Started in 1998 with 30 vines, Poocham Hill Winery's vineyard has expanded to 1,200 vines on more than three acres. Over the past 14 years, we have settled on nine varieties of hybrid wine grapes, four whites and five reds, that grow and mature well in their southwestern New Hampshire location on the hills above the Connecticut River. Yes, it is all about the grapes.
We started this project with the intent to produce the best possible wine from grapes that we grew. Starting with Marechal Foch, Frontenac, Sevyal Blanc, LaCrosse, and St Croix, we quickly added test plots of Noiret, Chandonel, Chelois, and Traminette. While the Noiret did well, the other three varietals were not ideal for our vineyard's terrior, and were replaced with Marquette. The next addition was more St Croix and LaCrosse plus Frontenac Gris, a grey sport of the successful Frontenac. We expanded to a second vineyard site with a large planting of Marquette and LaCresent.
Poocham Hill Winery's vineyard sits about 400 feet above the Connecticut River on what was once the shores of Lake Hitchcock. The soil is excellent for growing grapes with layers of gravel, rock, and clay under the topsoil. While glaciers did drop a few large boulders, making the preparation of the soil for new vines interesting, it is a common occurrence for the tractor's posthole drill to bury itself in 5 feet of soil. Walking through the vineyard one can tell that the vines have matured in an environment that is exceptional for producing quality grapes. The local birds seem to agree. One of the earliest additions was netting from New Zealand to keep our winged friends from eating all the grapes.
Good grapes make good wine. We choose the best grapes for our land and carefully attend to each vine. Our vineyard is small enough that pruning, mid-season care, and harvesting is all done by hand. We personally monitor the sugar and acidity of each variety of grape to determine the optimum time for picking, then those grapes are hand picked and the wine making begins.
Frontenac is a French-American hybrid grape varietal developed by the University of Minnesota and released in 1996. Our first planting of Frontenac was in 1999 and it has consistently been a strong producer. It is well suited to our gravel and clay soil and has established itself as a varietal as well as great in blends. Frontenac's deep garnet color complements its distinctive cherry aroma and inviting palate of blackberry, black currant, and plum. This versatile grape can be made into a variety of wine styles, including rosé, red, and port. Frontenac pairs well with hearty foods such as beef, lamb, pasta dishes, and barbecue.
Marquette is a cousin of Frontenac and grandson of Pinot noir. Viticulturally, Marquette is outstanding. Marquette's high sugar and moderate acidity make it very manageable in the winery. Finished wines are complex, with attractive ruby color, pronounced tannins, and desirable notes of cherry, berry, black pepper, and spice on both nose and palate. As a red wine, Marquette represents a new standard in cold-hardy viticulture and enology. Our first planting of Marquette was in 2007 and we have continued to plant this variety every year. We have a section in Maya's Block vineyard and a substantial planting in our new Bella's Block vineyard.
Marechal Foch was developed in Alsace, France by Eugene Kuhlmann in the beginning of the twentieth century and was named after the French marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), who played an important role in the First World War. The quality of wine produced by Marechal Foch vines is highly dependent upon vine age, with fruit picked from older vine exhibiting more complex aroma and flavors with less undesirable herbaceous notes found in younger vines. The berry size of this variety is small. Marechal Foch can be made into a variety of wines ranging from a light red wine similar to Beaujolais, to a more extracted wine with intense dark purple color, black fruit flavor, and a unique varietal character. It is often considered to possess Burgundian characteristics, having a vibrant, deep purple color, with a light-medium structure and dark berry fruit characteristics. Some tasters find the similarities to Burgundy Pinot noir become more pronounced with age. Our Marechal Foch vines were planted in 1998 and 1999.
St Croix was developed by Elmer Swenson and released in 1981. It produces a bluish-red grape that makes a medium- to full-bodied, dry, deep red wine with soft tannins and good aromas including blackberry, currant, violet, and spice. St. Croix has been very popular with many of our friends. We started planting St. Croix in 1999 and 2004 and will be planting more in the future.
Noiret was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University in 1973. Originally known as NY73.0136.17, it was named and released to the winegrowers in 2006. Poocham Hill Winery participated in the testing of this grape, planting our vines in 2001. Noiret produces an excellent full-bodied, richly colored wine. A major distinguishing characteristic of this selection is the fine tannin structure that is complete from the front of the mouth to the back. The wines can resemble Shiraz (Syrah) with a distinct black pepper character and notes of raspberry, blackberry, and mint. Pair Noiret wines with beef, pasta, and sharp cheeses.
Lacrosse produces medium size white grapes much like Seyval Blanc. It makes a good stand-alone varietal wine and is also used for blending for lighter wines to add body and finish. Fermented in oak, Lacrosse makes a nice dry wine. Aromas range from pear, apricot, and slightly muscat to citrus & floral, depending on the winemaking style. It pairs well with seasoned chicken and seafood. We planted experiential vines in 2000 and then a more substantial planting in 2004.
Introduced in 2003, Frontenac Gris, the white wine version of Frontenac, started as a single bud mutation yielding gray (thus named gris) fruit and amber-colored juice. We planted Frontenac Gris in 2004, in the lower end of Maya's Block vineyard. Frontenac Gris wines present aromas of peach and apricot with hints of enticing citrus and tropical fruit. A brilliant balance of fruit and acidity creates lively, refreshing wines. Unique and complex flavors make this an excellent grape for table, dessert, and ice wines.
Seyval Blanc is a yellow-white variety with large, compact clusters of medium berries. It was developed in Drome, France by Seyve-Villard and released in the 1930's. It is an excellent white wine variety, with a characteristic citrus element in aroma and taste. Although thin bodied, this wine has attractive aromas of apricots, peaches, and nectarines. Seyval Blanc wines pair well with appetizers, fish, salads, garlic dishes, and cheeses. Our Seyval Blanc was planted in 1999.
La Crescent combines St. Pepin and Muscat Hamburg. It is a grape that has done well in the New Hampshire and Vermont climates and has become very popular. La Crescent's intense nose of apricot, peach, and citrus lends itself to superior quality off-dry or sweet white wines. The grape's high acidity provides good structure for excellent dessert or late-harvest style wines.
The off-dry, sweet white wine pairs well with appetizers, seafood and chicken. La Crescent can also be produced in a Germanic style similar to Riesling. We have just started our planting of La Crescent this year and have high expectations for this varietal grape.
Since early times, the Connecticut River has been the main souce of transportation and food, first for the Abenaki people and later for white settlers. The Poocham was one of many summer gathering places along the Connecticut River used by the Abenakis. Settlers from the Massachusetts Colony came up the river in canoes and settled here during the late 1600s.
The first of these settlers were the Leonard, Briggs, and Payne families. Poocham Hill Farm and Winery are located on an upland setting in this historic place. The Leonard's, who originally came from Tauton, Massachusetts, built the house and barn that is home to Poocham Hill Winery today. They also added many outbuildings during the following decades. Their 1790's schoolhouse still stands, awaiting restoration and repair.
We continually work at the endless task of preserving and restoring the rich history of this farm. And we love to share that history with our visitors. The house with its wonderful front porch, the gardens and pastures, the spring house and old barns all tell the story of hard work and dedication both now and in the past.
“You are welcome to come enjoy the past and have a taste of the fruits that are now grown on these historic lands.” — Mame ODette