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From Cellar to Resort: The Wine Journey of Seven Birches

Aug 31, 2022 03:24PM ● By Jessica Wilmes


What began as a hobby strictly for fun evolved into one of New Hampshire’s premier wine tasting destinations. Mark LaClair, owner and winemaker, couldn’t have predicted the founding of Seven Birches winery 12 years ago when he first started making hobby wine, but fate tells a different story.

Coming from a background in market- ing and hospitality, Mark moved to Boston from Upstate New York for school where he fell in love with the outdoor playground that New Hampshire offers. This awe encouraged him to take a position managing a resort in the White Mountains where he discovered not only his love for New Hampshire, but his love for wine. His wine journey was initially as a passionate consumer, when he started in his basement with a home winemaking habit. “I was making hobby wine at home out of all kinds of fruit and taking it to dinner parties and events and everybody’s reaction was the same: ‘It’s not bad’,” recalls Mark. 

 This inspired his first hobby wine label, ‘Not Bad Wine’. Although friends and community members encouraged him to try commercial winemaking, he was still on the fence about it admitting, “I had all the reasons not to do it.” However, a chance meeting with the owners of Windy Ridge Orchard in 2007 steered Mark’s path in a new direction. At the time, the family was looking for another experience to offer orchard visitors during their busy tourist season, and apple and blueberry wine seemed just the ticket. Furthermore, Mark seemed just the guy to help make it happen. Seeing the potential and the built-in safety net of a well-established business that people were already flocking to, Mark agreed and, when the first batch of wines sold out quickly, it didn’t take long for him to realize wine in New Hampshire just might be viable.“My marketing brain kicked in and I realized, [winemaking] in New Hampshire could actually work,” said Mark.


Mark began sourcing grapes from outside the area along with more equipment, slowly expanding over the next five years. In 2015, he decided to make the full-time commitment to producing wine in New Hampshire, moving his operation to the popular ski town of Lincoln, where a five-star RiverWalk Resort was being built. Mark set up his winery and tasting room to provide a whole new experience for tourists coming to town. “Moving the production from the orchard to the tourist town was big,” said Mark. “I was able to work and pour year round.”

Nestled just two hours from Boston and two hours from Montreal, Lincoln has long served as a getaway for those needing a break from the city. With visitors coming from these cultural hubs, Mark felt it was necessary to focus on producing quality wines like those people are familiar with.To do so, Mark sources grapes from California, Washington and reaches as far as Chile and South Africa. With fruit arriving all throughout the year, the team at Seven Birches is on a mission to take what they receive and transform it into distinctive wines. “For us it’s the complete opposite of other wineries that are challenged by the vineyard, we are more challenged in the winery because we have to work with what we can get,” says Mark. “It’s a unique thing that we do.” Working with varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, to name a few, the winemaking team restrains itself from wine manipulation and follows a taste-driven and simple style of winemaking.“We go off taste in the cellar,” says Mark. “It’s not scientific, we just work to produce a balanced end product.”


In addition to quality wine and a portfolio of fruit wines, Seven Birches recently embarked on a new project making hard cider. When the Covid pandemic cut off the Southern Hemisphere grape delivery, Mark was left with extra tanks and nothing to put in them. This prompted him to buy some apple juice from local orchards and see if cider could help meet production demands.

 With offerings like barrel-aged cider, Mark applied winemaking techniques and principles to his cider program with the end product drinking more like champagne or that of traditional ciders from the Basque and Normandy regions of Spain and France. With success pouring in from the cider program, the Seven Birches tasting room now offers the Rhythm Studio for a unique experience tasting non-grape wines.

 For the future, Seven Birches planted a one-acre vineyard with 7 different hybrid vine varieties. With the first years of grape production coming in, Mark is excited to experiment with different varieties to see what might do well in the New Hampshire climate and soil. 

“I can’t explain it but the site is growing incredible Marquette, it’s the one I’m most excited about,” says Mark of the hybrid grape variety.

 With two tasting rooms and a new winery expansion in the works, Mark hopes to take his 5,000 case production to 10,000 cases in the future. With the addition of an event space, he also expects to draw people from all over to come experience the space. Mark talks fondly of the place he calls home and draws on the variety of things to do and the variety of products to try that make Seven Birches and the area so special. “There’s something for everyone here,” says Mark of his wines and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. “That’s part of what makes it very New England.” 


22 S Mountain Dr. 

Lincoln, NH 03251 

(603) 745-7550