Oh, What a Night: NH Wine Week is Music to My Mouth

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Basketball Great Isiah Thomas is great at making champagne, too. Cheers to Cheurlin! Photo/NH Liquor Commission

I know! I know!  You’re really looking forward to that hip and happening January ritual.  Celebrities flying in from all over the world for an unprecedented show. Everyone styling and excited about who they’ll see.  Cameras rolling. Glasses clinking.  

The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, January 26th

Heck, no!  I’m talking about the 15th Annual New Hampshire Wine Week from January 20 – 25.  

It’s unprecedented, alright. What the 6-0-3’s Liquor Commission has created from modest beginnings in 2005 is, today, the envy of event planners in any major metropolitan zip code. Rock star participants, sell-out crowds, proceeds benefitting a worthy and respected local nonprofit, EasterSeals New Hampshire.  

“We’re extremely proud of the way New Hampshire Wine Week has continued to grow and evolve over the years,” says Nicole Brassard, Deputy Commissioner.  “It’s very exciting!”  

The 17th Annual Winter Wine Spectacular “appeels” to hundreds wine lovers from across the region. Photo/NH Liquor Commission

And how.  Take this year’s first-ever, “Cellar Notes:  An Evening of Wine and Music,” January 22, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Manchester’s chic new performance venue, the Rex Theater, 23 Amherst St.  After a laid-back reception with live music by local singer/songwriter Alli Beaudry, attendees will partake in an extraordinary interactive panel discussion and tasting with some serious A-list, oenology folks. Dave Phinney of Orin Swift among them, the darling of the vino culture club.  As in Wine Enthusiast’s 2019 Wine Maker of the Year for his sheer brilliance wedding opulent reds into coveted blends that swiftly impressed discerning tongues and turned industry heads even quicker.  As in the biggest brand builder in the biz with the Midas touch for, well, just about everything.  

He’ll be joined by California wine “it girl,” Lisa Evich, passionate winemaker and passer of the historically significant SIMI Winery torch.  One of the oldest wineries in the country at 140-years-old, SIMI has introduced or revolutionized just about every aspect of the modern wine experience we appreciate today thanks to the ingenious innovations of an all-female legacy of ownership, leadership, and viticulture beginning with Isabelle Simi who took the reins after her father and uncle died from influenza in 1904.  Lisa’s contribution is a reverence for SIMI’s timelessness.

Also on the panel?  Mark Neal of Neal Family Vineyards in Napa Valley, whose diverse and award-winning wine varietals reflect his personal commitment to organic agriculture.  Certified since 1984, Mark believes eliminating synthetic fertilizers and pesticides “ . . . enhances the inherent and distinctive influences of vineyard terroir, producing the ultimate flavor profile of the wine.” 

The last – but not least – seat at the wine panel goes to Craig McAllister, head winemaker at La Crema, whose talent for producing extraordinary Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in cool-climate regions is just this side of legendary.  

Oh, what a night!  – Frankie Valli 

For tickets to Cellar Notes: www.nhwineweek.com/cellarnotes2020

Yours truly and Cristina Mariani-May of Castello Banfi. The Italian royalty of wine on both sides of the Atlantic. Photo/Gordon Jackson

And, then, there’s the always spectacular Winter Wine Spectacular (the 17th Annual) on January 23, 6-9 p.m. at Manchester’s DoubleTree by Hilton with over 60 wineries from the United States and beyond.  Where the seasoned wine enthusiast and the apprentice enjoy one-on-one time with industry leaders and representatives, people who are clearly obsessed in one way or another with the label they’ve come to promote.  The party-like atmosphere, socializing with friends old and new feels a bit like the best class reunion you could ever imagine. With an estimated 1,800 wine samples for any/all palates and hors-d’oeuvres from some of Manchester’s top eateries, it’s a rare opportunity indeed for a mere $65 per person. (Additional access to Bellman’s Cellar Select is $135 per person.) 

Deputy Commissioner Brassard is especially gratified by the relationship established between the New Hampshire Liquor Commission and EasterSeals New Hampshire.  

“To help those in New Hampshire – families with children needing services – is a wonderful thing,” says Brassard.  “It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished over the years.”

Since 2005, the Winter Wine Spectacular and other New Hampshire Wine Week events have raised over $2 million dollars for the nonprofit with 90 percent of monies going directly towards services.  Funds that, for the last five years, have benefitted EasterSeals New Hampshire’s Early Support & Services program.  

According to Christine Pederson, Director of Events for EasterSeals New Hampshire, the funds assist in providing “. . . many critical resources such as physical therapy, speech and language pathology and early childhood special education for children from birth to age three.”

For tickets to the 17th Annual Winter Wine Spectacular, and all other events including the wine dinners, go to: www.nhwineweek.com.


Read about Dominic DiFranco’s amazing story below:  


About The Barking Tomato: Carolyn Choate loves to chew on food. Literally and figuratively. In the kitchen from her garden in Nashua or her favorite market, a restaurant across town or across the globe. When not masticating, Carolyn is likely swilling wine or spirits as neither is far from her heart – or lips. Forget diamonds and Louboutins, she’d rather blow a wad on Pinot Noir and grass-fed filet with fresh sautéed morels. And write about it. You taste the picture: The “Barking Tomato” aspires to push your “foodie” button. Click here to browse The Barking Tomato archives.