Derry vineyard helps New Hampshire win big in regional wine competition

Union Leader Correspondent
March 08. 2017 11:32PM
Mike Appolo of Appolo Vineyards and Dianne Carter, owner of New England Uncorked, taste locally made wine at Appolo Vineyards in Derry. (Ethan Hogan/Union Leader Correspondent)

New Hampshire took home more “best of category” awards than any other New England state in a regional competition for winemakers.

The Granite State won three of the nine “best of category” awards, according to the Best of New England Wine Competition website.

• Hermit Woods Winery in Meredith won Best Mead with its Three Honey Gold.

• LaBelle Winery in Amherst won Best Red with its Amherst Vineyard Red.

• Copper Beech Winery in Hooksett won Best Fruit Wine for its Country Crabapple.

The competition, held in Charlottesville, Va., on Friday, accepted wine made exclusively from grapes grown and fermented in New England.

Using grapes grown locally in Derry and Londonderry, Appolo Vineyards in Derry received two medals in the regional competition for its self-produced wine.

Appolo Vineyards’ Dragon Fly White 2015, made with grapes grown in Londonderry, won a second place medal in the white wine category. Winning a third place medal was Appolo’s sangria-like Red One 2016, made with grapes grown exclusively on the vineyard’s Derry property.

The vineyard is located on owner Mike Appolo’s home property. Appolo said he has roughly a dozen varieties of grapevines in his backyard.

In a separate small building at his home, Appolo has several fermentation tanks where he experiments with different yeast, acids and bacterial processes. His wines are able to bring out tastes of apple, pear and berry, with only grapes.

Transitioning between different career paths, Appolo worked in software engineering before winemaking became his full-time job in 2012.

“I liked wine. I got to learn a lot about wine from living in Europe and traveling around Europe tasting wines,” he said.

Appolo started experimenting with making wine in 2006 after clearing his land and planting grapevines. He learned to make wine from scratch by reading about the plant-growing and fermenting processes.

“I read a lot of books; I read everything I could get my hands on,” Appolo said.

He added that New England’s winemaking industry is unique from other parts of the world like California, because the summers are shorter, making the grapes mature at different times.

“A lot of these grapes, you have to realize, have to survive the winter,” he said.

Appolo was able to find a niche in the New England wine market after learning the process of the region’s grape harvest.

Appolo works with wholesale stores like Market Basket, and his wines have made their way into many homes. But the majority of his sales come from purchases during wine tasting visits at his vineyard, he said.

Appolo works on every step of the process, which includes growing, picking and fermenting the grapes. He also employs five people who help make and serve wine during the peak wine tasting summer season. Appolo is proud of what he calls “low impact farming,” which uses as little chemical spray as possible.

According to Appolo, his wine production has grown exponentially in the past several years. He is interested in expanding but intends to stay at his backyard Derry location.

Appolo said he will serve his wine at the new Derry Homegrown Farm & Artisan Market, set to open this summer.

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