Connecticut Wine Festival – 2012

The CT Wine Festival was on the last weekend of July. The witless wine troupe (ah, that would be me & the missus and my sister- and brother-in-laws) started off the morning drive to the Goshen Fairgrounds in Goshen, CT under a partly cloudy sky but soon realized that it was not if it would rain, but when. We were hoping the inevitable dilemma of transparent moist daggers from the heavens would hold off long enough for us to enjoy the 4th annual CT Wine Festival.

The parking lot was as empty as could be, given that the wine festival would not open for another 30 minutes.

We arrived a half hour earlier than expected and you can see that we were among the brave and loyal wine enthusiasts to get a front row parking spot.

This is advantageous strategy on the part of us wine purveyors. You see, we didn’t need to worry about parking in the doldrums of the cheap seats, way back in swamp land, wondering if we would ever find the wine mobile without utilizing the panic button on the key fob.

Umbrella in hand, we marched on to the starting gate (see featured photo) to enter the world of fine wines.  You can see the line forming in anticipation of finding the best wines of the festival. Much to our surprise they opened the gates about 10 minutes before the announced starting times.

Fortunately we arrived early but so did many of the other wine enthusiasts as well but it was not yet to the point where you were four or five deep. So, the process of getting wine samples was still relatively easy to obtain. Here are just a few of the brave wine tasters waiting for samples or those purchasing wine.

Many of you have heard about our Fancy Schmancy Initials Club so, can you spot Sparing Sharon and Cousin Carl?

Once we sampled the wines and made our purchases we found ourselves outside the tasting barns and out in the open where the skies threatened numerous droplets of rain but we were determined to visit the vendors of other products than wine before the wet stuff began. I’m particularly fond of the vendors selling oils and vinegars.

Once we had visited the outside vendors we got back to the car – oh, look at the parking lot now.

So, if you want to park in the front row, get to the wine festival early. Now, the only thing left to do now was stop at Apricot’s restaurant in Farmington to top off a perfect afternoon wine tasting. But outside under the tent the rains finally poured down upon us (sorry no pictures of the rain as the camera was in the car). I have to remember that I have a phone with a camera in it.

If you’re looking for a fun day and want to taste wine from many of the state’s wineries, you’ll surely enjoy this outing. So, put a reminder on your calendar for July 2013 to visit the Connecticut Wine Festival

Bishops Orchard Winery – 2012

Down by the shoreline in Guilford, CT lies the farm market of Bishop’s Orchards and they offer as their tasting flight six circles with two to four wines per circle to choose from. The tasting fee is $6 and includes their signature wine glass. Upon entering the farm market their vision statement is there for all to see.

Then immediately as you look straight ahead there is another sign directing you to the wine bar – ah, now we’re getting somewhere.

The first circle had the Stone House White ($13.50) that had a lot of fruit on the nose with apple being the dominate aroma. This was quite dry and good with apple flavors with a nice degree of tartness. There was a hint of pear on the back palate.

From the second circle I choose their Celebration ($14.50) and this was loaded with apples on both the nose and palate. I found fresh apple pie with cinnamon and sugar on the finish. This was a very decent semi-dry fruit wine.

On to the halfway point of my tasting tour I chose the Hard Cider New England ($9.95). As you would expect apple was found on both the nose and palate. However, I did get a nice effervescence on the mid-palate. With 6% alcohol by volume I almost mistakenly thought of this as a bubbly but the apple finish told me this was a very good hard cider.

Next, I chose the Apple Raspberry Blush ($14.50) and the very first aroma to hit the ‘ol schnozzola was raspberry. Incidentally, on the palate I experienced the same raspberry flavor with a hint of apple.

For circle five, I ended up trying the Honey Peach Melba ($14.50). Definitive peach and honey aroma with hints of floral notes on the nose and maybe a hint of honey-lemon tea too. The flavors were similar to the aromas with a semi-sweet peach finish that went away too quick.

For the last circle I went with the Strawberry Delight ($15.00). A dessert wine with the color of a fine brandy with a distinct strawberry aroma. The flavor was of strawberry which didn’t surprise me but it did exhibit a brandy type finish. It was most unusual and mildly enticing.

Well, I thought I was done with my tasting here but Laurie brought out their Sachem’s Twilight ($22.00) as a bonus tasting. And yes, that’s Laurie getting my surprise wine for an added feature to their selection. I found a medley of peach, pear, and apple on the nose. A pear finish with lots of bubblies. This wasn’t on the tasting menu but was glad they poured this as a special bonus.

Next week – Chamard Vineyards

Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco

Sorry for the blurry picture (must have had too much of this bubbly 🙂 )

There are times you just want to have a sparkling wine without having to pay a ton of money for. I’m getting to be a fan of Cupcakes’ offerings of late and their Prosecco is the latest I’ve tried.

Produced from 100% Glera grapes this sparkling wine opens with honeydew melon, peach, and grapefruit on the nose.

On the palate the flavors of citrus and lemon prevailed, had a creamy texture, and had quite a bit of effervescence. The ABV is 11.2% so take it easy as bubblies tend to get into your bloodstream quicker making you giddy all the faster – so pace yourself. It had a toast finish that was very smooth.

Cupcakes’ website has a suggested retail price of $13.99 but I was able to find this at Table & Vine in West Springfield, MA for $9.99.

Les Trois Emme

I was getting to the end of my day for wine tasting and Les Trois Emme was my last stop of the day. Located in Southwestern Massachusetts in the Berkshires, it was quite a drive from where I had to be for the evening but it was worth the stop. I spent about 2 hours and 15 minutes here and it will go down in my top memorably wine experiences.

When I first walked in this is what caught my eye right off the bat.

Disregard the pad and pen off to the right of the table as this wasn’t supposed to “get in” the picture. (Note to self: Pay more attention to where you place the writing instruments). I immediately enjoyed the color scheme of the purple walls and the green doors. The only thing missing is the black ceiling I remember from my college days.

I was greeted by a lady named Mary Jane and she came right up to me and wanted to know if I’d like to do a wine tasting. You know what my answer was. But before we got to the wine we took a walk in the back where they make and bottle the wines. Although I have been to many of the back rooms and they are all quite similar, it amazes me how each winery I visit, add their own charm to the surroundings.  I must have left my camera out in the tasting room area as I do not have any pictures of where the wine is made. (Note to self: pay more attention to where your camera is).

During my conversation with Mary Jane, she commented that the name of the winery was named after her first three granddaughters – Megan, Madison, and Mary Katherine – hence, Les Trois Emme. Mary Jane, with a pleasing voice, began telling me “stories” about a lot of interesting subjects. I was so mesmerized with the “stories” that I forgot to write them down. (Note to self: pay more attention to capturing the “stories” you hear).

Normally you get around five wines for a $6 fee but somewhere along the line it was decided I would get to taste all of their wines and do the food parings as well. I forgot to write down all of the food I paired with which wines (Note to self: pay more attention to food & wine pairings). About this time Mary Jane’s husband, Wayne (he’s the chemist), came in for a quick visit and we also chatted for a spell – no, I didn’t write what we talked about – yeah, I know “Note to self” time.

Okay, on to the wines I tasted and yes, I did remember to write my impressions of the wine as I tasted each one:

Kiyo’s Sparkling Wine – $20: This was a semi-sweet sparkler made from the Chenin Blanc grape. I found pear with a hint of apple on the nose with pear and apple on the palate. This was a very nice sparkling wine.

Splash of White – $16: A blend of several white wines from French-American hybrids, this opened with an apricot nose. Megan (not one of the granddaughters, but the wine staff and a radio host) gave me a shrimp cake that had sweet potatoes, cumin, and red bell pepper as the ingredients. This went very well with this wine which had a pear flavor.

Cayuga White – $16: This is one of their medal winners and it was predominately pear and apple aromas and flavors. This was paired with a pot sticker (don’t ask for the ingredients as I didn’t write it down).

Nick Jackson Blush – $16: A blend of 90% Cayuga and 10% Marechal Foch produced pear on the nose with red cherry on the palate with a slight peppery finish.

Julia’s Ruby Red – $18: Red berries on the nose and palate, this was served well chilled and had a bit of sweetness to it. This was paired with a quesadilla.

Shiraz-Cabernet – $18: 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon began with plum and boysenberry on the nose. On the palate I got plum and black cherry with a slight peppery finish.

Old Vine Zinfandel – $25: On the nose were hints of black and red cherry followed by red cherry and raspberry flavors. I liked this one a lot and was probably my favorite of all the wines.

Malbec – $20: I paired the other half of the quesadilla with this. Raspberry on both the nose and palate with a slight mocha finish.

Cabernet Sauvignon – $22: This had black cherry all over it. Although one dimensional it was quite tasty.

Berkshire Red- $18: This blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec produced mostly black berry fruit aromas and flavors.

Stingy Jack’s Pumpkin Wine- $16: I got pumpkin rind aroma, like when you’re carving a pumpkin for the Trick or Treaters, but not too overpowering. A subtle pumpkin flavor unlike a pumpkin ale which is way too much pumpkin flavor for me. This was a bit softer. It was paired with a warm pumpkin soup and it went very well. The wine complemented the soup tremendously.

Wizard’s Cranberry Wine – $16: A semi-dry wine infused with cranberry, hence you’ll get cranberry on the nose and palate.

As you can see from the above picture is was fairly light when I first arrived, however when I left, darkness had taken over the whiner-mobile. Their wine is made from the grapes that are located on their three acres in the vineyards as well as six acres from the Finger Lakes Region. They produce just over 2500 cases a year and Mary Jane is the taster and when she says says it’s ready, then it gets bottled. I’m going to take her word for it. (Note to self: take time to revisit Les Trois Emme).

Furnace Brook Winery

Furnace Brook Winery is located at Hilltop Orchards in Richmond, MA and I almost missed the turn but relied on my GPS to direct me to the right place. Located in the Western part of the Berkshires with great views, Furnace Brook Winery sells not only their wines but other delectable treats such as scones, cider donuts (yum), jams, and of course, fruit pies. My favorite of the bunch were some pickled garlic. I for one, love raw garlic just to munch on with some provolone cheese and crackers but the pickled garlic was really great.

Many of their wines were/are medal winners at the Big E Northeast Wine Competition for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and upon visiting them the first wine is free and then for $5 more you get to try five more wines. And of course they bottle the wines in the Big Red Barn in the picture above.

Here are the wines I ended up ordering:

Chardonnay Special Reserve – $16.99: A pale yellow color yielded a lot of pear, apple, and grapefruit aromas on the nose. I also got pear and grapefruit on the palate with an apricot finish. I really like this wine as I’m not a real fan of Chardonnays but this was one I’d like to have more of.

Dry Riesling – $16.99: Now a dry Riesling is something I am partial to. I think of most of the white wines, a dry Riesling is one I look forward to trying each time I open a bottle. On the nose were nuances of apple and pear with neither one overpowering the other, a nice balance between the two. I got pretty much the same on the palate with a good touch of acidity.

Mead: This wasn’t for sale when I visited them but they had it on the tasting menu. According to the tasting staff, this is made from an Ethiopian recipe that opens with fresh cut hay and sawdust on the nose with hints of honey. Honey and golden raisin flavors followed and although a bit too sweet for me it tasted good nonetheless.

Cabernet Sauvignon – $18.99: Black berries and cassis on the nose led into red and black cherries on the palate with a neat little mulberry finish. I liked this but not as much as some Cabernet Sauvignons from France, Italy, and California. I’m not knockin’ New England reds mind you, it’s just that we’ve got a ways to go yet to be of the same caliber as those I just mentioned. We do well with white wines through.

Sparkling Blanc de Blancs – $16.99: One of my favorite white wines are of the sparkling kind. This had visions of a Brut Champagne with a pear aroma and apple and pear flavors. This was very effervescent like a sparkling wine should be. Really liked this one.

French Cidre’ – $12.99: This had a bit of sparkle to it but not like a sparkling wine and again it had apple and pear aromas and flavors too. I really liked this but thought it was a bit over priced as most ciders I come across are under ten bucks.

Seeing as it was chilly when I visited this winery they had the indoor fireplace crackling for the tasters to get close to while sipping some of the wines. It was real warm entertainment and quite enjoyable on a chilly afternoon, but where else would you go on a chilly afternoon?

 

Bubble-licious

Ever wonder what kind of bubblies you should get for the New Year’s Eve festivities. Actually, whatever you’d like and here are three that fit the bill.

Cline Cellars 2009 Nancy’s Cuvee: On the nose you get an aroma of toast with subtle hay nuances. Lemon and green apple flavors follow on the palate. Made with 88% Chardonnay and 12% Pinot Noir this sparkling wine has 13% alcohol by volume. In my opinion the $21 price tag is worth every penny. Good luck trying to get this as I believe they are sold out. So, make this a reminder for next year!

Furnace Brook 2010 French Cidre Special Reserve: Next up is a local sparkling beverage with a pleasant aroma of apples but not overpowering. Think tart apple on the palate and you will have a delectable beverage that is low in ABV at 6.9%. A decent buy at $12.99.

Cavit Prosecco Lunetta: Peach, apple, and nectarine gently float through your nostrils giving way to citrus flavors and has an 11% ABV. Reasonably priced at $10.99.

Have a memorable New Year’s Eve Celebration!

Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery

Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery sits on approximately 450 acres of land of which about 80 acres are planted with a variety of grape vines. The day I visited was rain-soaked but I still had a great time. The walk from the driveway to the tasting room was a short distance but was very picturesque and the rain held off for a short spell to allow me to get some pictures of the winery sign at the entrance and this one showing the tasting room.

Upon entering the tasting room you see two wine bars although the first one seems to be reserved for purchasing wine, signing up for their wine club, etc. They  have two wine clubs available for receiving wine right at your door. You can sign up for either their 4- or 12-bottle shipments that come out three times a year. They also have a VIP club that provides special deals whenever you visit the winery or their on-line store. The VIP membership is free with the 12 bottle membership but costs $20 for the 4 bottle membership.

The second wine bar, just pass the fireplace, is where they conduct the wine tastings which are $6 for the wines available on their tasting menu. You do not get a signature glass either but I did get to meet CJ and Kyle (the sommeliers) that explained the nuances of their wines.

First on the tasting menu was their 2000 Blanc de Blancs: Made from 100% Chardonnay in stainless fermentation, this bubbly was quite dry (I prefer this), had a pale straw color with an apple aroma with a hint of grapefruit and yeast on the nose. It was a very pleasing aroma. The flavor, however, was what really pleased me as I found grapefruit, tart apple, and a subtle finish of apricot. I really liked this sparkling wine.

Next was the 2006 Westport Brut RJR: Again I got an apple aroma with a hint of grapefruit but found less yeast on the nose. The flavor was much the same as well as my impression of the bubblies – quite good!

2009 Chardonnay: Apple pie and apple blossoms on the nose with flavors of pear and apple delicately balanced where neither flavor overpowered the other. It was a very nice Chardonnay.

2010 Pinot Noir Rose: Candied apple aroma led into a red berry flavor (I couldn’t pinpoint a particular red berry so I just categorized it as just red berries) with a distant flavor of cranberry.

2009 Riesling: This wine opened with tropical fruits on the nose, had crisp acidity with minimal minerality – a very decent balance of the two. This had predominately apple flavors, the others I couldn’t detect.

NV Pineau de Pinot: This dessert wine was awesome and my favorite wine here. Aged in French oak for approximately three years the wine had a pinkish color and a delectable combination of red cherries, apricot, and orange on the nose. The flavor was reminiscent of Cognac with candied cherry, fig, and honey. I didn’t know if I was drinking a dessert wine or a Cognac.

In their gift shop you can purchase other items in addition to their wine such as t-shirts, wine accessories, and books. It was a fun place to visit and the wines were quite good. If you haven’t been here yet, it’s worth the trip. I know I’ll make more than just one trip here.

BTW, CJ says to watch out for an independent movie called Footprints, a Shepard film.

Cupcake NV Prosecco

Okay, seeing as the second date with a home cooked meal went fabulous, let’s impress your date a bit more. Show your new found love that you can host a small gathering of each of your respective friends – 6 to 8 people, that’s enough to start (you can do full blown weddings at a later date). It doesn’t have to be an extravagant 5 course meal but more on a buffet style food collection. You’ll want the proverbial scallops wrapped in bacon, Swedish meatballs, maybe an antipasto, chips & dip, slicing pepperoni, black olives, pickles, some cheeses, and an assortment of crackers. Be sure to add in goat’s milk cheese rolled in basil (you have to show you’re open to new things) and of course a pasta salad consisting of tri-colored Rotini, pepperoni, cheese cubes, broccoli, and cauliflower all mixed with an Italian style salad dressing. Choose the Cupcake Prosecco to start the evening off with. As for the rest of the wines to serve be brave and just wing it. You can end the evening by attending a local theatre specializing in foreign or independent films, again to show your date your personality is adventurous yet mysterious.

The Cupcake Prosecco is a light golden yellow color with nuances of peaches, nectarines, grapefruit and orange zest – really great aromas. Flavors of lemon and lime (they actually complement each other) with a creamy citrus finish close out this delectable and easy drinking Prosecco. This goes well as an aperitif or as the main ingredient in a Sangria. You can also add flavored liquors to add a little zip to the Prosecco, $10.99, 7-8 out of 10 wine glasses and a value of 4 1/2 out of 5 corks.

Across The River

I grew up in a town on the Connecticut River and had some relatives “across the river” to whom we would visit often. One thing nice about having relatives live so close by is that you get to see them a lot. Which in this situation was great because my aunt was famous for saying what was on her mind like “relatives are just like fish, after three days, they stink”. Of course my aunt was a no holds barred type of Italian that would speak her mind no matter who was around, no matter the situation, no matter who got embarrassed. But we all knew that was her demeanor and we loved her for it.

Well, one weekend the parents went away for a visit somewhere and my brother and I were shipped “across the river” to visit with my aunt and uncle and our cousins but that wasn’t a bad thing because at least my cousin was only a couple of years older than me and we got along pretty well. Well, the morning after our arrival we were sitting down at the breakfast table and our aunt was making toast for all of us. I don’t know how my aunt did it but she was able to bring a plate full of toast for the hungry monsters anxiously awaiting for the slightly browned bread without missing a beat.

Of course my aunt was good at making it look like there was more toast on the plate than there actually was by slicing the toast in half and was piled at least ten inches high and we would gobble the toast and dunk it into our coffee/milk mixture quicker than a lightening flash. Anyway, my brother is six years younger than me and eight years younger than my cousin (there was another older cousin who was like ancient because she was in her teen years and we just didn’t understand what the fuss was about). Well, every time my aunt brought a new plate of the delectable toasted nourishment my brother managed to finagle half the prized toast and my cousin and I were left with the other half which we collaboratively shared equally. Seeing as with each plate of toast my brother’s stash was growing larger my cousin and I were starting to develop a plan independent of each other but I’m sure supernatural forces were involved to prove otherwise.

You remember that I mentioned that my aunt sliced the toast in half when she brought it to the table, well the next time a plate arrived my cousin and I both grabbed a pile of toast which left nothing for my brother (mind you he already had a stash greater than the plate of toast that just arrived) which prompted him to cry the blues. I can’t remember whether my aunt and uncle tried to be diplomatic with my brother or my cousin and I got yelled at, but every time I make toast I think of this. Memories, it is what makes us who we are, enjoy and cherish them.

Well, let’s try some wines, shall we?

Apothic Red 2008 Winemaker’s Blend. This blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Merlot grapes are crafted to bring us red raspberry, cherry, and hints of vanilla on the nose. I used to make a strawberry rhubarb jam when I canned foods, well this wine tastes just like that strawberry rhubarb jam and to top it off it had a mocha finish. $9.99, 90 rating. Pair this with a turkey pot pie with all the vegetable staples or a Shepherds’ pie.

Riondo NV Prosecco. This sparkling wine opened with floral notes, orchard fruit tones, graham cracker and a hint of vanilla on the nose – a really nice combination. Sweet lemongrass, honeysuckle, and pear flavors followed and ended with an elegant, delicate finish. I’m really surprised with this Prosecco which in my mind would give some of the best champagne a run for the money. $10.00, 91 rating. Buy a couple of bottles and let your next party be filled with wonderment from your guests on how much you spent buying them champagne. Pair this with anything you’d like. It will go well as an
aperitif, a wedding toast (not to be confused with sliced toast:), an evening on the beach (yeah, I know it’s winter), appetizers for the super bowl, for a quaint evening on the back porch with smoked salmon and crackers (yes, when it gets warmer), or for any special occasion. You won’t be disappointed. I think I’ll pick up a few bottles although I wouldn’t recommend keeping them for more than a year.

Bohemian Highway 2008 California Merlot. This wine opened with fruity notes with mulberry aromas and a hint of cherry. Black cherry, black raspberry, and pepper flavors were dominant with a fairly smooth cherry finish. A lot of cherry in this wine. Not a bad wine for a stand alone. $5.99, 78 rating. Probably would go well with a naked dog or one more complex – the dog, not the wine!

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…

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New Year’s Eve Bonus Review 2010

Here are a couple of inexpensive bubblies and a movie that will keep you in stitches for the new year!

The Movie

Death At A Funeral

This 2007 dark comedy centers around the death of the father of an eccentric and wealthy British family. During the funeral a stranger appears to bring the sons some disturbing news about their father’s infidelity and in their attempt to quell the stranger’s claims as all is turned upside down. With the wit only the British are famous for, this black comedy directed by Frank Oz will guarantee your insides will eventually stop shaking from the immense laughter prompted from the dysfunctional clan. 4 1/2 popcorn boxes, a box of Dots and a box of Sno-Caps too.

The Bubblies

Freixenet NV Cordon Negro Extra Dry. This is a fruity sparkling wine with peach and honeydew melon flavors. $9.99, 86 rating.

Cristalino NV Brut Cava. This sparkling wine has citrus and apple flavors sure to thrill all. $8.99, 88 rating.

From the Witless Whiner wishing you a Happy New Year!

WW.