Nestled in the beautiful Lakes Region not far from the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, Hermit Woods Winery is grabbing the attention of people across the nation by changing the way people think about fruit wine. Included in Food and Wine’s list of the 500 Best Wineries in America and having also won Favorite Craft Beverage in New Hampshire, it is clear that their wines are in a class of their own, but their winemaking process of using local fruit to create classic tasting wine is even more extraordinary.
What started as a simple hobby in the backyards of owners, Ken Hardcastle and Bob Manley has now blossomed into a bustling winery in downtown Meredith, New Hampshire. Both Hardcastle and Manley had always been interested in the world of wine and together, along with their third partner, Chuck Lawrence, they decided the start Hermit Woods Winery.
In the early days, the winery was run out of Manley’s old farmhouse basement, they even had a tasting room and bar in their master bedroom, but the demand for their wines quickly grew. After just three years in business, they had reached such a volume that they couldn’t continue in such small quarters and so in 2014, they opened their location in Meredith.
The trio had always been inspired by classic wines, but they knew the harsh climate of New Hampshire could never support the grapes they needed. However, this challenge served as nothing but inspiration, because they decided to do what no other New Hampshire winery had ever done before; produce wine from fruit which naturally flourishes in New Hampshire and use it to create traditional-style wines. This was an entirely new concept at the time and even today the local, fruit wines are typically sweet and non-traditional. Unlike these wines, Hermit Woods produces dry ones which drink like traditional wines do and can be aged. This distinction puts Hermit Woods Winery into a class of their own.
Their wines, instead of being sweet, are dry and well-balanced, drinking like a typical French or Italian wine would. They are produced using old methods with modern ingenuity, along with exceptional, native fruit. At Hermit Woods they firmly believe that the best wine is produced from fruit which grows well in the area it is in, and in their case, that means using fruit such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, and apples. These fruits are then turned into wine using old world techniques. Hermit Woods boasts a diverse list of wines, including everything from a Burgundy-style dry blueberry wine to a bright and refreshing cranberry rosé, meaning they have a wine for nearly every variation of classic wine.
Hermit Woods only uses materials which come from New England (usually New Hampshire) which means their wines rely on what is available in the region. While Hermit Woods does an excellent job working with local growers and farmers, they are always in need of more local fruit. Because of this, they started the Hermit Shares program where local growers can bring in the produce they’ve raised. In addition to the locally grown products, they also use wild foraged fruit, such as elderberries and rose hips. They only use whole fruit which is never processed and is without pesticides meaning their wines are vegan, raw, and mostly organic.
Each of their wines is unique and because they have such an extensive wine list, they encourage visitors to participate in one of their wine tastings. These tastings are a great opportunity to try the majority of their wines but also to enjoy food from their deli and learn about their unique winemaking process. It is their hope to better educate people about fruit wines and break away from the stereotype that they are all sweet and non-traditional.
Hermit Woods has already accomplished a lot in their nine years of business, but there are still many exciting opportunities on the horizon. This spring, they have partnered with Cava in Portsmouth to hold The Judgement of New Hampshire (inspired by the Judgement of Paris) where their wine will be blindly tested by wine and travel writers in comparison to Italian and French wines of the same price bracket. By doing this, they hope to prove to the world of wine that fruit wines from the Northeast are comparable to classic wines from Europe. While the tasting hasn’t occurred yet, given their exceptional feedback from the wine industry, it is evident that they can easily keep up with the competition.
In 2020, Hermit Woods will also be expanding their winery to include a listening room where local and international musicians will come to play. They hope to offer once a week listening sessions and then use the space as a hangout for locals and to host events. In addition to expanding their actual winery, they also will be growing their wine list. They are always in the midst of creating something new and it won’t be long before another wine hits their shelves!
In addition to working with the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets to sell their products in the stores, Hermit Woods has also participated in Wine Week. They recently held a special Wine Week event at their winery where they paired their wines with local cheeses in addition to participating at the Winter Wine Spectacular.
We are proud to carry several wines from Hermit Woods Winery including:
Hermit Woods Hard Cranberry Apple Cider
To learn more about Hermit Woods and to plan a visit, see their website!