Growing up on the eastern side of the state, I never really got to know much about the Monadnock Region until I met my husband, Adam. He grew up in Keene and shortly after we met, his parents sold their home just off of the Keene State College campus and moved to a quieter spot in Swanzey.
Honestly, I had never heard of Swanzey and had only been to Keene about three times in my life before meeting Adam, but after years of visiting his family on the western side of the state I’ve grown to love this part of New Hampshire. There’s Mt. Monadnock, which is the third most hiked mountain in the world. There’s a wealth of functioning covered bridges and as I recently discovered, there’s wine and chocolate, too.
On a recent trip to Swanzey, the family decided to make a quick trip to Walpole to visit the Walpole Mountain View Winery and the L.A. Burdick Chocolates flagship store. It’s about a 20 minute ride up Route 12 from Keene and provides great views of the country side and the region’s many working farms. At the winery, we popped into the tasting room and tried a few of their products, ranging from very dry to deliciously sweet dessert wines. The selection was vast, as were the kinds of grapes used — 32 varieties grown on site!
While none of the wines knocked my socks off, the view from the tasting room certainly did. The closed in porch had high-top wooden tables decorated with fresh cut flowers and pitchers of cool water. Two of the walls had large windows overlooking the small vineyard and the mountains to the west into Vermont. Sipping wine on a warm day overlooking the Green Mountains wasn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon.
After purchasing a bottle of their 2011 Assemblage Red semi-sweet table wine, we hopped back into the car and headed down the mountain into the town of Walpole, a quiet, upscale village that is home to documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. Near the center of town is a long white building that looked like your typical New England general store. Inside I found a sophisticated cafe and chocolate shop that appeared to have been plucked from the streets of Paris.
L.A. Burdick Chocolates are the real deal. Expensive and incredibly delicious, the chocolate is only sold in Walpole, Boston and Manhattan. Their chocolate mice became famous last year when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg served them as dessert at his wedding, and after tasting one, you can see why one of the richest men in the world would want them at the biggest party of his life.
I bought a sampler, which the family nibbled at after dinner later that evening, and I found the hefty price tag quite worth it. After our purchase, we took a stroll through the cafe/bistro, which featured Parisian-style desserts and I’m told serves an insanely good brunch on Sundays.
If wine and chocolate weren’t enough, we decided to add a stop at the Walpole Creamery. This ice cream stand looks like any other, but Walpole Creamery prides itself in using all-natural and local ingredients in their homemade ice cream. Each batch uses milk and cream from a dairy down the road and it has been graded as “Super Premium” by the USDA, the highest rating given to ice cream.
So did it live up to the hype? My maple walnut cone did not disappoint and my husband, who really doesn’t like sweets, devoured his Mocha Chip before I could steal a taste.
The Monadnock Region is blessed with a wealth of tiny, historic towns with white steepled churches and well-manicured town commons. If you are looking for one that has offers good food as well, put Walpole on your itinerary.