currently employs four fulltime, two part-time and two seasonal workers.

The official groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 17 featured an oversized LaBelle wine cork that was pulled out of the ground using an enormous 4-foot tall corkscrew, which LaBelle called “uncorking of the land.”

BMA Architectural Group has worked on the design. Fulcrum Associates will construct the facility, and Enterprise Bank is providing funding. Fireside Catering is joining the LaBelle team to serve as the exclusive caterer for the new winery.