Connecticut Wine Trail
I should also add....the newish winery just west of Foxwoods - Maugle Sierra - has some very nice red wines.
So glad to see you back here in the land of chow. ;) I'll keep the new winery on my radar. Meantime, did you ever make it to Tastings?
Maugle Sierra is great! We've purchased their Saint Croix which is a great red. I understand, from our visit last fall, that they plan to expand this year to a larger tasting room.
Oh, and the Esencia...divine!!
Maugle Sierra--very interesting. Always fun to try someplace new. We liked the Ledyard Sunset Red (estate grown St. Croix wine with Cabernet Franc) and the Esencia. Really nice call on that one, bakinggirl. Being able to pick out the chocolate notes that the barrel imparted was REALLY unique and it must be INSANE with chocolate. We'll find out soon (we bought one of each)!
Stopped back at Tastings in Mystic to split a sandwich while in that neck of the woods as the Maugle Sierra tastings had us a bit abuzz having had light breakfasts. This time we shared a turkey club. It was perfect as we had dinner plans and didn't want to overdo it at lunch. I would highly recommend a stop at Tastings if anyone is visiting Stonington Vineyards or Maugle Sierra. You can do takeout, too, so that would be perfect for MS where they encourage BYOP (picnic)!
You're welcome. It would be more helpful if I posted a link to the restaurant's menu, so here 'tis:
Here's a link to the original thread where I first learned about Tastings (thanks, JaneRI, Joltingjoey et al!):
I am sure this place will be BANANAS in the summertime, so by all means, get there soon and beat the rush! The food is really delicious and exploring the wines with your wine card is a fun/interesting way to spend an afternoon or evening.
4 Hendel Dr, Stonington, CT 06378
Just got an e-mail from Gary and Gloria at Priam Vineyards in Colchester with the following info:
"Ct Wine Trail Passports are available this weekend. Just visit 14 of the 26 wineries in CT by Nov. 8, 2009 and get it stamped, for a chance to win one of two 13 night trips to Spain or a weekend getaway at the Norwich Marriot Courtyard. Good luck to everyone!"
So, ladies and gentlemen, get ready to start collecting stamps in your passports! Cheers!
11 Shailor Hill Rd, Colchester, CT
I didn't know that Tastings does Takeout. That's a great idea for when we finally head out to visit some of the Mystic-area vineyards. We've visited 10 wineries already this year although only 8 stamps as our trips to Gouveia and Chamard were prior to the Passports being available.
I have to say that, overall, I've been very happy with the quality of the wines we've tried. While I haven't really found a red that I'd consider purchasing, we've purchased several white, blush and dessert wines. I'll try to post my thoughts later tonight on those we've visited this year:
Would love to see others' opinions as well.
I, too, have been very happy overall with the wines we've tried. I think you'll change your mind about reds when you get to Jonathan Edwards and Sharpe Hill (make a reservation here for lunch or dinner, you will thank me later). I haven't been this year *yet* but that will change soon. My designated driver (!) is especially fond of one of the reds from Heritage Trail (can't think of the name right now and their site is down--there's Rochambeau, which I like and the other...you will know when you go).
HERITAGE TRAIL VINEYARD:
Used to be my least favorite before Harry and Laurie took over. It's a completely different--and wonderful--experience now. The wines are now definitely worth the trip and their food is delicious, too. I am a huge fan of their chardonnay (not to mention their gelato, pizzetta, etc.). Their site appears to be down at the moment, but here's a link. I've included reviews of their food from this board:
As others mentioned here, the Esencia de St. Croix should NOT be missed. Here's a description from their site: "Our Ledyard Estate Grown St. Croix wine is triple fermented and aged for years in toasted American Oak Barrels delivering smooth creamy, blackberry, plum, currant fruit, and Chocolaty flavors. Best served AS Dessert or as an aperitif for that Special Occasion!!! Price per Bottle - $40"
As you can see from the front page of their site, this would be a lovely place to bring a picnic lunch.
I am overdue for a trip here. I can think of few more perfect things to do on a hot, summer day than take a ride here, grab an ice-cold wine glass of their sangria and sit on one of their Adirondack chairs overlooking a field (where sometimes people are picking raspberries with those giant straw hats--bee deterrent?). I still have some of their wines downstairs so we can make their sangria at home.
SHARPE HILL VINEYARD:
One of my very favorite restaurants in CT--I've been for both lunch and dinner several times over the past 8 years or so. You'll need to make a reservation in advance (potentially a few weeks) and put a deposit on your card that can be applied to your meal. I am particularly fond of their American chardonnay; for reds, we've enjoyed their Red Seraph and Cab Franc.
Another great setting to bring a picnic (or a baguette and some cheese--and they sell Cato Corner cheese, so maybe just bring bread and some plates/flatware). They have a farmers' market their in season and they also do wine dinners (though I've not yet been). I'm particularly nuts about their St. Croix and Essence of St. Croix--see a trend here? ;)
Great reviews. The only comment I have is that while Jonathan Edwards does have good reds, I feel like they're cheating by using grapes grown in Napa. It might be silly of me to question whether or not they still count as local. I love local beers, and it's not like the barley is coming from around here.
Part of what bothers me is that shipping the grapes to make the wine here leaves a considerably larger carbon footprint than making the wine in Napa and shipping it here in bottles. If it pollutes more, and doesn't have a local terroir, what's the locavore draw?
Since they cost as much or more than some of my favored Napa reds, there isn't much pulling me to buy them.
They do have one locally grown red, a cabernet franc, but they have been sold out both times I've been.
Thanks! I do know what you mean about Jonathan Edwards and where they get their grapes. I hadn't considered it from the whole carbon footprint perspective. Of course, you're right. To be really honest, I would rather ship *myself* to Napa and buy and sample there. ;)
Cab franc appears to be a red CT does well. I'll look for it next time at JE.
Thanks so much for your thoughts and reviews. Didn't get the chance to post mine last night, but will do this evening. I have yet to try any of the Eastern Trail wineries (other than Chamard and Gouveia, both of which I enjoyed and plan to return to), but they sound wonderful from your descriptions.
The key, in my mind, to enjoying CT's wine is to approach it with the right frame of mind. If you go in looking for something that will compete with Chateau D'Yquem 1975, well you have nowhere to go but utter disappointment. On the other hand, if you go in with an open mind and appreciation for the challenges that CT growers face, well then you can definitely find some very enjoyable bottles.
I'll admit that I'm a bit torn on the whole Jonathan Edwards/Napa thing and will reserve judgment until I can actually make it there for a tasting.
My open mind is to taste, without regard to where it comes from. If CT winemakers can make good sweet whites then fine! I'm sure they will have a market. I don't think it is sensible, or realistic, to make reds from California grapes.
I did the Texas wine trail thing (when I lived there), and there used to be some decent reds till the beetles hit. Then, they started doing the same thing as CT to stay in business (?).
In TX, they lost virtually all of their red wine grapevines. At best, they were barely comparable to CA or import wines.
I look forward to reading your reviews as well. I think your second paragraph is a perfect description of how to enjoy CT's wines--nicely stated.
Definitely keep an open mind on Jonathan Edwards. Despite how the grapes got there, they're making some very delicious wines with them.
I'll be especially interested to hear about Haight-Brown since they've changed ownership. I can only hope they've transformed as much as Heritage Trail did (as that was not one of my favorites back when).
Scargod - I hope that you didn't take my last post as a criticism of you or your prior posts. Certainly wasn't the intent. Taste is what it's all about, and based upon what you stated earlier about your likes (Chards in particular), I think you might find some of the wineries interesting - CT isn't all about sweet wines. At any rate, on to the reviews (note: we visited each with our four-year old daughter in tow, so family-friendliness was important to us):
A small, family-owned winery in New Hartford, Jerram offers a tasting of six wines for $6 (price includes the logo glass). The White Frost was a delicate, lightly oaked Chardonnay. Sporting pleasant notes of apple and citrus nose, it would work well with simple fish or pasta dishes. I did not care for the Gentle Shepherd, a blend of Aurora, Cayuga and Chardonnay, however the Estate Seyval Blanc was nice (if lacking in complexity). Highland Reserve was actually one of the better CT reds that I've tasted so far. A blend of Cab Franc (mainly) and Marechal Foch, it offered plenty of dark berry flavors with a peppery finish. Would serve as a nice complement to a picnic lunch. We did not get to taste their Vespers late-harvest dessert wine, which I'm told is quite good, however we did taste their newest offering called Our Sweet Rose. Jerram describes it as a "slightly sweet rose style wine, with a cherry character." Remove the "slightly" and I'd agree completely with that description. It was actually quite nice, so we purchased a bottle for my mother who enjoys sweet blush wines. In addition to their wine, they now also offer chocolate truffles, crafted by a local chocolatier, flavored with Jerram wine. These were TO...DIE....FOR! So we bought a box. Overall, this is a nice small winery with an absolutely stunning location, and the Jerram's are lovely hosts. Rating: B
CT VALLEY WINERY:
A relatively new winery, CT Valley is also family-owned and basically right around the corner from Jerram. While the main building is not much to look at from the outside, once inside the tasting room is quite comforting. They offer a tasting of 10 wines for $10. Ten wines is an admirable output, however I tend to think that they would be well-served by narrowing their focus a bit. They utilize a number of different hybrid varietals, in a number of different combinations. It's clear that they have a passion for what they are doing, I only wish that I shared that passion for the end product. Maybe I'm missing something because they have won quite a few awards, but then again, so have most of the wineries in CT. Rating: C and I'll give a + for effort
Getting late so I'll add more tomorrow!
Because you support locals (why bother) and you like road trips (I know this), so perhaps the time has come that you and the SO pick up your passports and set off on the trail. You won't have to go it alone. We can travel in *my* red (non-Miata, yet still very attractive and seats 4) ride. I won't be driving if we hit more than one, but my designated driver is very trustworthy. It's the difference between something being mass produced (those $11-13 & $15 dollar bottles you mentioned) and something of limited production. Think of it as how you see chain restaurants. ;) We need to support the little guys if we want them to stick around. And there are many on the CT wine trail I really want to stick around. So, don't beat us, join us, will ya? ;)
In addition to what kattyeyes said, because some of the wines are really good.
I don't like sweet wines either, even with spicy food. Most of the Connecticut wines I like are dry, and a few are semi-dry. The rose at Gouveia is semi-sweet, but it pairs very well with riper cheeses. Connecticut reds don't compare favorably to California's better reds, but I think our better whites stack up to California or New Zealand Whites.
Also, kattyeyes is right that all this why bother business sounds antithetical to your usual "get out and find good chow" attitude. Why so cautious? You've at least got to try Heritage Trail and Maugle Sierra. It's a nice little ride out - and you go right by some great clam rolls - you get to look at some nice, old New England farm houses, there's good chow at Heritage Trail, and they both have some nice, dry wines. Plus the management is friendly and accessible. Good people running good little businesses that offer good flavors. Isn't that what this is all about?
I beg to differ your take on Connecticut Valley Winery. I do tasting here and buy bottles at least 5-6 times a year here, and there tastings were never 10.00 per person. Last year, the tastings were 5.00 per person for 9 wines, and every single wine was great. I believe they had there Chardonel, 2004 Chianti, Ruby Lite, Deep Purple, Midnight, Just Peachy, Raspberry Delight, Dolce Vita, and Black Tie Cabernet Franc. They all won plenty of awards last year, and I thought they would never be able to top themselves, but they did this year. This year Ct Valley Winery lets you taste 11 wines for 6.00 per person, and I cant believe that there wines are even better than last year. They just won BEST SMALL WINERY at the big E wine Competition, and yes, beating out all the other Connecticut Wineries you have posted on here and then some from NY to Maine. I just visited them a few weeks ago and ther lineup includes, Chardonel, 2009 Chianti, Ruby Lite, Deep Purple, Midnight, Just Peachy, Rasp. Delight, Dolce Vita, Black Tie Cab. Orange Vidal, and there New Port, Black Bear. Best tasting and wine experiance Ive ever had. Yes, there Chianti is a lighter American Chianti, not to heavy as the wine makers explained, as It is my favorite red to drink in Ct. Orange Vidal was fantastic, citric and light on the pallat.(New for 09) also brand new and I think I was lucky enough to get the first bottles was Black Bear Port. Words cant describe the great flavor of this wine! Just...well...to die for.
I will be back again in a few weeks, and thank you for making such great different wine Ct Valley.
RATING: A+++++ for effort and esp. the wines
kattyeyes, i couldn't agree more, w/everything you said above! I didn't know you had made it out as far west as White Silo....every time I drink wine at home out of my WS glasses I remember how wonderful it felt to sit on those adirondack chairs w/a glass of their sangria.
My two new faves on the western end of the trail are Miranda and Sunset Meadow, both in Goshen.
We should pick a day and meet for lunch at Heritage Trail!
Sending a virtual CHEERS of WS sangria to you.
Your two new faves are new to me--will have to get to work on my passport and check some of the new places out.
Would love to meet you for lunch at Heritage Trail--it's thanks to you that I ever thought of revisiting it, you know! Such a departure from sampling wine in the former owner's kitchen with the avocado-colored fridge!
We just opened our Maugle Sierra Esencia de St. Croix tonight...a little post-dinner treat. It is so chocolatey wonderful! It just so happens I chocolate-dipped some Pretzel Thins this morning, and I must share with you, this truly is a delightful pairing. More info and a photo here:
I would highly recommend bringing this snack with you on the CT Wine Trail to accompany some of the red wines you'll find. Priam also has a lovely Essence of St. Croix that would pair beautifully!
I'm sad to say I didn't get around to picking up a passport or getting any stamps this summer. But wonder if any of you have an update...