Toast-worthy: Local winery celebrates one year in business

BROOKLINE – Sitting in a Spanish vineyard in the sun sipping wine, members of the Waite family looked around at the rows of grapes awaiting harvest and thought, “you know, we could do this.”

So they did. By July 2017, the Averill House Vineyard in Brookline was open, having grown from six little vines to more than 500, with 11 grape varietals and 20 wines.

“We started out with very little, but we’ve grown really fast,” Beth Waite, who runs the business with her father, Bob, said.

Located in the historic ice district of Brookline, reflective of a time when thousands of pounds of ice were cut from Lake Potanipo and shipped to Massachusetts, the winery still holds onto some of that old-time charm. The storefront is located inside an early 19th century barn with old beams crossing the ceiling, modernized only by the solar panels on the roof.

The solar panels are just one of several methods the Waites use to keep their vineyard eco-friendly, as well as growing organic, pesticide free plants and recycling as much as possible (such as giving several pounds of blueberry “mush” from their blueberry wine to the alpaca farm next door).

The small vineyard and winery only take up about two acres of land, but come the first official harvest in the fall, there may be up to a ton of grapes, the pair mused. Those grapes, though, won’t appear in a bottle for at least another year after that.

In their tasting room, the Waites serve a variety of traditional wines, such as a malbec, a cabernet and a riesling. However, they also have a few more creative blends, such as a cherry cold brew, which, with fruit and distinct coffee notes, Beth Waite said makes it a perfect “breakfast wine.”

Currently, they’re toying with a green apple or a strawberry rhubarb wine.

Not all of their experiments have been successful, however, as Bob Waite, laughing and scrunching his nose, recalled their attempt at making banana wine with some of the bananas they had in the freezer.

“It was horrible,” he said.

Then, of course, there was the boysenberry wine, which Bob hated and was ready to throw out before Beth intervened to tweak the recipe.

“The palate on it is so incredible,” she said, adding that they sold out of it within a few weeks.

Her father agreed. “A couple of weeks later it was fabulous,” he said.

It’s been a learning process, Bob Waite said, complaining that there was no “Wineries for Dummies” book. There are other books though. With lots of reading, trial and error, they seem to have found their way. Their first product, a blueberry wine, even won an award.

The other challenge has been navigating the legal and documentation side of the business, a hurdle which the town of Brookline’s economic development office was very instrumental in helping him clear, he said.

They said a new state law allows vineyards to serve full glasses of wine, which Beth Waite said is a “huge win” for the business.

Now, they can work with their customers to find the perfect wine, watch “their faces light up” when they find it, and give them a glass to take outside and enjoy in one of their outdoor lounge areas, she said, adding, “wine is personal.”

Averill House wines are currently only available on the property, but Beth and Bob Waite said that once they have more volume, they may expand to local restaurants or perhaps “mom and pop” shops, but they want to keep it personal.

Next year after the harvest, they will work on increasing their volume, as well as developing a special 250-bottle batch of blueberry wine for Brookline’s 250th birthday.

Surrounded by fruit trees, herbs, and wildlife (a baby bird has taken up residence in the top of their gazebo) it is a nice place for a picnic, as Beth Waite encouraged one caller to do. They have tried to make the space as “cozy” as possible, she said.

The space inside the barn is small, but for several special occasions, they have made room for an intimate, 12-person dinner for say, Valentine’s Day or Saint Patrick’s Day.

This year, they also hosted mystery parties and will soon have an escape room. They want to keep the public engaged and having fun, they agreed.

The next evening party will be the vineyard’s “Wine-versary.” This is July 28 with a full day of festivities with lawn games, tie-dying, tastings and other fun treats.

Averill House Vineyard is located at 21 Averill Hill Road. For more information, visit www.averillhousevineyard.com or call 603-371-2296.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.