LaBelle Winery’s open house almost a going-away event

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Sallu Doane and Ed Mace, of Salem, Mass., walk through where wine is made for a tour of the LaBelle Winery open house in Amherst on Saturday, June 30, 2012. Photo Credit: Lance Booth, Nashua Telegraph.
courtesy the Nashua Telegraph
Sunday, July 8, 2012

AMHERST – Amy LaBelle is glowing, and why not?

She is surrounded by smiling people sipping her wines under white tents and a gorgeous blue sky.

LaBelle Winery, the business she and her husband, Cesar Arboleda, started in Walpole seven years ago is taking off. Last Saturday, they held an open house at their Chestnut Hill Road winery, a place they will soon leave for a much larger facility being built on Route 101 in Amherst that will allow them to make more wine.

Currently under construction, the new building will have an event space for weddings, a retail and tasting room and two terraces.

Soon five 23-foot fermentation tanks will be installed at 361 Route 101,tanks they ordered from Italy, Amy said, because no U.S. company made anything that big.

The super-tall tanks will be in the basement level where the wine manufacturing will take place, but they will go through a hole in the floor to the tasting area so customers will have the pleasure of drinking wine close to where their 17 varieties are fermenting.

Among those wines are several award winners, including Americus, a red made from New England grapes, and Three Kings, a dessert wine made from blueberries, raspberries and French hybrid grapes.

“It’s a sensory experience,” said Amy, a former corporate attorney who left that career to pursue the earthy pleasures of wine making.

“Wine fermenting feels like heaven to me. That’s what makes a winery special. The fruit esters are alive, changing and growing. We are building a world-class winery, so the customer’s experience has to be exceptional,” she said.

For the past five years the winery has been behind their home on Chestnut Hill Road where they are raising two young boys.

Beginning in September, they will take the first steps to move intothe 20,000-square-foot building on the other side of Amherst’s Bragdon Farm sledding area.

LaBelle’s first wedding is scheduled for Oct. 6, so “it’s nail-bitter,” Amy said.

But already she sees the business growing. “I have phase two and three in mind. Why not a spa and an inn?” she says.

The event space will seat 200 people for weddings and other celebrations and for LaBelle’s wine-pairing dinners, cooking classes and other events.

They are hiring five new full-time employees adding them to the seven they already have.

“I love that the business supports our family and supports the community. It’s all good,” said Amy.

The couple met at Fidelity Investments where they worked before starting the winery in a Walpole orchard in 2005.

They married in the fall of 2006 and she promptly got pregnant, so they built the Amherst house and barn so her work would be close to home. Cesar left his career in information technology to work full time at the winery, where he manages the cellar operations, including the winery’s filtration and bottling programs, and the sales staff.

There will have one more open house on July 28, the last wine-tasting event at 100 Chestnut Hill Road.

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