On Thursday, we at iHeartDining.com, New England State of Mind and Mike Lowe Media had the pleasure of attending the Easter Seals Winter Wine Spectacular at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester. Easter Seals is a wonderful non-profit organization dedicated to providing a number of services, advocacy and outreach to those living with autism and other disabilities. It was amazing to be able to support such a significant organization while enjoying the greatest wines from near and far and signature dishes from local restaurants.
We arrived early, and there was already a line. Lots of people were ready to get their wine on! After grabbing our glasses we were able to meet up with Christine Pederson, Director of Events and Corporate Relations for Easter Seals. She showed us inside the tasting room and we were off and running.
The first stop Mike and I made actually wasn’t for wine, but for food sampling at the Tuscan Kitchen table where we tried fresh, homemade bread with an olive oil dipping sauce. We even got a free take-home loaf! Tuscan Kitchen is focused on crafting from-scratch, artisan dishes, breads and desserts with the true flavors of Italy. You can find the restaurant in two locations, Salem, NH and Burlington, MA. Alongside each of these, customers can also find the Tuscan Market, where pastas, breads, pastries and more are made fresh and able for purchase, along with prepared foods and an extensive selection of Italian wines.
After filling up on bread, we made our way over to the Jewell Towne Vineyards table for our first tasting of wine. Jewell Towne Vineyards is New Hampshire’s oldest winery, located in South Hampton. There were a number of options to try, but we decided to go for the Seyval, a white wine with notes of nectarine and passion fruit. It was light and crisp, a perfect choice to start our tasting with!
As we continued moving (albeit quite slowly, as the event was jam-packed!) we came across another New Hampshire based winery, Candia Vineyards. What intrigued us most about the wine at this table were the thinner bottles made of frosted glass, with eye-catching labels, featuring names like Black Ice and Ice Storm. We just had to try Black Ice, as it was a dessert wine with a color so unique in itself. And the flavor? Unlike any wine I’ve ever tasted before! It was such a rich flavor, yet sweet at the same time, that it’s honestly hard to describe. It’s no wonder that Black Ice holds the title of New Hampshire’s only world-ranked label. If you try it, you won’t soon forget it!
The table next to Candia Vineyards featured students from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) cooking up a storm. SNHU has a lovely student-run restaurant called The Quill where student chefs create exquisite dinners and lunches, and are able to be involved in every aspect of running a restaurant, including serving and interacting with guests.
For the wine event, students were hard at work cooking delicious samplings of some of The Quill’s menu offerings. We decided to try the Brûléed Cornbread and my tastebuds sang. The torch had given it a smoky flavor, which combined with the zesty sauces on the side and on top and the complementary flavor of the cream produced an appetizer that was perfect for wine pairing. I enjoyed supporting SNHU as well, because my younger sister is a student there.
After circling around the busy downstairs some more, we decided to head to the second floor and see what wines and foods abounded there. I spotted a table for Zorvino Vineyards, based out of Sandown, NH, which was exciting because I had tried their wines before and was a fan. They have a delicious selection of fruit wines among their whites and reds, and I was delighted to see they were offering their Strawberriez wine for the event. I’d once gotten snowed in with only my friends and a bottle of Strawberriez and it had hit the spot.
As I received my sample and relished in the flavor, Mike tried it for the first time and was instantly hooked. I have a massive sweet tooth, and love the flavors of fruit based wines. We also tried their Pearz flavor (notice the “z” on the ends of the names, to go along with Zorvino Vineyards), and it was so light and sweet as well, true to its pear taste.
Our next stop was at the La Belle Winery table, a winery located in Amherst, NH and a favorite amongst my friends. They have gone on tours and tastings there before, but I shockingly haven’t. After talking with the fabulous woman of La Belle, I will certainly be doing that sooner rather than later. Be on the lookout for a post! At the event, we tasted their cranberry wine, slightly sweet and tart just like its namesake, and made with Cape Cod cranberries. There were many other options at the La Belle Winery table that sounded amazing, but we had a lot of ground to cover and continued on.
We ventured across the room towards the Moonlight Meadery table. Moonlight had been at another event alongside iHeartDining, and Mike raved about their selection. I had read about Moonlight Meadery, based out of Londonderry, NH, but had yet to try their meads. Mead is a wine made with honey, which gives it a varying level of sweet yet powerful and original flavor.
The first mead we tried was Wild, made with mountain blueberries. The Wild is a dry mead, packed full of blueberry and honey goodness. The rep at the table then had me try an entirely different kind and one of the most popular, Kurt’s Apple Pie. This mead was literally like a slice of apple pie in a glass, a most divine dessert wine. Made with apple cider from Sunnycrest Farms, also in Londonderry, and wordly ingredients including Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon spice, you can’t go wrong with a glass (or rather a bottle!) of Kurt’s Apple Pie.
Just a few feet away, Ipswich Clambake of Manchester, iHeartDining’s newest featured restaurant, was serving up their famous clam chowder and renowned seafood stuffing to a bustling crowd of tasters. I heard people exclaiming out loud as they ate the stuffing how delicious it was, and knew I had to give it a whirl. One word – AMAZING. Made with scallops, shrimps, and panko breading among other ingredients, this seafood stuffing was as fresh and palate-pleasing as it gets.
Across the room, Tek-Nique of Bedford was also serving up a seafood sampler, Smoke Salmon Tartar. I love salmon but had never had it in this way – cured with salt and sugar and smoked. Combined with pumpernickel and red beets, this appetizer was a pleasing blend of taste and textures, and I certainly plan on visiting Tek-Nique and ordering up some more.
We headed back to the first floor where we continue with our food sampling as we stopped at the Firefly Bistro table. Firefly Bistro is a Manchester restaurant creating and serving American style dishes with an original twist. On this night, Firefly was offering Creamy Cajun Penne and as pasta lovers, we were very satisfied with the comforting taste and texture coupled with a kick of spice.
As the event was wrapping up, we spotted a Barefoot Wine table, which was thrilling for me as I often purchase their wines. While Barefoot is not New England-based (they’re out of Modesto, California), they have a huge selection, and I have never gone wrong no matter which option I’ve chosen. We were able to meet the winemaker, Jen, and sample the Crisp White and Summer Red wines from their Refresh© selection. They certainly are refreshing! Jen gave us the idea of making a quick “lazy man’s” Sangria using the Summer Red and adding fruits. I will absolutely be trying that idea for a warm-weather gathering, if the nearly three feet of snow ever melts!
Shortly after 9 p.m., the rooms were starting to clear out and we’d had our fill of wines and foods. It was clear that New Hampshire is a hotspot for top-notch wines from beautiful wineries and the finest foods one could have from exceptional restaurants. The Winter Wine Spectacular 2015 was one to remember, and it was amazing to know that all was in support of the wonderful Easter Seals organization.
Keep on wine-ing!