Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Hampshire, USA: Cheese ….and Lobsters and Oysters … and Wine!

Picture: New England Map with New Hampshire and Christian G.E.Schiller in front of typical New England house, with dog Oscar and cat Peace.

New Hampshire, USA: Cheese ….and Lobsters and Oysters … and Wine!

New Hampshire is one of the most, if not the most Libertarian State in the US. It is on the East Coast, part of New England. I am always amazed, when I go there to visit my daughter Dorothea and her husband Christian to see the license plates on the car with the motto.

Picture: New Hampshire License Plate


Of course, there is cheese in New Hampshire.

When you talk in Paris with a Frenchman about cheese made in the US and tell him that there are now excellent such cheeses made by very devoted and knowledgeable cheese makers, he will not believe you. But there is a rapidly expanding production of great artisanal cheeses in the US, though starting from a very low level. Cheese will probably never play the role in an American household it plays in a French household. The typical French grew up in a household where in the evening his or her mother would serve a four courses meal---crudites as starter, main plate, cheese and dessert, with a glass of wine of course, or two. The French have it in the Jeans. He or she knows so much about good food, including cheese. In the US, it is very different. Cheese is eaten as topping for Pizza or for the cheeseburger or similar food. But America is changing. Some Americans have started to show serious interest for high-quality cheese and artisanal cheese makers are springing up across the country.

And this cheese explosion is going east now to Europe. I was at the Borough’s market in London a few months ago and I was surprised finding Neal’s Yard Dairy to sell Roque River cheese from Oregon and the Pleasant Ridge cheese from Wisconsin.


Then, there is seafood.

New Hampshire only has a small stretch of the coast and I am not sure it produces its own seafood in meaningful amounts, but seafood is readily available in Concord. I always have at least once a lobster, a New England clam chowder and Oysters.

Interestingly, in North America, lobster did not achieve popularity until the 19th century, when New Yorkers and Bostonians developed a taste for it. Prior to this time, lobster was considered a mark of poverty or as a food for servants. The lobster industry became global, once the transportation industry could deliver live lobsters to urban centers. Fresh Maine lobster became a delicacy exported all over the world, in particular to Europe and to Japan.

The European lobster is more expensive and rare than the American lobster. It has been on the menu of the royal and aristocratic families and the rich and famous, in particular of France, for many centuries.

I like my lobster simple steamed with drawn butter. As for the wine, I try to go local: Finger Lakes, Long Island or New Hampshire wine (see below) … or a dry German Riesling that is crisp, fresh and high in acidity.


Then, I always have my Oysters.

Oysters have been a favorite of food lovers throughout the centuries. And they have always been linked with love. Casanova reportedly started an evening eating 12 dozen oysters. Oysters were cultivated long before the Christian era. The Greeks served them and the Romans were in particular enthusiastic about those from the shores of the English Channel.

I like them best au natural, or with fresh lemon juice. There are also two classic sauces to be served with raw oysters. The first is a mignonette sauce with shallots and vinegar and the second is a chili sauce.

I have not seen in Concord any oysters from New Hampshire, but occasionally, you find some from Maine, though most are from Long Island or are brought up from Virginia. In most people’s minds, Maine is a lobster country. But the same frigid ocean, terminal moraine, and unpolluted coastline that grows such delicious lobsters also makes for beautiful oysters, with the Damariscotta River estuary standing out. Maine oysters grow slowly. A Maine oyster needs three years minimum.

The best oyster wines are dry, crisp, clean-finishing white wines. I try to go local: Finger Lakes, Long Island or New Hampshire wine (see below) … or a dry German Riesling that is crisp, fresh and high in acidity.


Wine in New Hampshire? Yes, there is wine in all 50 States.

Wine is now produced in all fifty States, with California leading the way followed by Washington State, Oregon and New York State and Virginia. However, some States outside the Northwest do not grow popular vitis vinifera grapes such as cabernet sauvignon very easily, and some wineries in the smaller wine-producing States buy juice or grapes from other States.

The United States is the 4th largest wine producing country in the world after France, Italy, and Spain. North Dakota was the last to join, in 2002. Alaska’s wine is made from grapes from other states. New Hampshire is a relative new kid on the block, joining the list of states that began pioneering winemaking in the early 90's.

For reviews of wines from all 50 States go to here. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1837245,00.html

One thing that is not well known in Europe is the struggle in America in the past centuries to find the appropriate grapes for winemaking. In the original charter of the thirteen colonies was a royal commission to pursue three luxury items that England was unable to provide for itself: wine, silk, and olive oil. Every colony made attempts to satisfy the requirements of its charter, but made only limited progress. The problem was that on the one hand there were the native American grapes. All these native American grapes were cold tolerant and disease and pest resistant, but not well suited for wine making, due to their coarseness, high tannins, and "foxy" flavors. On the other hand, the vitis vinifera which settlers brought from Europe, were well suited for wine making, but uniformly did not survive long enough to produce a crop.

Despite many years of failure, the early Americans persisted in their efforts. And they had some success. First, they planted several different native varietals in the same vineyard and over time some natural mutations occurred; the results from some of these hybrids were far better than any of the unadulterated natives. A big step forward was made in 1740 when a natural cross pollination occurred between a native American grape and a European vitis vinifera. Other successful crossings followed.

Today, European vinifera grapes dominate wine production in California, Oregon, Washington State, New York State and Virginia.

There are now twelve commercial wineries and vineyards in the State of New Hampshire. French hybrids are found to grow best in the cool New England climate, including Seyval Blanc, Vignoles, and Vidal, as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

Wine Tasting Notes: Woelffer Wines from Long Island, New York State - Nov. 23, 2009

Wine Tasting: Castello di Borghese, Long Island, New York State - November 18, 2009

In the glass: 2005 Christian's cuvee, Woelffer Estate Vineyard, Long Island, US - November 11, 2009

German Winemakers in the World: Christian Woelffer and Roman Roth - November 13, 2009

Wine ratings: The 2009 New York State Favorites, Long Island, Finger Lakes, Niagara

Wine Region: Upcoming Long Island, New York State

Wine and Food: American Cheese Going to Europe

Wine and Food: Artisanal in New York City

Wine and Food: Blue Cheese Tasting
Wine and Food: Wine and Cheese Matching Demystified


  1. Hi Christian,

    Great piece! Good to know your enjoying some of the fine cheeses made in the USA. Artisan #cheese is on the rise all over the country. A ton of info is available from http://www.cheesesociety.org/ for those interested.