4,083 Days to Success: The Story of a Lawyer Turned Winemaker With Amy LaBelle of LaBelle Winery


by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Sep 22, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Last Updated on September 22, 2022 by rise25

Amy LaBelle
4,083 Days to Success: The Story of a Lawyer Turned Winemaker With Amy LaBelle of LaBelle Winery 11

Amy LaBelle is the Founder and Winemaker at LaBelle Winery. She is a former practicing attorney who discovered her passion for winemaking after visiting a small winery in Nova Scotia, Canada during one of her summer vacations.

Amy was recently named “Business Leader of the Year” in New Hampshire. Her ultimate goal is to give back to her community in fulfilling, impactful, and meaningful ways while also growing her business exponentially with her husband and Co-owner, Cesar Arboleda.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • The epiphany moment that ignited Amy LaBelle‘s passion for winemaking
  • Why it took Amy 4,083 days to open the doors of her flagship property
  • What is it like producing wine and growing grapes in New Hampshire?
  • The varieties on Amy‘s property and her three unique culinary wines
  • Amy talks about The Winemaker’s Kitchen of LaBelle Winery
  • The events and experiences offered by LaBelle Winery
  • LaBelle Winery’s recent rebranding initiatives 
  • Amy highlights the value of giving wines from other regions a chance

In this episode with Amy LaBelle

Owning a winery is a good business idea, but the beverage space is a tough industry to break into. It requires large investments of time and money…and a ton of patience and determination.

It took Amy LaBelle more than 4,000 days from the moment she decided to pursue winemaking to the day she opened the doors of her first flagship property. She started her winemaking journey by creating a gallon of blueberry wine in her Boston apartment. Today, she owns an award-winning brand that offers some of the finest wines and experiences in New Hampshire.

In this episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Amy LaBelle, Founder and Winemaker at LaBelle Winery, joins Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon. Amy shares how and why she transitioned from the world of law to the winemaking industry. She also talks about the importance of putting in the hours, doing the work, and staying determined when pursuing your passion.

.Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

To learn more, visit barrelsahead.com or email us at hello@barrelsahead.com to schedule a strategy call.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show

Drew Thomas Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Thomas Hendricks the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Now on this show, we really try to uncover the stories and actual insights learned along the way. You know, there’s so many paths to producing something great. And we just tried to highlight that, and we’ve had some great conversations. Last week, we talked to Zack Armen and went deep into Armenian wines and how his he and his team are building out a nationwide sales network for this little known region. If you’re trying to build a brand and a new beverage category, or trying to promote a new region, you got to check out that episode for some great tips and advice. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. When that highlights your authenticity tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more. Now today, Bianca Harmon’s joining us again she’s one of our direct to consumer marketing consultants. How’s it going Bianca? 

Bianca Harmon  1:24  

It’s going good Drew. I am excited to talk with Amy today and learn all about the wine and food that she has going on.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  1:35  

Yes, yes, we have Amy LaBelle on the show today. Amy is the founder and winemaker at LaBelle Winery, and she was recently awarded Business Leader of the Year in New Hampshire. She’s a former corporate attorney, and a lifelong interest in wine lead her to open the LaBelle Winery to pursue her passion for winemaking. LaBelle Winery is over the years has really become a destination winery. And Amy has slowly seen her dream realized to focus full time on making world class wine in New Hampshire. Welcome to the show, Amy.

Amy LaBelle  2:07  

Hi, thanks so much for having me. Thanks for the opportunity.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  2:10  

Yes, thank you so much for being on. So Amy, I gotta just jump in with something here first, because one of my biggest, I’ve got a secret passion for blueberry wine, especially dried blueberry wine. And I read and looking at the show that the very first point he made was a dried blueberry wine.

Amy LaBelle  2:27  

That is correct. You know, you’ve got to work with what you have when you’re starting out. And I didn’t have any wine grapes. So I said, I’ll focus on these fruits for a little while. And I started with one gallon of blueberry wine in my Boston apartment.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  2:41  

And how was it? Like you’re still making it today?

Amy LaBelle  2:44  

I’m still making it today. I think the wine I make today is a little better than that first batch. But the first one wasn’t too bad. And it was good enough anyway, to make me believe I had a path forward. So. So it’s pretty pretty well.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  2:59  

Yes. And I definitely want to go back to the whole history and story. But I had had to get blueberry this blueberry talk going. So you mentioned that it’s like them are low on your site. The ones that we have here.

Amy LaBelle  3:11  

Go ahead.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  3:12  

Oh yeah, not the ones that I have had the ones they’ve been fond of. And there’s a winemaker winery here Hungry Hawk and they did a dry blueberry wine, but it tasted a drink really like a Pinot Noir. And I ended up aginh it for about four years. I was actually just slow drinking it. And he’s told me he’d never make another one because it’s too difficult. So I always like talk to winemakers about blueberry wine.

Amy LaBelle  3:33  

I actually love making blueberry wine and it does age beautifully because it has a lot of tannin so the structure is very similar to a lighter bodied red wine and I love making it. I work with a local farm who grows blueberries she gives me her best and brightest produce because you know you can only make good wine from good base product right? So she gives me her best and brightest produce. They come to me fresh off the you know the blueberry bushes up in Alton Bay, New Hampshire. And they’re spectacular. I make three kinds of blueberry wine now. So I make the dry blueberry, which is a ageable is delicious with like Italian food, you know, so it almost can drink like a candy Sometimes. It depends on the year, the blueberries do change year to year just like grapes. But you know, blueberry wine is a great example of how if you treat a fruit wine with respect, and you give it all of the love that you would give a grape wine as a winemaker and give it the good yeast and all of the attention and all the maturation time and all the good stuff you need to do. You can put out a product that is top quality and that drinks like a grape wine and it’s a great example of how it’s not a lesser product because it’s a fruit wine, you know? Yeah, I’m sorry.

Bianca Harmon  4:49  

There’s a farm there. I have some friends and they have serious ranch or serious ranch and they are a blueberry farm out here in Sonoma County and they may A blueberry wine but they do it in cans.

Amy LaBelle  5:02  

Oh fun

Bianca Harmon  5:02  

They’re is doing just like, you know, like, poolside ones. And their first one. I was like, is it going to be sweet though? And they’re like no and their family owns like a winery twos, but this is just for their blueberries and it’s canned blueberry wine. And they’re so delicious. I mean,

Amy LaBelle  5:21  

what are they sparkling bubbly?

Bianca Harmon  5:23  

Yeah. bubbly. And but they’re perfect, you know, to specially like during the summertime, you know, bread

Amy LaBelle  5:31  

and fruit wines like blueberry make awesome sangria?

Bianca Harmon  5:35  

Oh, I’m sure.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  5:39  

Awesome. So this actually is gonna segue because so you’re in our apartment. Your first point you ever made was the guy blueberry one. So you’re a practicing attorney back then?

Amy LaBelle  5:47  

Yes, I was. I was. I was practicing at a large law firm. And I had just gotten in house to Fidelity Investments. I had, like every lawyers dream job, you know, kind of the corporate job, you know, a little bit better schedule maybe than a large law firm was. And you know, I was really excited about that I took after about a month on that job. I had a planned summer vacation. So I took a week off and went up to Nova Scotia, Canada, as planned, and I took my little car with me on the ferry boat, which you can do from Portland, Maine. So you know, go to Portland, bring your car on the boat, and it brings you and your car to Nova Scotia, which is great, better than driving the 12 hours it would take to get up and around the horn of Canada. So was driving up the east coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, not in wine country where you all are. And I happened upon a sign at the side of the road that was painted with a little white arrow, I can still see it in my mind’s eye, hand painted sign. And I said winery, you know, this way. And I said, Well, I have time I’m on vacation, I’m gonna go that way. And I went down the road, I found this little tiny winery that was maybe 1000 square feet, it was teeny tiny place. They were making blueberry wine that day. And so that was the original inspiration, right? And everybody in there was happy. They were working hard on this beautiful product they were creating, they couldn’t wait for me to taste it. They were enthusiastic, excited, the smells, the sights, the sounds, all of that together, kind of ended up being an epiphany moment for me, it was you know, my light bulb moment, the lightning appeared out of the sky, the angels came down and I said, Oh my gosh, this is what I’m supposed to do. And so I started obsessing about it at that point, I spent the rest of the vacation figuring out course I was a business lawyer. So my natural instinct was to begin to write a business plan. So how could I possibly open a winery? How much could it cost to make that product? How much can a bottle of wine cost to make and I started, all the business stuff, forgets? Well, you know, all of the all of the you know, all that stuff that would go into a business plan, right? And who the heck would fund this and all those things. But you know, forget the fact that I had no idea how to make wine at that point. You know, little details, details. So I spent the rest of vacation thinking about that. I got home to my Boston apartment after that vacation was over. And I unpacked my stuff and walked over to Borders Bookstore, which was still in business at that time. I bought the two books they had on winemaking. And I brought them home, I read them voraciously. And I immediately obtained the best blueberries I could find a Whole Foods Market in the frozen section. And I made my one gallon of blueberry wine by the end of that month. I was a winemaker, technically

Drew Thomas Hendricks  8:51  

what a great story. I mean, you how would How did the wine turn out?

Amy LaBelle  8:56  

So that first gallon batch was good enough that I continued forward. So there’s that but you know, it obviously wasn’t my best blueberry wine, but it was good enough to keep the dream alive. And you know, and you don’t know right away right wine is like this, you know, it developed for months, so I really never even drink that wine until I’ve made five or six other types of wines in my little apartment. Which is so funny because my apartment was 608 square feet in Boston, right I lived on the top floor of a Boston brownstone and it was 680 square feet so that doesn’t, you know, six seven gallons of wine fermenting in that space is quite a lot of aroma right yeah.

Bianca Harmon  9:39  

So what else were you making in your apartment? But so we were all fruit

Amy LaBelle  9:43  

all fruit wines because that’s all I could really get my hands on in Boston right? I had didn’t have access to wine grapes at that time. Each I made cranberry I made apple. Any fruit ferment? Yeah, Apple wine is beautiful. really why Apple wine is so so elegant and beautiful pair. So I was kind of playing around with just, I was learning the science of fermentation. And he knew you can ferment anything.

Bianca Harmon  10:12  

You know, whatever patient wants to do.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  10:17  

Good enough is the best part I, because if you if you made it, and it turned out just awesome, like, no more challenge there, you needed to be just good enough to excite the passion, like I can make it so much better. Or if it was so bad, it was such a flop that’s also like, whoa, this isn’t for me. Yeah. Yeah. First.

Amy LaBelle  10:37  

It’s such an important point that you’re making, because so when I had this dream, this epiphany moment, I had just gotten out of the really good job, right? And in the legal department of one of the top companies in the world, arguably, right. And I still had $103,000 in student loan debt from law school. So if the wine had been really, really bad, it might have weaned me into this, like, the naysayer part, you know, the part that said that of my brain was saying, this is silly. Stay the course you have a great job cut it out.

Bianca Harmon  11:14  

You got big debt to pay? Yes. Yeah.

Amy LaBelle  11:17  

Yes, that’s a lot of student loans, you know, law school wasn’t cheap

So, um, you know, luckily, it was good enough that I was able to kind of squash down the part, the practical side and say, I gotta go for this. I gotta try. I gotta try something.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  11:32  

So, so flash forward, you’ve now created something pretty special. And it goes far, far beyond wines and the food and events. I mean, it’s incredible. The the layout of what you’re operating at now, how did you get the winery started? That’s always the question people are looking for. How do they how do you go from making wine in your bedroom? Well, not your bedroom, but your your apartment.

Amy LaBelle  11:58  

It was right there. So um, you know, the winery, I say this often when I speak, it’s to crowds, the winery does not it’s such a crazy business and such a difficult thing to enter into to break into. It’s not something you can expect overnight. And it’s not. So it’s something that you really have to be willing to work at, in small little bits every single day to kind of achieve that dream. Right. So I had a couple of things working against me one I had all this student loan debt to I don’t have a trust fund, I am not a trust fund baby, darn it.

Bianca Harmon  12:41  

Well, with 100 and something $1,000 in student loan debt, I would presume you weren’t a trust fund baby

Amy LaBelle  12:47  

that one would maybe mature someday and no, they would call me from the trust firm and say, Hey, your trust has matured, you now. know? I don’t know. But no, that didn’t happen. And so I had those things I still saw I didn’t keep I kept my job at Fidelity for 12 more years, while I while I got my degree at UC Davis in California, so that I could have some science and street cred behind my winemaking skills, right? Because, you know, winemaking, anybody can make wine, right? It’s got a lot of art and cooking components to it, you know, in terms of flavor profiles and stuff like that. But you really need the chemistry. Like you don’t teach that in law school. So I really needed to get that street cred. So I did the UC Davis online programs and I only Trent I traveled there when I needed to, to do labs and person lab stuff. So that was that program is incredible. So that was that’s something I would highly recommend, because it gave me the flexibility to keep my day job, but still be taking my classes at night. So that worked out great. So I had to learn how to make wine I had to pay, I didn’t pay off my debt, I had to save enough money to you know, get a startup moving, and I had to be practicing. So I was always making wine and always trying to move that ball forward. So I started small and what I like to tell people is that it took me from that day in Nova Scotia standing in that winery where I felt that epiphany moment to the day I opened the doors at my flagship property was 4083 days. And I counted those days because I forced myself to do one thing every single day to move the dream forward. It’s nothing but grow hard work and grit and moving forward little by little.

Bianca Harmon  14:40  

That’s not gonna be enough.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  14:43  

We always talked about the 10,000 hours that you need to master your craft 4000 days. I mean, you’re probably about 16,000 hours by then for sure, but hopefully probably take that time. Now. How did you go about so New Hampshire? How did you settle in New Hampshire?

Amy LaBelle  15:00  

So, I was living in downtown Boston, as I said earlier, when when I had this epiphany moment, and I had bet lived in New Hampshire for one year when I was a first year lawyer, and I always enjoyed the state of New Hampshire very much. I grew up in Massachusetts, but I love the state of New Hampshire. I love the scenery, I love its proximity to the beach, to the mountains. I mean, where I live, I’m one hour from Boston, 45 minutes from the ocean, 45 minutes from the mountains. It’s like, it’s got it all for me, you know, and I just love this state. So much, I have a big heart for New Hampshire. So when I was living downtown Boston, and I knew that this dream of mine was moving forward, I really wanted to move to a more country setting where I could have a garden, expand my practice and try to you know, make more and more wine, I needed more room than 608 square feet, to kind of begin to practice and I thought, You know what, maybe I can build a barn and I can, you know, start something small before I can get to the to the big flagship space. So that’s why New Hampshire, so I moved an hour north, but I was able to keep my job and doing so because I worked at Fidelity and Boston, but fidelity had a campus in Merrimack New Hampshire with 6000 people. I was able to transfer my job up to Merrimack and go into Boston only as needed. So it just all came together and worked for me to buy a house here. I was the single woman at the time, I bought a house in New Hampshire in a neighborhood. And all the neighbors were like, Why is this single lady here? What is happening? Very funny.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  16:34  

That’s funny enough. So talk to us a little bit about the ongoing conditions and the what it’s like producing wine and growing wine growing grapes in New Hampshire.

Amy LaBelle  16:44  

Yeah, absolutely. So I couldn’t wait to have my own vineyards, because I think every winemaker, you know, probably would love to control her own grapes at some point or another. It because there’s nothing like seeing the process from budbreak, you know, all the way through the summer integrase on making all of those decisions about how we’re caring for the vineyard, that impact the ultimate product. And then to decide that harvest moment. You know, we were picking today. Let’s go. And then to get to make wine from that immediately. There’s such a satisfaction in that whole grape to bottle process. I couldn’t wait to get that done. But New Hampshire, of course, has its challenges. We are not exactly wine country in terms of climate, although we’re not far off. It’s not the summer growing season. That’s tricky here. It’s really our winters in winter, to winter. And so in my vineyard, you know, we track temperatures daily in the highest and lowest points in the vineyard, which are always about two degrees off from each other, because there’s a good elevation difference between them, but I’ve had at least three years where we’ve hit something like negative 25 Yeah, it’s challenging.

Bianca Harmon  18:06  

So we do for your vines and stuff during that time. I mean, when it’s negative 25 I mean, how does that affect uh, once the weather starts warming up? I mean,

Amy LaBelle  18:16  

they are okay, they my vines have fared really well because I’ve planted the correct things in the correct spots

Bianca Harmon  18:21  

that I was going to ask. So are you planting specific varietals?

Amy LaBelle  18:25  

Yes, so I cannot plant noble varieties. I can’t grow Cabernet Sauvignon here. I can’t grow Chardonnay here.

Bianca Harmon  18:32  

I can’t grow Kino kid, you know.

Amy LaBelle  18:34  

So pinos only good two, I think 15 above zero. I think that’s cold as it can get. So we grow French hybrid grapes here, or the Minnesota hybrids. I’ve got a couple of those as well. And these grapes are all good to 2530 below the year that we had the very coldest worst winter. I lost maybe eight, five to 8% of my save all that was it. Everything else are terrible.

Bianca Harmon  19:03  

I mean, not bad. Not bad. Heck, we’ve had fires here in California and they’re losing entire acreage is so you know,

Amy LaBelle  19:12  

and New York, the Finger Lakes. I’m sorry, it wasn’t the Finger Lakes. It was Heringer. I heard you had a late frost this year that you’ve had

Bianca Harmon  19:21  

in California. Yeah. We had actually it was actually just a couple of weeks ago, we had thunder lightning and balls of hail, like this big. And it was like, and it was the like last the first week of May. Yeah, it’s like whoa, oh, now with the grapes need right now that actually. So?

Drew Thomas Hendricks  19:45  

Oregon might be losing half half its crop this year due to frost.

Amy LaBelle  19:49  

Oh no.

Bianca Harmon  19:50  

I heard that. I actually talked to Oregon winery this week. And they said that

Amy LaBelle  19:55  

Oh no.

Bianca Harmon  19:56  

So 

Amy LaBelle  19:57  

No, it’s just you can’t you know you cannot mess with them. Mother Nature. It’s, it is what it is you gotta roll with it. We’ve been pretty lucky here. We typically have budbreak right around May 6, seventh or eighth. So our season start you know, our growing season starts then obviously, pruning happens in March and all those March early April we try to wait until the vines are really not

Bianca Harmon  20:22  

frozen frozen solid. When they do they usually thaw out. I mean, so how long does it take for these vines to thaw?

Amy LaBelle  20:29  

It’s different every year honestly, we had a very nice winter this year it comparatively it was mild, or we didn’t have tons and tons of snow cover which can be good and bad. You know if there’s three feet of snow that I’m waiting to melt so I can get out and prune. That’s tricky. However, sometimes we want that three feet of snow cover because they protect us from wind. So it’s a you know, it’s a toss up this year was a pretty good winter. So we you know, our vines were ready to be pruned earlier this year because it wasn’t as cold. And we didn’t have that snow cover. So we started pruning about mid March and we were done in mid April had budbreak we did all our tie downs budbreak. We just had may eighth this year. That was a little later because we had a kind of a it was warm, and then it got a little cold and things got a little weird, but it was fine.

Bianca Harmon  21:19  

Yeah, yeah.

Amy LaBelle  21:21  

We’ll have harvests probably toward the end of September for the whites and reds.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  21:26  

Okay. On the native roots. Are you working with you mentioned the Minnesota rootstocks or Minnesota vines are you deal with market and what what are the varietals that you’re working with?

Amy LaBelle  21:37  

Yeah, so we planted we’ve got seven varieties on property. I have seyval Blanc. Pearl Seville Blanc is a French hybrid. The petite Pearl is one of those Minnesota hybrids and I love this grape. It is Petite Pearl, it’s it’s new ish. It’s a new hybrid that’s been like a straw. It is honestly and it’s one of the few wine grapes that’s red throughout. You don’t usually want to

Bianca Harmon  22:07  

like move out today is one of the few grapes that is actually produces red juice ma actually does as well.

Amy LaBelle  22:15  

So it’s a deeply pigmented, deeply flavorful red wine. And you know, I think for often one of the things people think is that cold climate red wines aren’t as beefy or hearty or they don’t have as much mouthfeel but petite Pearl has it in spades and so you can make a really rich beautiful big wine with it. We plant planted Noiret which is another French hybrid. Noiret N O I R E T has tons of that’s another bigger French hybrid in terms of flavor profile, has a lot of black pepper and white pepper notes on it really interesting

Bianca Harmon  22:54  

sounds like a Xin almost

Amy LaBelle  22:56  

it is very much so I love to blend that in one of my wines called Americas which is our tribute to the American dream. Americas is half Noiret and half Cabernet Franc. So the kind of wildness of Noiret is beautiful with the elegance of tab from the compat

Bianca Harmon  23:14  

you see complaint cab frock?

Amy LaBelle  23:16  

No, I have to bring that from New York.

Bianca Harmon  23:18  

Okay, okay. Yep.

Amy LaBelle  23:21  

So, so where are we I have Chancellor, I think I mentioned all my grapes. Now there’s, I have one more I had a little experimental patch of breonna which, which I didn’t like so I kind of let that go. But down in my second vineyard that we’re developing now in my new location, we opened a second location in Derry, New Hampshire. We’ve just planted another three acres there. And we just planted a new hybrid called a Taska, which is a subset of the seyval blanc hybrid which a sable Blanc is awesome. And I love working with Save All I have worked with that great for 20 years now. It’s awesome. And that is a that a stable is a clone of Sauvignon Blanc and a number of I know the numbers I don’t have memorized but they’re a clone. So it’s very similar to 70 on Blanc, but it can withstand our cold climates.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  24:13  

I love the well thought process was in the are you planning fruit trees on it as far as it precedes some of your fruit wines? Are those produced in house or would purchase fruit from around the area?

Amy LaBelle  24:24  

No, we rely on local farmers to give us all of the fruit except for the jalapenos, which I use to make my jalapeno culinary wine.

Bianca Harmon  24:35  

We grow we grow those. Tell me about that. Yeah, yeah, that’s

Amy LaBelle  24:40  

yeah, that’s a fun little wine. I made three culinary wines in my lineup because I also love to cook. And so that’s really embedded in my in the culture of LaBelle Winery. So the three culinary wines are an onion, a tomato and the very popular jalapeno pepper culinary A wine so you can cook with it. Obviously. It’s 100% Fermented jalapenos. You can use it in millions of things. The spaghetti sauce fajitas tacos, steak merit aids. Great

Drew Thomas Hendricks  25:16  

news. So it’s just purely fermented jalapenos. Yes. Doesn’t I mean, I ferment jalapenos and it turns into a hot sauce.

Amy LaBelle  25:27  

Yummy. I add water. Okay, yes, water. I add some water. I masquerade them and I actually put them in huge nylon bags, so they’re easier to remove from the because I don’t want to put this through my press. Right? That would be

Drew Thomas Hendricks  25:41  

oh my gosh, that would

Amy LaBelle  25:44  

imagine all the wine.

Bianca Harmon  25:47  

Your wine would forever be tainted with jalapeno. Exactly. Okay, so are you are you making it for cooking purposes? Mostly are people drinking this?

Amy LaBelle  25:56  

Both. So I have some customers that love it to sip on. I have a lot of customers who use it in cocktail. So like, stay with me here. If you make a gorgeous Margarita and you put an ounce or two of jalapeno wine in it. It just like has this awesome heat or this warmth to it. Oh, it’s great. I’m gonna have to tell my sister about it because she’s really into the spicy marks. Oh, yeah, exactly. Oh,

Bianca Harmon  26:25  

that’s great. Like that would work. Oh, it

Amy LaBelle  26:27  

totally works. It’s awesome. And it’s also great in this other cocktail we make at the winery called the gentleman’s Martini. If we put in a half an ounce or an ounce of the jalapeno wine, we then call it the cubby arrow. So then it’s a little bit spicy, which is fun. And then we also use it all the time on our brunch menu in the Bloody Marys.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  26:49  

And you also mentioned the tomato wind, kind of talk to me about that talk.

Amy LaBelle  26:55  

So the tomato wine is another just fun side project. It’s not meant to be a serious wine at all. It’s just kind of a fun culinary wine. Really great and soups also makes a very refreshing vodka cocktails. So I like to mix wine and cocktails all the time. So a couple ounces of tomato, one couple ounces of vodka, ice lime, your, you know sweeten it or don’t you know up to you totally fun and onion wine, onion wine, you know, onion wine. If you had a bottle of onion wine, which I don’t know if anybody else in the world makes onion wine,

Bianca Harmon  27:30  

I don’t know. But I’m like I’m very intrigued.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  27:33  

I’m it’s a health kick, where I drink a cup of onion juice thicker, I get a lot more vitamin K. And I have not been read an instance. I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

Amy LaBelle  27:46  

No, that sounds awful. was awful, so we don’t drink onion wine. But we do cook with it. And if you have French onion soup in my restaurant made with onion wine, you are

Bianca Harmon  28:03  

Oh my gosh, French onion soup. It’s one of my favorite things to make at home. Most pain in the butt things to make. But you know, yeah, so how much onions wine? So say you’re making, you know, a big dish for your family. How much onion wine are you using in the French onion soup process?

Amy LaBelle  28:22  

Well, it depends on how much soup you’re making. But you know, I always use a lot of wine when I cook always. And so you know for that, you know you’re making your stock and you’re definitely putting in at least a cup of of onion wine in it, you know, and reducing down or you can caramelize your onions with that first. And then you know make them have this. Yeah, it’s Wow.

Bianca Harmon  28:42  

My mind is blown by these.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  28:45  

Yeah. Well, so yeah. So these projects are kind of part of your larger project, the winemakers kitchen. You got some other wares talk to us about this wine makers kitchen.

Amy LaBelle  28:56  

Yeah, absolutely. The winemakers kitchen is is kind of a side project for the winery that you know really ties together my love of winemaking and cooking. And so, for a decade now, I’ve been teaching classes in all of our locations, we have three locations around the state now, at least a couple times a month. So you know, we’re talking hundreds of classes at this point on how to integrate wine into your daily cooking to elevate your your culinary process at home, right how wine makes your food better, or how to use it in a cocktail. So every class starts with a cocktail, a wine cocktail. So we’re always showing people how they can lighten up, you know, heavily alcoholic cocktail by substituting some wine in there, which is really fun and tasty and adds a different layer of flavor. You know, it’s always about the layers and bringing more and more to that to that culinary table. But so we start with a cocktail and then we do three recipes that have wine as a main ingredient. And we’re teaching people every day how to use their wine bye You know, yes, you’re drinking your wine, of course right out of the bottle. But what if you can’t drink the whole bottle? What if it’s Tuesday, and you maybe shouldn’t have the whole bottle because you got to work the next day? Well, then you might have this much wine left in the bottom. And what are you going to do with that? You know, it’s not as good the next day or the day after that, we all know that. And if we had another hour, I’d tell you the exact chemistry of why and what’s happening there. But your wine is not going bad. It’s just turning to vinegar. That’s the next step for wine, right? So we teach people how to use those little leftover bits, you know, put them into put them in stew, marinade your steak in it, put it in a salad dressing, or put it in a cocktail. And so people love this concept, because it cuts back on waste. And then you know, you don’t feel like you have to finish that bottle. You can just have three glasses and that one last class you’re going to make into a stew. It’s going to be fine.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  30:55  

That’s perfect. Yeah. And that the what this message is about to reach a much broader audience, from what I hear.

Yes, why make that is? Go ahead of the bag, let

me know. So it looks like you’re getting picked up with a full TV show.

Amy LaBelle  31:14  

Yes, that is the plan. And that is the hope so fingers crossed. So a Hollywood producer, noticed the work that we’ve been doing, to do winemakers, kitchen classes on YouTube, a lot of that work really came out of the pandemic, when we were shut down for the pandemic, I felt that I still had to teach in my community. The people in my community had a need, they needed to learn how to cook at home, they needed projects to do with their families. So we started putting these classes out on YouTube. On making pasta. Here’s how to make raviolis with your kids. Here’s how to do pizza dough at home tortillas. All the things you couldn’t find in the stores. I don’t know how it was in California, but it was a little weird here. We couldn’t find stuff. Oh, yeah, yeah. So we were teaching people how to make how to cook. And people were panicked. My friends who don’t cook, who usually just go out every day or order takeout or whatever they were like, I don’t know what to do. So we taught them what to do. And these videos got noticed by a producer in California, who has since come out, we filmed a sizzle reel. And we’ve developed an entire lifestyle show based around cooking wine, integrating those things together. And around my busy life running three winery properties and a family I have two young boys. So

Bianca Harmon  32:37  

that’s so cool. Because, you know, like, like, a big thing in my household is like, you know, there’s three, I have three kids. And you know, two of them are much older 14 and 12. And one of them’s 18 months. And it’s like, you know, the thing is, is they’re all out doing their thing all the time all day long. But dinner is the one time that we sit down, and we eat dinner as a family. But my daughter has a friend who when I talked about it all the time and their family, they literally she sends her daughter out to get food for them all the time every night for dinner. And I’m like a rotten like she’ll my daughter, I’ll text Hey, can I go with them to get this? I’m like, No, you can come home and eat dinner. I’m at dinner. Sorry. You know. And so for me, like my mind is like blown sometimes, like, wow, there are really people that go out and they eat dinner every night or they have their kids and for me it’s like a huge, that’s our one time that we sit down. And so you’re taking all of this and I don’t know, I think it’s so cool. And just I love it because when her friend comes over here, it’s like, she’s not used to like eating home cooked meals. You know,

Amy LaBelle  33:44  

it’s it’s a really, really important thing that I prioritize in my life. So similar to you. We do family meal every night. We do family breakfast, too. It’s just really important to have that centering moment with my family because we are so busy, right? It a little bananas otherwise, but it’s so important that I carve out two hours on Sunday to do all my prep for the week. And so I cook I prep everything so I know what I’m having every single day until Friday Fridays pizza day and we either make our own dough and make pizzas with whatever’s leftover or we order our pizza that’s the one day but we take some prep lessons from you then oh my gosh this is going to be in the show so you can watch the show. It’s so it’s so easy to get prepped for the week. Like if you cook off a pound of bacon, you boil off a half a dozen eggs or a dozen eggs. So you have hard boiled eggs, you cook off two pounds of chicken you you know make a big salad make one big soup, make your batter rice, your brown rice, roast off some veggies, all these things can be done in two hours or less. And then your your week is so much easier. You know maybe prep one pasta meal or whether it’s a big CD or a lasagna or something so that it’s done and it’s ready to go when you get home. You can just happen in the oven and you can have your family time.

Bianca Harmon  35:03  

Fantastic. It’s really nice spending an hour and a half each night cooking dinner.

Amy LaBelle  35:10  

It’s it’s it would change your life if you can get in that habit of that Sunday prep. And if you think about it, you’re also doing dishes on Sunday, and you’re not making that huge mess during the week either.

Bianca Harmon  35:23  

It’s simply I’m not cleaning up the kitchen every single night. Exactly. It’s so much easier. Wow. Wow. So that’ll be on the show too.

Amy LaBelle  35:33  

So too, so you know, it’ll blend a little bit of how I run my business. You know, me as a business person. me as a mom, how do I do that? And then head off to football practice and how am I feeding everybody in the meanwhile, and you know, the integration of wine into all that. And of course, it will focus on me as a winemaker. So yes, me making wine. It’s good. Dan,

Bianca Harmon  35:54  

you are a jack of all trades, Amy.

Amy LaBelle  35:57  

I get a lot out of my days.

Bianca Harmon  36:01  

I’d like to follow you around one day, I think maybe.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  36:10  

I love the way it came out. I always tried to find the the Silver Linings that came out of the pandemic, and had there not been a pandemic, you might not have stepped up the YouTube, you might not have stepped up this outreach. And sadly, I mean, it gave you a platform to really broaden your audience. And we’ve seen a lot of those success stories on the show. So it’s really good to hear that.

Amy LaBelle  36:31  

Absolutely. It’s you always have to look for the silver lining.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  36:35  

Yes. It’s when I see the logo on your shirt. So you’ve got the links. Oh, yes. Curious talk about wineries, balancing wineries and golf. And where did the was golf already part of the land when he got it? Or is it something that you built into it?

Amy LaBelle  36:53  

Yeah. So my golf course is at the new property that we obtained in 2020, at the end of 2020. And at the dairy property, it was already existing. And so that was another silver lining that came out of the

Bianca Harmon  37:08  

poor you a golfer prior where it’d be was golf, one of your things that you enjoyed,

Amy LaBelle  37:14  

I love to golf, I just don’t have time to golf. I had a lot more time when I was a lawyer. Let’s put it that way before I was married and had kids. You know, when I was a single lawyer in Boston, I golfed all the time. I don’t have time now. Because I if I have two hours or four hours, I would definitely rather give it to my kids. So I figure once I golf in tournaments, and once in a while now and I figure when my husband and I retire, and the kids are in college, or whatever. We’ll golf more than but for now. It’s kind of like just a little fun recreational thing, but we definitely hit our own golf course, once in a while and my older son is picking it up. So if the kids are with us, we’ll definitely golf with them. That’s that’s a fun family activity. And golf is great in that way. It’s like a great leveler. You know, grandparents can play with grandkids and men and women can play together. 

Bianca Harmon  38:03  

So are you already serving, you’re watching and cocktails out on the golf course or how it’s all incorporated. 

Amy LaBelle  38:10  

Okay, so let me tell you about the dairy property. It’s so interesting that so this property, family, who, who the father developed it, really and he passed away in early in 2020. And the children did not want to run this property. So they contacted us in the summer of 2020. Now, we were just starting to, like make our way out of the pandemic closures and trying to make sure that we were stabilizing our, our, the business we had, and they called us and said, hey, you know, we really want to sell this, we’d like to sell it to you so that we are positive, it will be carried forward in the spirit that our Father intended. We know you’ll do a really good job because they visited our other property and blah, blah, blah. So we we said you’re crazy. We can’t do this. We’re just recovering from the pandemic. And no, we can’t do it. But then I was so mad and I hate missing a great opportunity. And I really wanted to buy this place. So we went down on tour de because I had been at this property I knew I was aware of what it had to offer. We went to read it again and we struck a deal that I could get comfortable with this place has a golf course it has an event center and had a restaurant that was had been closed for many years anyway, so we had to resurrect that. And it had an outbuilding that was the golf pro shop which we’ve turned into a French Parisian style market. So it’s really it’s got this gorgeous feel to it. It’s got a big pond and a big fountain and it’s just a lovely place. But we took the driving range that was there and we transform that into a vineyard. So there’s a driving range of the golf course and some of the golfers don’t like that. But I need grapes

Drew Thomas Hendricks  39:56  

without wine driving range.

Bianca Harmon  39:59  

Exactly. I’m really into this. I mean, $8 this mini golf course. I mean, what a fun, beautiful, it’s not at like some tacky, you know, family and say you have this beautiful mini golf course for families to come enjoy to. I mean, how incredible. Well,

Amy LaBelle  40:21  

that little mini golf course is stunning. It’s got a lot of water. If yours if not like a clown in the mouth, you fall in the mouth of the client. It’s stunning. It’s beautiful. Thank you. What we’re finding is that, because we’ve also licensed that, for alcohol consumption, we’re finding a lot of data on the mini golf course. So they come they play around a mini golf and then they go to the restaurant, which is great. Super funny.

Bianca Harmon  40:44  

What a great family night out affordable family night out, you know, have cocktails, play golf, then eat dinner and head home.

Amy LaBelle  40:52  

It’s awesome. And then you know, we’re selling ice cream for the kids. And you know, it’s really a little something for everybody. It’s very family oriented. Yep. And it’s a complete destination. You can spend the whole day at it either my properties really but in Derry, we’ve just last week had the ribbon cutting on our new wine tasting and production facility where I needed more wine space. So we built a new a new building on the new the new property. And we are going to be producing champagne there. That was legit real French style champagne.

Bianca Harmon  41:29  

I’m so excited. What kind of grapes are you going to be using?

Amy LaBelle  41:33  

We’re going to do a blend of seyval blanc D a Tascam and some Cayuga, which is an American grape that has a lot of floral and is very grippy. It’s going to be delicious. And so it’ll be a white sparkler. And then we’re going to do a rosebay as well, which I think I’ll be Synchronoss and Sarah.

Bianca Harmon  41:51  

Nice. Yeah.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  41:56  

I wish more whiner, I think that that’s the trend is you really got to build, you can build, we can make wine. But the for the vast majority of wineries, you need to have some sort of a destination to appeal for everybody. And I love what you’re doing. They’re integrating the restaurant, the stores, the it’s fantastic to hear that,

Bianca Harmon  42:14  

especially in this day and age, you know, part of like, the problem with like Napa, for example is we don’t I mean, not everybody has somebody that can take care of their children so that they can go on vacation. You know, so

Drew Thomas Hendricks  42:28  

can’t eat and you can’t get a glass of wine.

Bianca Harmon  42:31  

Right? Right. And so it’s like, you know, the one place around here, which is great is like these two weeks, you know, because you can eat, you can drink you can, the kids can come all of that. And that’s why it is what it is. That’s why it’s so popular, right? Because it’s one of the few places you can go do that. But you know, a lot of these can afford a babysitter these days anyway, right? That’s what I’m saying. So and a lot of these parents, myself included, I mean, part of why I’m sitting here like why do I live in semolina anymore? There’s nothing for me and my family to do that’s affordable, you know, is and so it’s like, you’re looking for places like that where you can go be adults for a little while, but the kids are having a good time. And you’ve just nailed it, all of it. I’m just so thoroughly impressed. I want to come like visit New Hampshire.

Amy LaBelle  43:17  

Thank you should I would absolutely encourage it. It’s

Drew Thomas Hendricks  43:23  

a no segue, I just want to congratulate you on a rebrand. I just saw it on LinkedIn that you just launched the new label line and logo. So that’s always a huge, huge task to rebrand something.

Amy LaBelle  43:37  

Oh my gosh, yes, we’re looking around the building and all of the signage and the little tiny details that we’re like, oh, no, we have to change that, oh, no, we have to change this. There’s so much that goes into a rebrand. And it’s expensive, but it was necessary. You know, the the origin of my brand started, you know, 15 years ago, 17 years ago. And it was the the label just didn’t kind of fit where we had evolved to. And so we really needed to bring the label into a more a more modern feel that that reflected where we feel the quality of the wine is today. And the brand in general. So really insightful, it

Drew Thomas Hendricks  44:21  

still pays still pays respect to everything that it was like it isn’t a completely new thing. It just looks like a more elegant modern expression of what you are and probably more accurately represents what you’re doing.

Amy LaBelle  44:35  

Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I’m really excited about I think it’s beautiful. I’m kind of slowly falling in love with it. And it’s it’s tricky at a winery as you know, or any any beverage producer really to change a label because now I’ve got old labels hanging out and I’m using those as case labels or whatever, which is fine. But I’ve got wine in the warehouse that is aging that has the old label on it already. It’s gonna take a while I’ll have to cycle this all through for a while we’re living with both labels side by side, just trying to work through that.

Bianca Harmon  45:06  

There’s a lot of creative things. I mean, you probably know this, but a lot of like places around here, like a winery I worked at, they had a ton of old labels of stuff, and they would make candles. So there was a guy that would take the wine bottles and cut off the tops, and they would make homemade candles, and they’d slap the old labels on him. Those things would sell, like hotcakes. I mean, like, there’s just little kind of fun. And then people like it, because it’s like a memory of we’ve been coming here for so long.

Amy LaBelle  45:34  

Yes, absolutely. And that is your right, our loyal customers. They love the nostalgia of the old label, they in there, some of them are kind of viscerally impacted. They’re like, Oh, you know, ah, like, you’re changed the label that oh, well, of course, the yellow where’s the you know, everything’s okay. The wine inside is still good.

Bianca Harmon  45:56  

The wines even better, what do you mean?

Amy LaBelle  46:00  

We just kind of think they’ve been with us so long. Some of these customers, especially our Vineyard Club, which is an amazing group of about 150 200 people, they, they all sponsor a vine in the vineyard, and they have their name on a vine, and they come to harvest. So they get that’s the main benefit. They we invite them to come harvest and these people harvest all my crop in three hours. It’s incredible. That’s genius. It’s amazing. It’s really is the only thing that we have to do is afterward we have a huge celebration. You know, after the three hours of picking, we do a huge family table with a gorgeous brunch. And all the wine that we picked the year prior is poured at that brunch. It is such a special special day. So we feed them like crazy, and they’re happy to give us the labor. It’s great. But it’s those people you know, they’ve been with us a long time. And they’re our best supporters. And they’re kind of like, a new label.

Bianca Harmon  47:00  

But they’ll don’t like change. You know, they don’t I mean, I worked at a winery where one of the long long wines was a port style wine, but they went from a paper old school classic label, and they did to screen for it. And people freaked. Yeah, this doesn’t have a paper label on it. And it’s like, it’s the same step. I promise. They’re just going for a new look. It’s the 120/5 anniversary, like I promised everything’s okay. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Let’s say that’s my saying also, everything’s fine. We’re all fine. I say that a lot too. Everything’s fine. I’m gonna get shirts me that say that

Amy LaBelle  47:38  

was like a dumpster fire

Drew Thomas Hendricks  47:47  

me this has been a really, really, really satisfying episode for me. I always like to ask, is there anything we haven’t covered that you want to bring up?

Amy LaBelle  47:57  

Gosh, you know, I think that thanks for the question. Because what I want to tell the world is that give wines from other regions a chance. You know, I, I say that with like all respect and deep sincerity and love for wines from around the world. But and for California in particular. But there’s the bend for too long a perception that good wine is only made in France, or California. And, and there’s awesome wine made in both of those places. But there’s great wine being made all around the country now. And so I beg your listeners to give wine in all 50 states a chance. Try something new, you know, I don’t go and get that usual bottle of Chardonnay that you pick up at the store every week. Don’t buy that anymore. Buy something different buy something you’ve never heard of. Buy a blueberry wine. It makes you happy.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  48:55  

That’s that is if we can get that message out. Our job will be done. I mean, love to highlight all these regions. Where can people find out more about your wines and LaBelle Winery?

Amy LaBelle  49:07  

Yeah, so you can visit labellewinery.com To see our website and get all of the sense of what we’re doing here. You can visit LaBelle winery on Instagram @labellewinery or on Facebook. You can also to get on my personal Instagram page you can do @amylabellewinemaker. And there you get my personal recipes and stuff that I’m working on at home. So my family recipes, my prep lists and all my prep for my phone it right now Amy @amylabellewinemaker, that’s where you’ll see updates on the on the show. You’ll see my gardening and what I’m planting in my garden for the summer. And all of the fun things that I’m working on at home and often the thing the recipes I work on at home become recipes for the winery, but not always so it’s good to have good to have the personal follow as well.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  50:03  

That’s fantastic. Well, Amy, thank you so much for joining us today.

Amy LaBelle  50:07  

I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you. It’s been a real pleasure.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  50:13  

Have a great day.

Amy LaBelle  50:14  

You as well.

Outro  50:16  

Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.