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Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Sweet Baby Vineyard is coming of age


Sweet Baby Vineyard in East Kingston was recently recognized by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission as the state’s top winery at its annual wine and spirits awards in Concord.

Now, it used to be the case that vineyards would work for decades to develop excellent wines. The tide began to turn in this regard with that landmark event, the Paris wine tasting in 1976, when Warren Winiarski’s Stag’s Leap walked away with the red wine prize. In the decades that followed, communications technology played a major role in shrinking the time from starting a new vineyard to bringing good wines to market.

Some years ago I was at a wine dinner at the Bedford Village Inn with South American winemaker Susanna Balbo, who commented that the Internet has played a major role in spreading wine knowledge. She explained that in the past, South American winemakers had to wait for books written in English to be translated in Spanish, often a process of several years, so there was a delay in European winemaking advances reaching the New World. With the Internet, that all changed. Today, there is a vast body of knowledge available to anyone interested in taking on the challenge of creating a new wine.

Sweet Baby Vineyard is one example of this. They’ve been around only since 2008. What started as a hobby grew into a functioning vineyard in East Kingston that has continued to grow. Lewis and Stacey Eaton founded the vineyard, and as they explain on their website, “We chose our home in Kensington because it had a lot of land for our children to play and space to garden.

“Growing up in New Hampshire, our family has always enjoyed all of the fresh fruits that the spring, summer and fall bring. Each season we take the kids to the local farms to pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches and apples. We decided to bring these fresh fruits grown at our local farms to our wine.”

You’ll see a note on the back of each bottle that 10 percent of the vineyard’s profits go to local farmers.

In this column and next week’s as well, we’ll take a look at the vineyard, its wines and hear from Lewis and Stacey about a hobby that became a passion. I posed some questions to the two of them recently, and here’s what they had to say:

How does it feel to be an award-winning vineyard, especially since your project is fairly new (Well, at least compared to places like Bordeaux and Burgundy)? “Winning the awards always blows us away; to date we have over 50. We know that we make a great product but to get accolades from the various international and national associations that judge our wine, well, it never gets old. Winning the number one wine in New Hampshire in 2014 (named by the state liquor commission) and being on the top 1,200 list two years in a row is the icing on the cake. (The state stores) carry four of our wines and three are on the current top 1,200 list. That means that we are performing well against Gallo, Constellation Brands and everyone else that is on the shelves in all of the stores. Starting this business as a hobby and getting to this point has been an incredible amount of work that is finally paying off.”

You have both come to winemaking from different careers — are their any ways that your past has prepared you for the work you are doing now?

Lewis: “In my case I was a bridge builder by trade. That is one of the most physically demanding, fast-paced jobs that anyone could ever do. The crews that I ran and was a part of were always highly profitable and prepared me for producing 4,500 cases of wine per year and delivering them to the stores myself. Of course now, we do have a few part-time staff to help in the tasting room on the weekends (which I am very thankful for), which frees me up to work in the cellar more, to get to our goal of 5,000 cases this year. I also hold a B.S. in business with a focus in strategy and leadership. This has helped understand our target market and what they are looking for from our brand to suit their needs. I am very lucky to do what I love.”

Stacey: “I am an educator who has worked with students in kindergarten through high school in a variety of settings. In the past, I started and ran a private, non-profit school that allowed me to learn how to market, budget and run the human resources side of a school. This is not much different than running our family business. While Lewis is the winemaker, I focus more on marketing. I also enjoy being in the tasting room when school is not in session. I currently work as a special educator for the Timberlane Regional School District. You will often also find our children helping in the vineyard, winery or tasting room.”

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We’ll be looking at several of their wines over the next couple of weeks. I’d like to start today not at the beginning, but at the end of dinner, with something to serve with dessert or, perhaps, as dessert: Sweet Baby Vineyard Raspberry Wine, 12% abv.

This red fruit wine is made from 100 percent red raspberries harvested from High Hope Orchard in Westmoreland. We have a dessert wine here that the makers recommend pairing with cheesecake, chocolate or drinking on its own.

The wine is a beautiful shade of purple/ruby, of medium intensity with a rich nose of ripe red fruit. It is a medium-sweet presentation on the palate, with medium-plus acidity, balance alcohol and medium body that brings with it a rich and smooth mouth feel and pronounce flavors of red raspberry, hints of currant, and a long, enjoyable finish. It would indeed pair well the cheesecake, whether you have it covered in raspberries or not. Also great to drink on its own.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.

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