Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards, Richmond, MA

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While out in Western Mass with our friend Bre, we visited Furnace Brook Winery, which is located at the Hilltop Orchard in Richmond, MA. This was actually a place Bre found and wanted to go to because they make their own cider as well as wine.

You can sample any 1 wine for free, or 5 wines for $5, so we all tried some different ones.

White Wines

Pinot Grigio – A crisp, golden white wine, slightly dry.

Riesling – Mark and Megan both liked this. Fruity but not too sweet, nice flavorful balance. We both skipped the Dry Riesling for this one.

Mead – A light, sweet mead with a very strong honey flavor. Honey sourced locally from Westfield, MA.

 

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 Red Wines

Shiraz Special Reserve – Peppery with hints of berry, dry but not overly dry.

Ruby Port – Mark really liked this, very tasty. Bre and Megan both thought it was sweet. It is wine, fortified with Brandy.

 

Sparkling

Blanc de Blancs – Bre tried this, slightly fruity, easy drinking.

Muscato – Very sweet, crisp, a bubbly muscato, Bre and Megan really liked this, we bought a bottle for Mark’s sister Michelle.

 

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Ciders

Johnny Mash Dry Gold – A very dry, but refreshingly clean cider. Made simple on purpose, goes well with anything, for day drinking we were told. Did we give off that vibe?

 

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Cidre Special Reserve – Light and a little sweeter than the Dry Gold, still dry. The apples were fermented whole, with the skins on, in stainless steel tanks, then aged in French Oak barrels.

 

Johnny Mash Hard Cider – Light, slightly sweet, minor oak notes, aged in American Oak, good cider, 6%.

 

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Ice Wine

Berkshire Winter Harvest Ice Wine – Sweet, tasty, a complex cider ice wine. They grind the apples and make juice (cider) they freeze the juice, then remove the nectar and ferment that. It takes about 45 apples per bottle.

 

Hilltop Orchards is one of the largest cider mills in New England. They make cider for lots of other places. They are proud to grow, pick, grind and mash, as well as ferment all their cider onsite.

 

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There are miles of trails on the farm, and they rent snow shoes and cross country ski’s. They get a lot of traffic during the winter, people coming to use the trails and then sample some wine or cider. There was not enough snow when we were there to take advantage of that. Maybe some day… we would definitely visit again if we are in the area.

 

They also use and integrated pest management system, IPM. This means they plan when to spray based on rain, wind, etc, they use the weather to their advantage to keep the apples and grapes and fresh and clean as possible.

 

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Of course we got some Cider Donuts before we left as well.

 

Hours

9:00 – 5:00 Daily, year round

 

 

 

 

 

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Sap House Meadery, Center Ossipee, NH

image (10)Mark and I recently went to the Sap House Meadery, located in Center Ossipee, New Hampshire. There, we were greeted by Matt, one of the owners. We had a nice tasting, followed by a tour of their production room.photo (1) image (1)

Our tasting:

Sugar Maple: 13.8% ABV. Not too sweet, good balance. Both Mark and I were pleasantly surprised by the level of sweetness.

Peach Maple: 14.6% ABV A little drier than the Sugar Maple. This mead was also aged in American Oak for 8 months, which adds a little bit of complexity image

Hopped Blueberry Maple: 14.6% ABV. Were told that this was the mead for the beer drinker. The hops added a nice flavor to the mead, and no one flavor pushed around the other. Honey,  blueberry with a touch of maple with hops to balance.

Vanilla Bean: 18% ABV. This is the only one that I wasn’t a huge fan of. It was still very good, and Mark enjoyed it. They use the baking bean, Indian, instead of Madagascar

Ossipioja: 14.2% ABV. The wine drinkers mead. They use Spanish grape juice, made from Tempranillo grapes, with honey. This was good and different!

After we finished the traditional tasting, and we were talking about different places we like to go, what we like to drink, etc, we tried the Sugar Maple again- this time after it had been aged in an American Oak Cask. This was very good, and added a slight whiskey flavor to it. The meadery sells small casks for people to age their mead at home. They also have their casks at a few different establishments and noted that the flavor changes as it ages. You could go one week and the next and have something that tastes very different.

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The Sap House Meadery produces small batch, hand crafted meads. A mead is basically a wine made from honey. The Sap House Meadery opened in 2010, by Ash Fischbein and Matt Trahan, both from Center Ossipee. They chose Center Ossipee because they are familiar with the area, and know where to go for local products. They also chose Center Ossipee in hopes of helping the downtown area grow.

One of the very cool things about Sap House Meadery is that they use New Hampshire Maple syrup in a lot of their meads. They focus on using local ingredients in all of their meads, and make mead in the traditional way. When they heat the mead, they do not heat it over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in order to maintain the delicate flavors. Other mead producers do boil their mead, as it the stabilization process go faster. Sap House Meadery takes between 6 months and a year to produce a batch, as they would prefer it to be a better quality and self stabilize.

When you visit, you are able to tour their facility. At this time, they are operating in one large room, with fermenting tanks lined up all around. During our tour, we were told about the process of making mead- mix honey, water, flavors (fruit, etc) and yeast together. The type of yeast varies depending on what you want the final product to be; Champagne yeast for the vanilla mead, German yeast for blueberry and yeast made from the grapes they use for their Ossipioja mead. The cooler you can bring the mead down to ferment, the smoother the mead becomes. After the mead ferments for 8-10 weeks, you can drink it but it is harsh. Time is necessary for the flavor to fully develop. During the fermentation process, fresh ingredients are added to make the flavor layered. image (9)  image (8)  image (7)

Everything at the meadery is done by hand. The mead is bottled by hand, labeled by hand and then dipped in beeswax by hand. They were initially going to use a foil top, but, if they were to have one without grapes on it, they would have needed to order half a million! Wax creates a nice touch. The color of the wax depends on the color of the mead and the label.

Their busy time of year fluctuates, depending on where they are distributing to and what traffic is like there. During the summer, they are busy due to people traffic in New Hampshire. At this time of year, they are busy in part because of gifts, and part because of distribution to areas like Virginia and Washington, DC where this time of year is popular for travel.

Looking to visit? They are open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5.

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Oh, and by the way… they are award winners as well:

Sugar Maple:

BRONZE medal, 2011 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
BRONZE medal, 2012 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

 Blueberry:

GOLD medal, 2012 Mazer Cup International Mead Competition
SILVER medal, 2012 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

 Vanilla Bean:

GOLD medal, 2012 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
BRONZE medal, 2012 Florida State Fair International Wine Competition

Ossipioja:

GOLD medal, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

Chocolate:

SILVER medal, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

Cranberry Sage:

SILVER medal, 2012 Mazer Cup International Mead Competition
BRONZE medal, 2012 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

image (12)Megan & Mark, after having a good time at the Sap House Meadery

Our first meadery- Moonlight Meadery

ImageYesterday (in April 2013) we went to our first Meadery. Mead is wine made from honey. It is the oldest fermented beverage, and believed to have been made accidentally at first, due to hunting and gathering. Mead is made from a combination of honey, water and yeast.

We went to Moonlight Meadery, located in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Their motto is “Romance by the glass,” and they name each of their meads accordingly.

Upon entering, we were immediately greeted. It is always a good feeling when you are recognized upon entering a building, especially at any type of winery/brewery, etc since they are all run slightly different. So, we were greeted immediately and let them know that we had a livingsocial deal. Our deal included a tour, tasting, 2 wine glasses and $10 off a purchase.

Tours start every half hour, and you should plan on being there for about an hour. We tried  a couple of meads (see descriptions) prior to the tour, and our tour started promptly at 5:00. We were the only people on the tour, but both the tours before and after us had a lot more (one following had 10 people). The tour was very informative, and lasted about a half hour. It did not feel lengthy, and had a laid back feeling to the tour. The tour had a story telling, hanging out with your friends, talking about a passion, feel to it. The meadery makes their products completely from beginning to end (minus making the honey themselves). Image

Fermentation tanks

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Fermentation tanks

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Bottling station, complete with cork machine & label “machine”

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These barrels are whiskey barrels, used by Sam Adams Brewing Company for their Utopian beer (between $100-$200 depending on the year). Moonlight Meadery uses them once Sam Adams is done, for their Utopian Mead.

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The tasting area

The meadery has about 56 different meads, with about 35 able to taste on a daily basis. Depending on which tour package you purchase, you are able to try between 4-8 meads. You can also purchase a keepsake glass, which would allow you to try either 4 or 6 meads.

The only downfall to the expansive amount of mead they have available, is that we are new to mead, so we weren’t sure what to try. I had tried 1 or 2 meads at a beer tasting last year, but had no idea where to start. The man who was running the show was also the second brewer/mead maker, so he knew what he was talking about and was able to give us great recommendations.

Notes from what Mark & I tried (descriptions from meadery are in italics)

Deviant: Uniquely refreshing, sweet, smooth blend of honey, apple and ginger please from aroma to lingering finish. Deviant had a really good balance of honey, apple and giner with no flavor outshining the others

Desire: Our Flagship: Enticing, complex blend of blueberries, black cherries and black currants balanced with basic elements of mead; honey, water and yeast. Desire was one of the first that Mark tried

Kurt’s Apple Pie: One of the biggest selling meads made from local apple cider with Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon spice added. Get your piece of pie. This was delicious! Kurt’s Apple Pie was one of the first that I tried, and I wanted more. I left having bought a bottle. They sell Kurt’s Apple Pie 2x the amount of any other mead.

Sumptuous: Made from honey and mangos, sweet, smooth, wonderful complexity between the flavors and the long lasting finish, with a light body. The mangos were not huge on the flavor front, but balanced with the honey well and made a good combination.

Breathless: Intense, gripping cinnamon candy sweet dessert wine. This decadent spicy candy like mead is very similar to a popular cinnamon candy. WOW! Was this cinnamon! Breathless had a very intense cinnamon flavor, maybe too much for me, but could be great if added to vanilla ice cream.

Utopian: We aged and fermented this mead in hand-selected, Samuel Adams Utopias casks from the award-winning Boston Beer Company. This flavorful, slightly fruity mead has a sweet, complex flavor that is reminiscent of a deep, rich vintage port, fine cognac or aged sherry. The Utopian had a sweet, bourbon flavor. The flavor seemed to be “thick,” as Mark described it. This was the second mead we tried. The Utopian is $50 for bottle of #4, or $100 for a bottle of #5 or #6. We tried #6.

Je t’aime: Created for the owner’s wedding this past August. It was a sparkling mead, and the first one that we tried.

Stiletto: Provocative statement of slick and sexy, blend of bold black currant with lighter tones of honey and apple sweetness. A good, summer mead with a slight tang to it. I enjoyed this one a lot, and left with a bottle of it.

Serenity: made with apricot tea (I believe a rooibos tea). Reminded me of the kombucha we had tried at the Urban Farm Fermentory.

Admiration: not many notes on this one, besides “YUM!”

Kisses: As delicate as a kiss, this honey strawberry wine is sweet.  The strawberry is ever so lightly represented against the floral flavors from the honey. Light on the strawberry flavor, which brings out the honey flavor. Was very good. Told that when it is cold, it truly “crisps up.”

Mischief: As in the conduct or activity that playfully causes petty annoyance.  These Black Raspberries are deep in flavor and only enhanced by the honey notes, this wine will continue to age and mature over time. Mark and I both tried this one, and enjoyed it. If we were buying three bottles, this would have been the third.

Seduction: Fermented with natural Chocolate Madagascar-Bourbon Vanilla and Sumatra coffee.  Dessert sweet honey notes, balanced by the bitterness from the coffee and oh so smooth vanilla in the background. At first sip, the chocolate and coffee weren’t very foward flavors, but wow! strong finish. Really liked this one at the last sip. Would be great with a small dish of vanilla ice cream.

Frisky: Are you inclined to frisk?  Enjoy a little “Joie de vivre” with this rollicking honey blueberry maple wine.  Light, playful and every so tasty.  Think Wild with a frisky touch of maple syrup.  Our newest release, available at the meadery, is aged in our Utopian barrels, and we added a touch more maple. After hearing about this one while on the tour, I told Mark he needed to try it- right up his alley. Mark said it was bourbon like, with blueberries & honey.

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Us, after trying some delicious mead!

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We overheard another group being told that if they bring their glasses back, they can have another tasting- for free.

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Close up of the glass

We would definitely recommend Moonlight Meadery. Mead is different than wine or beer, and is a different taste overall.

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Moonlight Meadery is open for Tasting, Tours and Sales daily, starting at 11:00am.

Hours

Monday – Tuesday 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Wednesday – Saturday 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 – 5:00 PM

*Tours happen as needed on weekdays, and every half hour on weekends.  No reservations needed.    We offer several different tour and tasting packages.

Romance by the glass…  Tasting glassware

     Small glassware

  • Taste up to 4 meads with keepsake glass    $5

     Large glassware

  • Taste up to 6 meads with keepsake glass    $8

     Tour & Tasting… $15 per person

  • Deluxe Tour
  • Large keepsake glass, with taste up to 6 meads.
  • $5 off purchase of 2 or more bottles.

     Romance Package… $50 per couple

  • Deluxe Tour
  • 2 large keepsake glasses, with taste up to 8 meads per person.
  • Cheese & Crackers
  • $10 off purchase of 2 or more bottles.

     Executive Room… (Pricing available on request.)

  • Private tasting room for up to 20 people.
  • Large keepsake glassware per person
  • Cheese & Crackers pairings
  • $10 off purchase of 2 or more bottles per person.
  • Meet the Mead Maker
  • Reservations Required

New Hampshire Breweries and Wineries MAP!

Mark and I went to Moonlight Meadery today, and before going I went online to consult my New Hampshire map to see what else was nearby… I didn’t have a New Hampshire map yet! Not sure how I overlooked it, but I did. Here it is! Once again, those on the map with dots on the markers we have been to. Breweries are blue, Wineries/Cider/Mead are purple.