Frosty fun at LaBelle Winter Family Fun Fest in Amherst

AMHERST – Winter festivals all over New England have been canceled this year because there has been too much winter – bone-crushing cold and suffocating snowstorms.

But at LaBelle Winery on Saturday, Feb. 28, it was a perfect day for a party that flowed between indoors and outdoors – cold, but not too cold, and with blue skies and bright sunshine.

In fact, it was warm enough on the patio for people to stand in line for bowls of David Fuller’s frosty dessert of maple syrup on snow and then stand around the fire pit eating it.

This is the second Winter Family Fun Fest for the winery, located on Route 101 in Amherst, and it has grown bigger each year.

This year, LaBelle teamed up with the Beaver Brook Association in Hollis to offer bird-watching hikes and bird silhouette craft making.

“I very much wanted families to feel as if this is a family place,” said owner Amy LaBelle, who estimated that 400-500 people would visit by the end of the day.

Some of them were families with children and some were adults who lined up at the bar to taste LaBelle’s Three Kings, Halcyon and other fruit wines.

Noemi Ottowitz, of Goffstown, was there with a friend. She said she was there because she is looking for a wedding venue and because, “I love the white wine.”

Out among LaBelle’s 2,001 grapevines was John Tenchack, LaBelle’s manager of wine production, who was giving vineyard tours to people on snowshoes. He explainied that LaBelle’s vines can stand New Hampshire winters because they were developed in New York’s Finger Lakes region and in Minnesota, with some vines cold hardy to 35 below zero.

The winter festival will probably keep growing, along with the winery.

Amy LaBelle’s wine-making adventures began in her Boston apartment, moved with her to her Amherst home and finally, in 2012, to the sprawling new winery on Bragdon Hill. On Saturday, she said would like to expand.

Along with the wine-making operation, she and her husband, Cesar Arboleda, have a bistro, which was expanded over the last year, a tasting room and events spaces. Last November, a sister company called Winemaker’s Kitchen opened at the Merrimack Premium Outlets.