License commission approves local winery

WESTFIELD – The verdict is in, and wine enthusiasts around the Whip City are jubilant.
Mineral Hills, a winery based out of Florence, was approved last night by the city License Commission, which granted the burgeoning winemaker the right to showcase their product during the Downtown Westfield Farmer’s Market series, beginning Thursday.
Last night’s approval earns Mineral Hills the distinction of being the first winery to appear at the farmer’s market, which supports local family-owned farms and food producers, featuring locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers, home baked breads and goods, honey, maple syrup and now, wine.
The commission, consisting of Christopher Mowatt, Ed Diaz and chairman John Gaudrault, unanimously approved the winery’s inclusion in this summer institution, and Maureen Belliveau, Executive Director of the city’s Business Improvement District (BID) and a founder of the Downtown Westfield Farmer’s Market, is one of many who are enthusiastic about the decision.
“It’s always nice to add to the Farmer’s Market,” said Belliveau. “It changes the flavor a little bit.”
“We’ve gone through this process a number of times,” said Larry Godard, owner of Godard’s Red Hen Farm, where Mineral Hills’ wine is made, “This is our second or third year on Northampton’s summer farmer’s market scene, and we’ve also been approved for Easthampton’s, as well, which we’ll start vending at on June 28.”
Godard explains how Belliveau and other members of the Farmer’s Market’s organizing group approached him about becoming one of the first wineries to appear in the city’s summer staple, and he believes that the exposure in Westfield will do nothing but good thing for his nascent enterprise.
“I would like to continue to grow the business,” said Godard, who retired from MassMutual in 2009 after working for the company for 28 years. “These (farmer’s markets) tend to be more advertising than sales, since you’re giving away a lot of wine.”
And honey too, as it turns out. Since the mid-80s, Godard and his wife, Sue, who is employed in the Northampton school district, have run the farm, which does not raise chickens or produce eggs as the name would suggest, but produces apples, blueberries, honey, and now grapes for their wines.
Inevitably, and in the true spirit of the gentleman farmer, Godard began infusing the farm’s other crops into his wines, and the results have been quite sweet.
“We have about 13 different wines,” said Godard. “Nine or ten of which are made with just grapes. We also have a blueberry, an apple and a honey wine in our cellars, as well.”
The process which the Godard’s have undergone in order to sell their bounty is almost deserving of a large glass of wine itself.
Due to open-container and public alcohol consumption laws, vendors such as Mineral Hills must jump through a lengthy series of hoops just to have the opportunity to showcase and sell their product in a setting like a farmer’s market.
According to Suzanne Beck, Director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture is actually promoting local “farm” wineries and breweries at farmer’s markets, so long as the farmer’s market where the products are being sold is itself approved by the Department of Agriculture.
“A farm winery must obtain a liquor license from the federal government and then must be approved by the state, which is a different licensure then an alcohol license,” Beck said. “After the farmer’s market where the product is being sold has been approved, then the city must grant a permit for the vendor.”
Additionally, if a city has a winter farmer’s market, such as Northampton’s, a farm winery must undergo the process with the city again for a new license for that season.
Despite all of the legal procedures, Beck herself believes in the product.
“It’s been a nice addition to our markets,” she said of Mineral Hills’ wines. “It’s such a surprise to people to see wine at a farmer’s market. And it tastes great!”
For Godard, no amount of legal arm wrestling with the state could ever put a bad taste in his mouth.
“Growing up in a large Italian family in Springfield, my grandpa always would be making wine,” he said, fondly reminiscing of his childhood Sundays, before jokingly mentioning his grandpa’s other love, Italian card games.
But Godard’s wine is no joke, as it’s production has grown by leaps and bounds since it’s humble beginnings in Florence.
“We produced 50 cases in 2010, and cleared 750 this year,” he said.
Clearly his product is on the rise, and making it’s debut in the city at the Downtown Westfield Farmers’ Market this Thursday between the hours of 1:30 – 5:30 p.m. at a new location – the Church of the Atonement lawn located at 36 Court Street.
For questions concerning the market please contact Patti at the BID at 572-1260 or email [email protected] for applications to participate in this year’s market.
“We are always reviewing new applicants for farmers and their products,” Belliveau said.

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