Holmberg Orchards Russet Hard Cider

On occasion I like something other than a glass of wine, sparkling or otherwise and a hard cider fits the bill. What I like about the Holmberg Orchard’s Russet Hard Cider is the tartness as I prefer this over a sweet cider. Sweet ciders have their moments, especially in the summer months when you want to blend it with fresh fruit to make “adult Kool-Aid”. But seeing as this is winter, a cider with a bit more tartness is in order when you’re not in the mood for a glass of wine, champagne, beer, whiskey, scotch, cognac, martini, or any other libation.

What I like about tart ciders is they can be paired with just about any sort of appetizers or snacks. Pretzels are my preferred choice of snacks while watching a good movie, reading a great book, or just hanging around. This particular cider has about 7% alcohol by volume and costs around $9. Obviously this has aromas and flavors of apples and the perfect complement for snacking. Sometimes this is just what the doctor ordered 🙂


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

Holmberg Orchards & Farm Winery – 2012

Well I’m back on the wine trail again and my first official stop was to Holmberg Orchards & Farm Winery. Their wine menu was limited with four ciders to choose from along with a pear wine and a blueberry wine. Their Vidal Blanc is due out soon so I will have to get back here to try it out as I have been waiting a whole year to sample this wine.

As you can see when I arrived the welcome sign beckoned me to step right up and partake in some libations. As I entered the small building, Jen, the wine staff person cheerily greeted me on a partly sunny day that threatened showers at any moment. She asked if I wanted to try some wines (if she really knew me this would be a rhetorical question) and of course, you know what my answer was 🙂

Inside the tasting room, Holmberg’s can easily accommodate 8-10 wine tasters at a time. It’s fairly cozy inside and when I arrived no other tasters were close at hand. I asked Jen (yes, that’s her crouched down by the wine cooler getting the samples I would be trying) how it was going and she said it was a bit slow with maybe half a dozen tasters had been in so far. Seeing as it was around 3:30 in the afternoon I could understand how quiet of a day she was having. However, I must have been the good luck charm as shortly after I arrived, two young ladies came in. And as I was leaving, five more tasters were en-route to the small shed-like building.

Once in side the tasting room I did notice a bottle with what appeared to have something in it and upon closer examination I noticed a pear growing inside or should I say already grown. As you can see it is grown inside the bottle so pear brandy can be made. The brandy is made by Westford Hill Distillers and is quite unique and a great gift idea. Anyway, Holmberg grows the pears inside the bottle and Westford makes the brandy. I must try this out. But on to the wine tasting.

The first wine I tasted was the Pearfection Pear wine ($12.99) and it opened with pear and fresh cut hay on the nose. A nice pleasant pear taste followed almost like biting into a fresh ripe pear. Jen recommended this wine for seafood dishes. I would tend to agree.

Then I tried the Bleuphoria Blueberry wine ($17.99) and was quite delectable as this wasn’t strong on the blueberry flavor yet you knew this was a blueberry wine and the fruit was balanced on the palate much the same as a young red wine would.

Next up were the four ciders and all were at $7.99 with around 5-7% alcohol by volume. On their tasting menu were the Russet Hard Cider, English Draught Hard Cider, Cortland Hard Cider, and the MacIntosh Hard Cider. All of them portrayed apple aromas and flavors but each one had its own nuances.

The Cortland Hard Cider was the most effervescent reminding you of a bubbly sparkling wine. The MacIntosh Hard Cider was the sweetest of the four ciders I tried. The Russet Hard Cider tastes just like fresh apples in a fall harvest even though it’s still June.

This was my favorite cider from last year and will probably be my favorite this year as well. The English Draught might give the Russet a run for the money. This wine reminded me of apple juice – with a kick, just the thing you need to start your day.

Of course if you decide to call it a day and just want to enjoy the rest of your time sitting near the wine room you can stop in and purchase a bottle of your favorite Holmberg Orchards wine and enjoy the day. You might want to dry off the seats though, unless you’re a frog, in which case you shouldn’t be drinking wine at all.

Next week – Lost Acres Vineyard

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?



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!

Newport Vineyards

It was a short hop from the last vineyard to Newport Vineyards and the skies were threatening rain again and when I first left on the trip it was raining at the house and continued until I reached the Rhode Island border when the skies were overcast but the wet stuff wasn’t falling. The tasting room was located in a small strip mall (although I don’t think they call them that in Historic Newport). Inside it reminded me more of a gift shop than a tasting room but being as this is tourist country I understand the decor.

They had a multitude of gifts for sale from the proverbial wine accessories to chocolates, jewelry, scarves for the ladies, cigar cutters for the guys, etc. What surprised me most was that the prices weren’t exorbitant as you would expect in a tourist place.  I arrived about 10 minutes till 1:00 pm and there were clearly 25 or so people in the tasting room area waiting for the winery tour to begin.  I opted out of the winery tour 🙂 and decided instead to mull around the gift shop until there was enough room for me to taste 5 of their wines for a tasting fee of $10.

So, here’s what I got:

Muscat Ottonel: After swirling the wine to open the aroma I got a burst of cat pee (first time I’ve ever smelled this in a wine and it wasn’t pleasant) so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to taste this or not. I also detected lemongrass and floral notes on the nose once the cat pee subsided. On the palate I found lemon flavor mixed with fruit flavors mostly of the melon category. So, I was mildly surprised with the taste but not overly fond of it.

Vintner’s Select Riesling: Similar in color to the Mosel Riesling I got a floral aroma and again a blast of cat pee on the nose. Lemon and lime flavors but the initial blast of cat pee (2nd time I’ve experienced this aroma) turned me right off this wine too.

Rhody Coyote Hard Apple Cider: I couldn’t resist trying this wine given the name. I asked what apples they were made from and no one behind the tasting bar seemed to know which apples produced the Rhody Coyote so I tried to figure that out while I was tasting this. Upon the first sip it reminds you of a sparkling, bubbly sensation like a sparkling wine. I obviously got apple on the nose and if I were to guess the types of apples they used to produce the apple flavor I would say Russet or Cortland. This was a very tasty cider and best of all, no cat pee.

Rose Pinot Noir: Strawberry and cranberry notes on the nose (no, no cat pee) led into a mostly cranberry flavor. I would have liked to taste strawberry on the palate and this was not what I expected in a Rose Pinot Noir. This didn’t knock my socks off either.

Rochambeau: A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Landot Noir produced a musty forest floor aroma sort of like a being in a forest with a lot of moss around the trees. I also detected plum and raisin and the three aromas worked quite well with each other. On the palate I got black and red cherries with a nice peppery finish. This was clearly my favorite of the five wines I tried.


Holmberg Orchards & Winery

Holmberg Orchards is located in Gales Ferry along the rolling hills of Route 12. Alas, another wine trip where I did not have to drive down a long rock road and instead drove up a driveway just past the farm market where you can get fresh farm vegetables whenever they are in season. Hidden from the road as you drive up to the tasting room you can see the orchards on your left and front of the driveway.

The tasting room is about the size of a large tool shed dwelling and you come to wonder what the experience will be like. Well, don’t let first impressions dictate the mind or set in stone any preconceived notions. Once inside it was quite cozy with a wine bar to accommodate 7 or 8 tasters comfortably at a time. The sommelier was a friendly and pleasant individual and quite knowledgeable with their wines. She also offered food pairings that would make your mouth water wishing you were sitting down to a delectable meal. The open doors let in a breeze and the cross winds enabled the taster to get caught in a cooling effect from the winds but hold on to your tasting menu as it has the tendency to blow away.

For only being open a short time making wine, they certainly have done quite well producing very tasty ones. They also have plans to produce the Vidal Blanc grape which I will look forward to tasting in the future. The wine tasting fee is $6 for the seven wines available and it includes their signature wine glass which is a fairly decent size wine glass. I really didn’t know what to expect from the wines here at Holmberg but was mildly surprised to find that I liked them quite a bit. Maybe it was the warm summer breeze filtering through the tasting room and the chilled wines were just what the “wine doctor” ordered. Although I didn’t get a whole lot of aromas from the wines the flavors were apparent. Just because this is an orchard doesn’t mean you can skip this from your wine trips. I think you’ll be mildly surprised with the results when you drop in for a tasting. I know I was.

Here’s what you get with the tasting:

Pearfection Pear Wine: Okay, I promise no puns or references to what they call sommeliers at orchards. I wasn’t overly fond of this particular wine but I have been here twice and overheard others say they enjoyed this. And yes, it did taste like pears.

Three Sheets Apple Wine: This was a nice apple wine and I can imagine what you’d be called if you had too much. This isn’t like a Chardonnay but not like a Sauvignon Blanc either. I’d venture a guess that is would go nicely on a warm summer eve while cooking poultry or the other white meat out on the backyard grill.

World Peach: This I liked a lot as it reminded me of a crisp Riesling. While not a strong peach flavor it did have subtle peach nuances unlike a peach infused Riesling. According to their tasting brochure a portion of the proceeds go to charities promoting world peace – so, on my second trip here I bought a bottle.

Bleuphoria Blueberry Wine: This dessert wine was good and I bought a bottle and it’s in the wine cooler waiting for me to open this. It had a great blueberry flavor that was not overpowering but just right. It wasn’t like eating a blueberry pie but more like a blueberry infused drink.

Russett Hard Cider: Until I visited Holmberg I can’t remember the last time I had a hard cider drink. Probably Kansas in the mid-1970’s. It was a fairly nice sipping drink and it’s made from the Russett apples and did I mention it was tart, if not it was tart.

Cortland Hard Cider: Sweet but not too sweet with a bit of a sparkling effect giving you the impression it may have been a sparkling wine. I can’t put my finger on it but I did like this.

MacIntosh Hard Cider: Yes, you guessed it, this is made from the MacIntosh apple. ‘Nuff said.

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