AMHERST, NH – LaBelle Winery is bringing New Hampshire winemaking into the twenty-first century with the introduction of a state-of-the-art filtration system into their vintning process.
Vintner and viticulturist Amy LaBelle, who owns the winery with her husband, Cesar, says the filtration system that was installed October of last year has already had a sizable impact on their business. LaBelle Winery produces 30 different wines, from bold, dry reds and oak-aged medium-bodied whites to rich ports and sparkling wines. All are made from regionally sourced fruits, including grapes harvested from 2,000 vines on the property’s sunny slopes.
“This filtration technology, while it’s been used in world-class wineries for a while, is new to the East Coast, and it’s virtually unheard of in a small winery,” LaBelle explains. “At $72,000, it’s a major expense for a business our size, but knowing the difference it would make in our winemaking process, I knew it was an investment we should make.”
Stepping onto the cellar floor, LaBelle points out the freestanding KMS WineFilter, which is dwarfed by the towering stainless steel fermentation tanks that line the sides and center of the spotlessly clean room.
The new filter doesn’t just impact the clarity of the wine. It enables LaBelle to produce higher yields with less handling of the wine. LaBelle continues, “In our previous filtration process, the wine went through multiple filters of different sizes, which wasn’t optimum for wine, since each time the wine was filtered, it was exposed to air. That isn’t great for the wine. With this new system, we filter once rather than four or five times. It’s gentler on the wine. I’ve noticed a quality uptick, and the process has added an interesting note to the mouthfeel of our wines. The filtration takes out what it should and leaves what it should.”
With the single filtration system has come a significant change in the winery’s process schedule. “Since we’re moving the wine less, everything is streamlined,” LaBelle adds. “Less labor is needed, freeing staff for other parts of the business and the winemaking process. In terms of sustainability, which is central to how we do business, this system is so much kinder to the environment. Instead of the throwing away multiple filters each time, we’ll only need to replace the new filters every five to ten years since they’re washable and durable.”
LaBelle says she feels privileged to be able to make wine with the same equipment that many of the world’s preeminent wineries use. “We want to elevate winemaking in New Hampshire and New England so people will take New England wines seriously-even though we encourage people not to take wine too seriously! Sourcing all our fruit from the region, using only natural products in fining our wine, producing the wine in a cellar that is steam-cleaned daily seven days a week so it is spotless, and now adding this new filter – all contributes to the quality of the wine we produce.”
LaBelle credits Enterprise Bank of Lowell, Massachusetts, with supplying financing for half of the equipment cost. “They enabled us to also purchase the steam generator we use to clean the fermentation tanks. As a result, we use 200 gallons less of water each week, making our business practices that much better for the environment.”
LaBelle, who has been making wine for over a decade, moved her business to its present site on eleven acres of farmland in Amherst, New Hampshire, in 2012. Surrounded by acres of vines cared for by hand, the new 20,000 square-foot facility includes a bustling bistro, a retail shop featuring LaBelle wines and housemade Winemaker’s Kitchen jams, spice blends and other products, a 4,500 square-foot great room used for events, an art gallery, vintage room and winery.
LaBelle Winery is located at 345 Route 101 in Amherst, New Hampshire 03031. 2016 winter hours (January-March) are 11-3pm Monday and Tuesday, 11am-9pm Wednesday-Saturday, and 11-5pm on Sunday. Guided tours are offered from noon to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Call (603) 672-9898 or visit LaBelleWineryNH.com.