Pulling the Cork on a New Winery

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courtesy The Union Leader

November 30, 2011
by Jim Beauregard

Thursday, Nov. 17, was an important day in New Hampshire wine history.  In case you didn’t make it to the event, a groundbreaking was held for the new LaBelle Winery along Route 101 in Amherst, at the old Bragdon Farm.

It was an overcast day, but the spirits of those present were high.  Amy LaBelle and her husband, Cesar Arboleda, named the event “The Uncorking of the Land.” There was, of course, wine on hand, including LaBelle’s new “Americus” which you’ve heard about here before, and which is getting better and better.

Amy and Cesar founded LaBelle Winery in a small barn behind their home atop a hill in Amherst and sent forth their first wine in the autumn of 2005.

In their first year of operation, LaBelle Winery produced 400 cases of wine.  Today, in that same very overcrowded space, they produce more than 6,000 cases (that’s over 72,000 bottles), and they are faced with the constant problem of running out.

The new winery, which is now officially under construction, will quadruple the number of cases produced so we won’t have to be faced with shelves empty of the wines we seek.

There will also be an expanded tasting room (their monthly tasting events have been selling out for years now) and an event center that will seat up to 200 people for things like weddings, business meetings and celebrations of every kind.

Amy and Cesar will also be offering five-course wine dinners, special Guest Chef events throughout the year, cooking and winemaking classes, and concerts too.

And to think, this all grew from a single container of blueberry wine in Amy’s apartment in Boston a decade or so ago.  If all goes as planned, the grand opening will be late next summer.

It was an all-around happy event, with people present from every aspect of the winery’s planning and construction – Amy and Cesar, of course, family and friends, fans of LaBelle wines, and those involved in the financing, design and construction of the winery, representatives of LaBelle’s newest associates, Fireside Catering (the pairings were excellent, by the way).

And if you are standing at the top of the hill, you can look west and spot a small camera at the bottom of the hill that will be taking pictures several times an hour throughout the winery’s construction – very cool.  The photos will be posted regularly on the winery’s website, which launched a new edition the day of the groundbreaking.  Check it out at labellewinerynh.com.

Amid the speeches that marked the event I was most struck by one of Amy’s comments – she looked at her parents, and with reference to the new winery, said, “We’ll make you proud.”  I have the very strongest of suspicions that they already are.