I was supposed to be shopping for a small dinner party and I found myself wandering around my favorite market, Calef’s Country Store. I love their cheese assortment, penny candy, and collection of NH produced products. A product that caught my eye as a perfect addition to a dinner party was a stand of bottled wine promoting local ingredients and New Hampshire producers.
I was going to be serving light dishes so I opted for the Strawberry Rhubarb wine by Hermit Woods, created with organic strawberries and rhubarb. As soon as I popped the bottle open and served my guests, I took a sip and fell in love with the light crisp and slightly sweet flavor; a little tangy, finished with a touch of dryness and very refreshing.
I reached out to Hermit Woods winery to learn more about their story and how they became a New Hampshire winery that used local and organic produce. I spoke with Hermit Woods member, Bob Manley, who kindly answered any questions I tossed his way. Bob told me that he and the two other owners, Ken and Chuck, have lived in New Hampshire for at least the past 25 years. As a wish to continue to make New Hampshire their home, Hermit Woods winery was nestled into the quaint town of Meredith, NH.
Hermit Woods strives to acquire as many local and organic ingredients as they can from farms and foragers located as near as possible to the winery. In some cases their fruits are certified organic, however, the more important goal is buying from farmers who care about the healthiness of their food as much as Hermit Woods does. Manley tells me that Hermit Woods is always promoting their needs to farmers in the area, yet sometimes travel to more distant destinations in search of the right ingredient. For farmers and foragers who enjoy tending gardens but do not have enough use for their own fruit, Hermit Woods created a program called Hermit Shares that exchanges small batches of fruit for other produce as long as it is fresh, organic and available when Hermit Woods needs it. Every year this program brings in blackberries, quince, rhubarb, autumn berries, apples, pears, crab apples, white cherries and other fruits to the winery.
In addition to the Hermit Shares program a wide range of other farms contribute to the intake of locally produced ingredients. Apple Hill Farm in Concord, NH sources their cider and some of their apples and peaches. Wayside Farm in North Sandwich, NH, provides organic honey berries, raspberries and strawberries. Alison’s Orchard in Walpole, NH and Scott Farms in Brattleboro, VT, provide Dolgo crabapples. Between three apiaries in NH and VT, Hermit Woods sources raw honey. Blueberries are obtained from Merrill’s Wild Blueberry Farm in Ellsworth, Maine. Members of Hermit woods forage locally for rose hips and harvest pears from local friends and families. The farthest amount of travel is to Oregon for organic elderberries, blackberries and strawberries only because there is not enough locally produced to sustain their needs. However, Hermit Woods is always looking for way to change this to source as locally as possible. Hermit Woods does not produce any wines made from fruits that cannot be grown in their local climate.
For Hermit Woods, becoming a sustainable operation goes beyond using local and organic ingredients. Their wine is only sold in wine shops that are owned by local businesses and where the money is kept within the community. Through a partnership with Oglethorpe’s Fine Arts and Crafts, Hermit Woods has ensured that any wine related products being sold in their gift shop are produced in the United States by local crafts people. When the Meredith location was built, the building was wrapped in insulation, installed with pump heat and air conditioning units, heat pump water heaters, and LED light fixtures and efficient florescent lighting throughout the building. By taking these steps, Hermit Woods has kept their energy footprint as small as possible and even intend to install solar panels on their roof in the near future.
Hermit Woods winery is open to the public seven days a week in the summer and fall and five days a week in the winter and spring and tours are offered on weekends year round. Their website offers additional information including descriptions of their wine inventory, buying wine online, more background information about the winery, and how to become involved. I encourage anyone (over the age of 21!) to try Hermit Woods creative and delicious wines and reach out to their ever growing and ecologically-friendly business.
A huge thank you to Bob Manley for taking the time to answer my questions and an overall thank you to the Hermit Woods team that have strove to bring another sustainable, delicious and locally sourced business into our NH community.
(Picture sourced from http://hermitwoods.com / thankyou)