Thursday, June 6, 2013

Stone Gate Vineyard's Last Season: Go Visit Now!

Wine Barrel Tasting event last fall 

Stone Gate Vineyard in Gilford, one of my favorite New Hampshire wineries, opened recently during the Memorial Day weekend. Though this was great news, they also announced that this was going to be their last season. So with this news, I am encouraging everyone to visit. If you haven’t been there yet, go. And if you have already visited, go back and enjoy the great wine, atmosphere and hospitality.
Stone Gate Vineyard is owned and operated by Peter and Jane Ellis. I met them a few years ago while I was a waitress at an Italian restaurant in the area. I happened to notice Peter’s Stone Gate shirt and we struck up a conversation about the winery. I promised to visit and a year later I finally fulfilled my promise. I have to admit I am somewhat partial to this winery because it was the first one I visited in New Hampshire, and Peter and Jane really helped develop my love of wine. 

This winery is so welcoming and isn’t intimidating for anyone who knows nothing about wine. I have always felt like a member of the Ellis family while visiting and have enjoyed sharing their wines with my friends and family. I have also had the pleasure of meeting their daughter and her children at the winery – it’s a family vineyard.

Peter and Jane had been making their own wine as a hobby for a few years before they opened the winery. They had spent some time in California in wine country during one of Peter’s business trips, and learned even more about wineries. Eventually, their hobby evolved into a business. Their on-site vineyard is currently filled with cold weather grapes that are hardy enough to survive New England winters. They were told they couldn’t grow grapes in New England, but like many other New Hampshire wineries, they have really proved that statement wrong.

When I visited during opening weekend, there were nine wines available for tasting at Stone Gate Vineyard. I can honestly say I like them all, and have really enjoyed watching their wines develop and change over the years. Since Peter doesn’t personally like any sweet wines, his wines tend to be on the drier, semi-sweet scale, which many wine drinkers will enjoy. It is important to note, however, that many visitors may not know most of the wines right away, but give them a taste and let Peter and Jane guide you through what you may or may not like.

One of my favorite Stone Gate wines is Cayuga, a hybrid grape developed at Cornell University in New York. This wine is described as off dry with a floral nose and is very smooth. It has been compared to a Riesling, but I find it has its own unique qualities. Many white wine drinkers will enjoy this wine well chilled. 

Steuben is another New York hybrid grape available for tasting. This wine is semi-sweet, light and fruity. On the nose, it reminds me of the Niagara grape but has different fruit flavors on the palate.

My favorite Stone Gate wine is definitely their Riesling. This semi-sweet wine celebrates the best of the delicate grape’s characteristics, without being too manipulated, according to Jane. She said they like to let it be and the result is so nice. I recommend purchasing a few bottles of this wine if you like it because it consistently sells out and quantity is limited.

The Apple wine is made with three different kinds of apples from a local orchard down the street. This might be my second favorite wine at Stone Gate. It has a lovely apple aroma that reminds me of apple juice. On the palate, it is very smooth and pleasant with just the right amount of acid. 

The Steuben is a semi-sweet, light and fruity wine with a Concord grape nose. Many white wine drinkers will enjoy this one as well. 

One of the most unique wines at Stone Gate is the Winnipesaukee White, a semi-sweet wine made from Niagara grapes, the cousin to the Concord grape. This wine smells and tastes very much like adult grape juice. It’s very different from most wines you may have tasted before.

Three red wines are currently available at Stone Gate, including their only blend, Winnipesaukee Red, from Rougeon and DeChaunac grapes, a Frontenac, Marechal Foch and a Cabernet made from California grapes. I noted a raspberry nose on the Winnipesaukee Red. It is very pleasant with a smooth finish. The Frontenac is slightly drier but still fruity, with berry flavors.  The Foch is full-bodied with cherry and earthy notes, with a slight effervescence to it that is noticeable on the finish. 

The 2010 Cabernet is made from grapes that were hand-picked in California. This wine is full-bodied, smooth and aging very well in the bottle, Peter noted.

Though I have been to Stone Gate numerous times since my very first visit, I never get tired of trying their wines and helping others discover it as well. To say I am going to miss them is an understatement. 

Stone Gate Vineyard is located at 27 David Lewis Road in Gilford. The tasting room is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. 

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