A True Labor of Love
Whether you are looking for a delectable bottle of wine, a French bistro-inspired bite, or a walk through an impressive art gallery, Labelle Winery has it all. While many American vineyards use chemicals in their product, says Amy Labelle, coowner of Labelle Winery, “our wine is practically hangover-free; much more European and pure.” Labelle Winery had a modest beginning at Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole, New Hampshire, barely making 400 gallons of wine per year. Now, their new location in Amherst has giant tanks producing at least 80,000 gallons of wine annually. It is not just a winery; it is undeniably a couple’s labor of love.
Owners and spouses Amy Labelle and Cesar Arboleda met at Fidelity Investments in the cafeteria and Amy told Cesar of her dream of opening a winery on one of their very first dates. Rather than hesitate, he jumped right on board with her passion. As the business grew, they moved from the Orchard to their backyard in Amherst. “Looking back at it now, I don’t know how we did it. We had a new baby, we both worked day jobs, and we worked on the wine at night selling to 200 stores including New Hampshire liquor stores. But it never felt like work. It was such a joy,” says Amy. The barn was literally packed wall-to-wall and they needed a bigger space to keep up with production. In a time when hospitality loans were sparse due to the economy, it was a miracle that they received their loan to open their enormous 20,000 square foot winery.
Simply walking up to the Winery is breathtaking, with grapevines circling the grounds and acres of land that seem to never end. The restaurant and tasting room are bustling with people, the standing bar is full, and everyone is willing to make room, sharing in the enjoyable tastings — a place where everyone is celebrating something. Amy describes the space: “We wanted it to be a full sensory experience from the taste, to the sight, to the sound. It is an educational winery with a visible connectivity between the making and the tasting.”
Including reds, whites, and even dessert wines, there are just under 30 palate-pleasing flavors to choose from. I found every wine flavor appealing, so I had to use a 4-star rating system to keep track of the wines I merely enjoyed, to the wines I could not leave without purchasing a bottle of. The list covers any wine-lover's taste from the crowd-pleasing Dry Pear: “the fragrant table wine,” to the delightful dessert wine Red Raspberry: a “sinfully indulgent dessert wine that is sweet but balanced by fresh raspberry acidity.” The relishable tastings were plentiful and the bartender poured a generous sample with great knowledge of the ingredients and occasion for each selection.
The food selection started with an eight item menu to compliment the wine tasting. They anticipated so much for the space, technically opening 4 new businesses, and they wanted to start small with each, to focus on every element so it would be exactly as they imagined. Now, the restaurant has a full menu, the binding is of wine corks, and each option pairs perfectly with the wine. Amy contrived the menu and even created an entire list of “wine cocktails,” including a Cosmopolitan that substitutes their Cranberry wine for vodka. They even have monthly culinary and yoga classes, copious charity gatherings, and art and literature talks to complete their vision that Labelle not be just a winery but rather, “a place where the entire community can gather.”