A photographer, a geologist and a pilot are the rather accidental masterminds behind Hermit Woods Winery & Eatery in Meredith.
As co-founder Bob Manley—the photographer—tells it, he, Ken Hardcastle, (the geologist), and Chuck Laurence (the aviator) became friends early in the new millennium and began “a journey into the exploration of all things fermentable.”
It was a hobby for the trio, creating mostly wines in their backyards, and after seven or eight years, they decided to take the pastime to another level. Bob’s home in Sanbornton had an addition housing a master bedroom with its own entrance and an office below, and he pitched an idea to his wife, Jerilyn Dolan.
“I told her we’d fill the basement with wine if she gave up her master bedroom,” he says with a laugh.
The bargain stuck, and Bob and Jerilyn’s bedroom became the first home for Hermit Woods in 2010.
At that time, the venue offered a tasting area that could seat about 20 people. Visitors parked near the home on a four-acre farm and meandered up a “snail” trail that was created through the lawn, entering the winery through the pre-existing deck and sliding glass door.
“It was idyllic,” Bob says. “A perfect location for a winery.”
The business was seasonal at the time, operating only on the weekends, June through October. Three years later, Hermit Woods was thriving, and Bob, Ken and Chuck’s work lives had shifted to make room for a full-time prospect.
They bought their current location in Meredith that year, remodeled it and opened doors in February 2014. Bob and Jerilyn moved to Meredith to be closer to the business, and growth has been steady.
So too has Hermit Woods’ involvement with the Children’s Auction.
For years, Bob’s support centered around buying gifts at the Auction, donating auction items, and looking for other ways to become more deeply involved. “You can’t live in the Lakes Region and not know about the Children’s Auction,” he says. “I was always so impressed by the commitment and involvement of so many volunteers and the amazing amount of money they raised every year.”
Several years ago, Hermit Woods began organizing a holiday gathering at the end of each year for members of its Wine Club and inviting them to make a donation to several nonprofits the winery owners had selected. Hermit Woods would match each dollar donated.
Three years ago, Hermit Woods donated roughly $600 to the Auction, and that giving has become a tradition. The business is now working on incorporating its new music venue into fundraising efforts.
Starting in August and continuing on the last Thursday of each month leading up to the Auction, Hermit Woods will dedicate its Listening Room Concert Series to raising funds for the Auction. The business will also offer a complimentary wine tasting on The MS Mount Washington for the Christmas in July event on July 13.
“I want to raise a significant amount of money,” Bob says.
Giving comes naturally to Bob. He sits on the board of Greater Meredith Program, is involved with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, and has served on the boards for the Winnipesaukee Playhouse and the Community College of New Hampshire’s Culinary Program.
“A business relationship with a community is a partnership,” he says. “One doesn’t exist without the other. It’s always been my motivation to run my business in that way. We grow our business on the health of our community. If we could have a healthier community, then we could have a healthier business.”
In giving to the Auction, Bob asks, “What better investment than our children?”