The Heartbeat of Haverhill

Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA

Seasons of the Grape –  Haverhill’s Willow Spring Vineyards & winery

IMG_3473 Haverhill Willow spring vineyard

When The Heartbeat of Haverhill considers all the surprising assets Haverhill has to offer, the multi award winning Willow Spring Vineyards and winery at 840 West Lowell Ave. is somewhere near the top of each list no matter what the season.  http://www.willowspringvineyards.com/

Haverhill Winery Willow Spring winter collage

 

  • Winter –  Touring Willow Spring Vineyards (WSV) to learn about wine making, Haverhill’s own ski and snow board destination at SkiBradford and the largest Santa Parade in the region.

IMG_1177 Haverhill Willow spring vineyard cropped

  • Spring  – Sampling new wines as they come on-line at Willow Spring Vineyards, the trout stocked ponds and lakes and fast running, challenging river sections for kayakers, access to Haverhill’s myriad parks and trails.
20140613_140812 Haverhill Willow spring vineyard

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Campbell

  • Summer –  Relaxing on the porch of WSV, sipping wine and watching the grapes grow. Haverhill’s commitment to every type of water activity: the Splash Pad at Swasey Field, the beach at Plug Pond, pop up water cannons in our always improving parks, as well as free concerts downtown, on Bradford Common, and at the super Farmers Market on Saturdays (opening Sat June 28 from 9am-1pm.).

DSC_0334-001 Haverhill Willow spring vineyard

  • Fall – The novel experience of witnessing the grape harvest at our own local vineyard and winery – Willow Spring Vineyards, the River Ruckus in celebration of the mighty Merrimack River, and pumpkin and harvest festivals at our many farms and fields.

Over several visits (supervised and unsupervised), The Heartbeat of Haverhill learned:  Willow Spring Vineyards’ prominent red barn winery is open for samplings and tours from 12-6pm only on Sundays and Wednesdays, by appointment on other days and is available to rent for events needing the perfect rustic location. Why such limited access?

One year's yield at Willow Spring Vineyards

One year’s yield at Willow Spring Vineyards

Well, this is a small vineyard with 1,000 vines covering approx. 2 acres. The yield from the vines (when not decimated by birds) is approximately 400 gallons or about 2,000 bottles.

IMG_3412  Haverhill Willow spring vineyard Haverhill is Happening

Two thousand bottles of award-winning wine in-house grown and fermented varieties (Seyval Blanc, Heritage Red, and Pink/Blush were featured during our last visit) can be sold very quickly, so the proprietors (basically the entire Parker Family) opt to spread out the sales over shorter open hours. But like creating a line outside of Studio 54, this tactic increases demand though the micro production and quantity remain the same to ensure quality. This is a precision operation where Jim Parker and his appropriately named daughter, Brandi, study and debate the final tastes, experiment with different wine-making methods and various aging processes.

The Parker Family in Full Force. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Campbell

The Parker Family in Full Force.  Photo courtesy of Jonathan Campbell

The Parkers know this will be an ever evolving process where they can learn from a variety of sources. One source of information was the Haverhill is Happening social activity group that visited last winter. Together they tasted a Vignoles wine straight from the stainless steel vat. The wine was weeks away from bottling and yet everyone in the crowd loved it as it was and strongly recommended NOT sweetening the wine. Jim Parker recognized a valid focus group when he saw one and kept the wine as the crowd requested.

IMG_3450 Haverhill Willow spring vineyard 3

 

The Heartbeat of Haverhill sampled the wine on Friday and drew two quick conclusions:  – the crowd made a great recommendation because the wine is now a favorite, and, we needed to pick up a bottle before it sold out especially since CBS Boston just a few days before touted Willow Spring Vineyards as one of only five (5) small Massachusetts Wineries worth a visit.  http://boston.cbslocal.com/top-lists/pack-a-picnic-5-small-mass-wineries-worth-visiting/#.U5N_4LkAApt.twitter 

IMG_3452 Haverhill Willow spring vineyard

Owning a vineyard and winery is not for the weak hearted – it takes passion and dedication. The hours are long and many obstacles can threaten your livelihood.  A 40-hour work week would feel like a vacation. A week after buying the property with the long-term vision of rehabbing the ancient barn, a letter came from city hall condemning the property and requiring immediate action. The Parker family dug in its collective DIYers’ heels and made the barn a showcase.

IMG_3463 Haverhill Willow Springs Winery

Jim Parker and daughter Brandi end the winery tour by manning the wine sampling bar where their own and selected other wines and beers are available.

In 2012, birds decimated more than 50% of the grapes, starting first with the heavier reds, before cleansing their beaky-palates with the whites. Obviously the birds cared nothing for wine tasting etiquette which dictates that one moves from the lighter wines to the more robust (white to red). How very gauche! WSV fought through the immediate bird crisis by purchasing some grapes in 2012 from a wholesale grape producer in western New York state and a wholesale supplier in Hartford, Connecticut to make a Malbec and Pink (WSV’s blush). For the long-term WSV installed an upgraded netting system which canvasses the entire two acres of vineyards under netting.  This new netting system proved to be 95% effective resulting in a banner year for the WSV grape harvest in 2013 and the Parkers relied on a small team of volunteer harvesters who were fueled by homemade, homegrown tomato sandwiches as they plucked grape clusters from the vines.

DSC_0325-001 Haverhill Willow spring vineyard

A recent ribbon cutting ceremony brought several dignitaries to the winery including State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives who read a declaration from the Senate and promised to promote Willow Spring Vineyards as a tourist destination. State Representative Linda Dean Campbell who read a proclamation from the Massachusetts House. Outgoing Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce President Sven Amirian, State Representative Leonard Mirra, Haverhill School Committee and City Council members and crowds of well wishers including State Representative Diana DiZoglio.

Haverhill Willow Spring Vineyard 2

Front Row L-R Diana DiZoglio, Leonard Mirra, Linda Dean Campbell, Cindy Parker, Kathleen O’Connor Ives, Shaun Toohey, Maura Ryan-Ciardiello, William Ryan. Back Row L-R Sven Amirian, Jim Parker. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Campbell

It was an unseasonably cold, heavy raining day when the ribbon was cut, but after a few sips of wine, delectable nibbles from the creative buffet presented by Two Chefs Catering, and time spent connecting with all the happy people in attendance, the weather felt much warmer by the time we left.

 

Photo source Willow Spring Vineyards

One floor arrangement for an elegant event at Willow Spring Vineyard.  Photo source Willow Spring Vineyards

 

Ours was a short visit.The Heartbeat of Haverhill looks forward to the day we can return to Willow Spring Vineyards just to sit back on the sprawling deck overlooking the vineyard with a glass of Vignoles, and watch one season slip into another, sip by sip.

IMG_1190 Haverhill Willow Springs vineyards dusk

 

(c)2014 by Alison Colby-Campbell

5 comments on “Seasons of the Grape –  Haverhill’s Willow Spring Vineyards & winery

  1. Mike
    June 17, 2014

    Gorgeous photo. I like that place.

  2. Brandi
    June 17, 2014

    Thank you for the wonderful blog. We look forward to your next visit!

    • Brain4Rent/THoH
      June 17, 2014

      Thanks Brandi. You know we’ll be back. Oh and readers, I just found out they’ll be offering rhubarb wine in July….check them out on Facebook for updates.

  3. Dave Tibbetts
    June 25, 2014

    Thanks for this information . I will give this place a plug in our weekly e-newsletter, “Merrimack Valley Happenings.” And of course, I’ll stop by for a taste!

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Alison Colby-Campbell

Brain4Rent/THoH

Brain4Rent/THoH

Full-brain user demonstrating a healthy(?) obsession with marketing, promotion, writing, photography, house rabbits, the natural world, tennis, big and small problem solving, reading, hiking, HGTV and the flotsam & jetsam of everyday life. My three blogs Brain4Rent, The Heartbeat of Haverhill, Alison Colby-Campbell Photography are Wordpress based.

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