My trip to Laconia NH was methodically planned and started out on track. Day one, go here, go there – check. Darting around from place to place, I felt like I was desperately trying to see and experience as much as I possibly could – but it felt like I had such little time. Somehow through all my planning, Hermit Woods Winery had missed my initial itinerary. It wasn’t until I arrived at Weirs Beach Pier, that my plans took a turn. The U.S Sophie C Mail Boat had been closed down for the season! With no boat to board, my demeanor must have read confusion! Thankfully a kind passerby noticed (perhaps it was my ‘what now‘ face) and we struck up a conversation. She immediately suggested I go to Hermit Woods Winery in Meredith.
Why-n-not wine on a Tuesday!?
The weather couldn’t have been better – 70 Degrees and not a cloud in the sky as I drove 8 miles north into the quintessential town of Meredith. Since the day yielded such great visibility, I was able to see the the beginning of the white mountains in the distance, perfectly situated on the far side of picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee.
When you arrive at Hermit Woods, you will notice the well manicured building and snail logo! An expansive front deck features handmade live-edge tables complimented by bright orange umbrellas. Upon entering the front door, where you will be excitedly greeted – you will notice the light & airy feeling brought on by the meticulously well planned interior design.
Part of the unique design is a 20+ foot tasting counter that repurposes empty wine bottles as art. Behind the counter, you’ll notice vibrantly colored canvas prints of fruit, most of which are hearty to New England soil, thus Hermit Woods wine is typically not made with the traditional grape. Instead it is fruit based, utilizing Maine blueberries, New Hampshire Apples, and locally harvested honey. However, that’s not all! Owner and wine maker Ken Hardcastle says that he is open to experimenting with new combinations, and was excited to show us a batch in fermentation, made up of local peaches and rhubarb.
The story begins in 1997 when Bob met Ken Hardcastle and shortly thereafter, Chuck Lawrence. They spent many hours getting to know one another and pursuing their passions, one of which was wine; drinking, learning about, and the making of.
Before long, the three were making wine from grapes and native fruits as well as honey, which progressed into planting their own vineyard. “We didn’t know it yet, but we were well on our way to fulfilling our dream of one day turning our passion into a business and opening a winery.” then in 2009 the trio opened their first brick and mortar store & tasting room at 72 Main Street, in Meredith.
The name Hermit Woods comes from a true story of a man named Joseph Palmer who lived in the woods near Bob’s home in the late 1800’s. Friends Ken & Bob would frequent the trails and woods where Joseph Palmer once had his homestead, far off the beaten path, removed from society, Joseph Palmer was eventually nicknamed “The Hermit” and the woods where the homestead foundation remains, is widely known as Hermit Woods. Hikers, and tourists alike can visit Hermit Woods where Palmer’s gravestone resides, or read more about ‘The Hermit’ here on the wineries website.
It’s apparent through speaking with Bob that he has a passion for local history and commitment to bettering his community. The naming of the winery is a true homage to the history of Meredith.
For the tasting, I was able to choose 6 out of 9 varieties, but in all truth, I think I tried them all. Once we all got to talking, it was so easy to learn about the wine and fall in love with each one independently, at minimum out of appreciation for the thought and creativity that went into making each bottle.
While all the wines were delicious, two really stood out to me. The 2014 Three Honey Wine, which is also Bob’s wife Jerilyn’s favorite. (Which smells just as delicious as it tastes) is made with three different raw and unfiltered honey’s, it has a light, ever so sweet taste, and pairs well with a late summer salad or lighter fare, but additionally stands well alone. And second, the 2016 Petit Blue Reserve which was most notably featured on the today show in 2014 and was raved about by Hoda and Kathy Lee. (for good reason).
Other varieties include a 2015 Lake House Red a 2016 Heirloom Crabapple and a chilean grape based wine, a 2013 Ermitano, a dry robust wine, perfect for paring with meat, or a hearty fall dish.
Bob is dedicated to preserving the history of Meredith, in addition to educating winery visitors he actively participates with the Greater Meredith Program, a community development organization, which seeks to enhance economic vitality, as well as Meredith’s historical and cultural heritage. When he’s not making wine with Ken & Chuck, he can be found working in his boutique design firm, www.bobdonpaul.com.
The newest addition to the Winery is a retail area that boasts a wide variety of local handmade products and artisanal foods. You can now grab a glass of wine and a charcuterie board, and sit on the deck or inside at one of the many hand crafted walnut tables.
And it keeps getting better…
Hermit Woods has a Wine Club! What an exciting opportunity to get involved with the winery on a more personal level. So, take a trip, or if you can’t make it to New Hampshire to visit them in person, sign up for the wine club! Membership is free and entitles you and a guest to special member-only privileges that begin immediately with sign-up.
- A half a case (6-bottles) of winery-selected shipments twice per year, a Spring and Fall allocation including tasting and special winemaker notes.
- 20% discount on your club releases and all wine purchases in the tasting room and online.
- First access to all special releases and an opportunity to purchase limited releases and our library wines
- Complimentary tasting and tours, 20% off tastings and tours for up to two additional people in our Tasting Room
- 20% discount on admission to special events at the Winery
- Exclusive invitations to intimate dinner parties, library wine tasting events, and barrel tastings.
Info about the wine club can be found on Hermit Wood’s Website, here.
One of the many reviews found on the website of hermit woods can assist in describing my own experience. Kayly Nyman writes, “one of the best parts about visiting Hermit Woods Winery was the people and atmosphere.” and that couldn’t be more true. I was there for hours, talking, laughing, learning and trying, which is the essence of what an experience should be. I left, having purchased two of my favorite bottles, the Petit Blue Reserve and the Three Honey. Later that evening I was able to share The Petit Blue with my new friends at the Moulton Farms, farm to table dinner. (it was a HUGE hit!)
When I say there’s nothing else like Hermit Woods, i’m speaking in truth. Their wines, highly curated and exceptionally crafted are worth a drive, but additionally available via mail through the wine club if you’re unable to make it to New Hampshire.
Tell them Nicole from New England Weekender sent you… and don’t forget to tell us about YOUR experience at Hermit Woods.
Wine on Weekenders!
This post is not sponsored. I went, I saw, I drank, I loved.