Sip Tripper

Why shoulder season is the best time to visit RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain

Seven Birches Winery, moose sightings, and more in Lincoln, New Hampshire

If you haven’t made a visit to Lincoln, New Hampshire in the past 5 years, you’ll want to take a drive during shoulder season, also known as the calm before the storm of the peak season. And by peak, I mean snow peaks for skiing in the White Mountains -- Loon Mountain, in particular, where most guests at The RiverWalk flock for downhill, snowboard, and more fun in the snow.

Along with the down time before a busy ski season, lodging prices are at their lowest, walkable shops offer deep discounts, and there’s no waiting in long lines at restaurants or for certain activities, such as wine tasting at Seven Birches Winery, located in the RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain.

What was once the site of a papermill is now the RiverWalk, a full-service resort with ownership options and La Vista Restaurant, which serves amazing brick-oven pizzas.

The white pizza at La Vista.

The white pizza at La Vista.

The resort also houses the Solstice North Day Spa, and Seven Birches Winery, the latter offers production facility tours across the hall from the tasting room. Once in the tasting room, outdoor seating is the best place to enjoy a wine flight, glass of wine, or bottle of wine with a charcuterie plate. Or you can stand at the bar or high-top tables for tastes from around the world.

Ten to 12 tons of red grapes are shipped from wine regions that include Chile, the Central Valley of California, and Washington State. For the white wines, 8 tons of juice are shipped to create a diverse wine portfolio.

The estate wines are what you’d expect in this New England region: blueberry, apple and ice apple wines. But what adds to the allure of this resort is it's ambiance of mountain views and the sound of babbling brooks in a river that adds to the newer visual of vineyards as you make your way out to walk the river in the back of the resort.

Now, about the wine tasting…

A zesty Alto 2021 off-dry Pinot Grigio from Chile tasted best when paired with a slice of aged cheddar from the winery’s charcuterie plate. From there, a 2020 Central Valley, California Riesling offered a slate minerality that worked well alone or with a slice of spicy salami and cheddar. A recommended red wine tasting was a 2019 Washington State Pinot Noir. Stock up on this while you can. It’s that good.

The most confusing sip was a 2019 Rebel Super Tuscan made from California grapes: 60% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 20% syrah. How can this California blend wear a label of super Tuscan? Well, upon further research, the answer unfolded to explain this ambiguous category. There is no regulation as there is with Champagne or Prosecco, its more about marketing red blends. In response, the Italian government introduced new classifications to allow superior products to stand out, such as the truly Tuscan Sassicaia.

Finally, it was time to try the hard apple cider, which had been touted as premier. If you enjoy hard apple cider, this is one to taste. If you don’t particularly enjoy hard ciders, you’ll still enjoy a taste of this and may even bring home a bottle, since it is pleasant on the palate and pairs well with New England sweater weather.

If it rains during your visit to RiverWalk, a recommended non-activity is at Solstice North Day Spa for a Himalayan Salt Stone Massage, sure to soothe your body and soul. Or you can head downstairs for some physical exertion and enjoy the heated outdoor pool/jacuzzi or fitness studio. If it’s not raining, the on-site ice rink is the place you’ll want to glide for some fun. Bring your own skates or rent at RiverWalk. Your choice.

Off-site day trips are an option as well, especially to take the less than hour drive on the Kancamagus Highway to North Conway to shop the outlets. Keep your eyes peeled for moose sightings, as the odds are in your favor that you’ll spot a gangly long legged dark-coated moose crossing the highway. Especially during shoulder season.

Charlene Peters is a travel, wine and wellness writer living in New England. She is author of “Travel Makes Me Hungry: Tales of tastes & indigenous recipes to share,” available on Amazon.