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

Chocolate Shop

Not sure what to get your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. You’re tired of getting the usual stuff so you’ve decided to break away from the proverbial box of chocolates, flowers, or the cuddly bear that gathers dust.

Well, why not surprise her with a bottle from the Chocolate Shop, no not a candy shoppe but the wine from Walla Walla, WA. This red wine is a ruby color and upon opening the bottle you get an explosion of chocolate on the nose and mixed in is a bit of red cherry too. So this is almost like a box of chocolates.

On the palate the chocolate flavor continues as well as the red cherry but this is a bit sweet so I would view this as a dessert wine more so than a wine to have with a meal. It’s perfect for an after dinner drink by the fireside cuddled up with your favorite someone.

Well, what did you get your sweetie this year? I gave my wife her favorite sparkling Prosecco. Gee, she also had the Chocolate Shop – some people have all the fun…


Hopkins Vineyard

Hopkins Vineyards, founded by Elijah Hopkins in 1787 is located in New Preston, CT in the Litchfield hills. They currently have about 30 acres of 11 different grape varietals of Vinifera and French hybrid grapes. Inside the tasting room there is enough space for 6-7 wine tasters at a time and they have a small gift shop with wine “stuff”. The walls were decorated with portraits and paintings from various artists. It wasn’t a rustic decor but not modern either but yet pleasing to the soul. It was a good atmosphere for a wine tasting. After all, this is why I’m here.

This past May, Hopkins held their 32nd Annual Barrel tasting where activities included a wine tasting, select barrel samples, local artisan foods, live music, and of course, a signature wine glass. However, back at the ranch their normal wine tasting fee is $6 for 7 tastes. Plus you get to keep the signature wine glass.

On to the wines I tasted in their tasting room:

Duet Estate Bottled: Their description of this wine is of honeysuckle, crisp Granny Smith apples, hazelnut, and stone fruit. Well, although the wine was okay, the hazelnut ruined it for me. This isn’t what I look for in a wine. SOme of you may indulge in thhis but I’ll stay out of the ring on this one.

Vineyard Reserve Estate Bottled: I got a floral aroma with flavors of honey suckle minus the hazelnut and this was pretty good.

Lady Rose Estate Bottled: The wine label pictured Lady Godiva and had both apricot and raspberry for both the nose and palate with a pleasing apricot flavor.

Cabernet Franc: This wine had earth, cassis, and fig aromas with a blackcurrant flavor.

Sachem’s Picnic: I got a hint of raspberry and fig on the nose with a black berry finish and a slight strawberry finish. I think my nose is going…

Westwind Estate Bottled: A semi-sweet white wine made with the Cayuga grape found a  citrus nose with a lingering grapefruit aroma. The palate found lemony and melon flavors. A good wine for appetizers.

Night Owl Dessert Wine: A late harvest from the Vidal Blanc grape yielded pear and apricot nuances with a hazelnut flavor. Hazelnut is not for me.

Visit them

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

Land Of Nod Vineyard & Winery

The Land Of Nod Winery is located in the Northwest hills of Connecticut. It took me an hour and fifty minutes to get there. However, I did go through the back roads and the scenic views were simply gorgeous and I tried to take it all in. Just off the main road you turn onto a small road that reminded me of the roads in Ireland in that there appears to be room for only one and a half cars. I was lucky as the only traffic was me. It was really in the middle of nowhere but hey, what else was there to do but stop in for a wine tasting?

Turning into the small driveway there was a red barn-like structure – what did you expect! Which I have come to realize to be quite the norm for some of the wineries here in Connecticut. But that’s okay as I remember when just about all of Connecticut was farmland, my has it grown!

Okay, back to the winery. The entrance was just to the left of the building and upon entering, it was quite quaint (say that ten times fast or better yet try it after the wine tasting) with something akin to a small boutique shop but the decor worked well for the wine room. The wine bar could easily accommodate a small party with room to spare. The sommelier was very friendly and asked per chance if I was interested in a wine tasting? She doesn’t know me very well does she? So, what was I to say but “Absolutely, bring on the wine glass” which she did and informed me the wine tasting was $3 and I almost fell to the floor but oddly enough the wine bar was just the right height as my elbows were resting on the edge and I was able to maintain my composure. Three bucks! I was floored as this was a really good bargain. Enough about the fee and let’s get to the seven wines they were offering the day I arrived.

Bianca: A light bodied wine with low tannins and acidity, clean and crisp. Pear on the nose and palate with hints of honey. This was well chilled and delectable.

Rose: The color of an opaque rose (the flower that is), this rose had floral notes with a concoction of berries for flavor.

Raspberry Wine: This was made from 100% raspberry juice and you can tell as it was loaded with raspberry on the nose and palate with a touch of sweetness.

Corot Noir: A hybrid cross of the 1970 vines of Seyve and Steuben produced a robust red wine that depicted blackberry and black currant on the nose with a cherry flavor. Nice!

Blueberry-Raspberry Medley: Made from blueberry and raspberry juices and this is just what I got out of it as well. Blueberry and Raspberry on the nose and Raspberry and Blueberry on the palate – sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Wine: You got it – Chocolate and raspberry everywhere. Yeah, couldn’t help it so I bought a bottle.

Peach Wine: What can I say but Peach! Peach! Peach!

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



Diamond Hill Vineyards

Traveling to the Northeast hills of Rhode Island I decided to take as many back roads as I could muster meanwhile prompting the GPS (of which one of my children has affectionately named Delores) well, I believe I may have upset Delores quite a bit as she kept saying “Re-calculating” over and over, but I have to hand it to her, she never lost her cool. Then I found the “setting” button where you could actually turn off certain options like “avoiding highways”. Anyway, it was an enjoyable trip after all. Then again, I can’t remember when I didn’t have a great time on any wine trip I’ve taken:)

Don’t know if you noticed the “Free Tastings” under the winery name but not often do you come across a winery that does not charge at least a few bucks for their tastings. So I was mildly pleased when I saw this on the sign to the Diamond Hill Vineyard.

On to the tasting room where you walked up the back stairs to enter the winery tasting room. The house was typical New England coastal right down to the the color gray house with white trim that often line the coastal villages along the Atlantic Ocean.

Once inside the tasting room you walked just past the wine bar which could accommodate only 2-3 tasters at a time, but I, along with several others managed quite well shuffling out wine glasses and by the way because there were no tasting fees, you didn’t get a signature wine glass either.

However, the other tasters allowed me to stay close to the wine bar as they noticed I was taking quite a few notes on each of the wines we were trying and as it was easier to utilize the wine bar than to juggle my pad, pen, and wine sample, so I was quite appreciative of this kindness. And of course they had a great little gift shop area with many wine accessories to purchase.

Claire, the sommelier and owner of the winery was a most pleasant individual complete with many stories both on the winery and other subjects. I’ll let you visit the tasting room here at Diamond Hill Vineyards to hear her stories as they were way too numerous and I couldn’t write that fast. It will be a trip worth taking. So, on to the wines that were available on the day I arrived.

2005 Pinot Noir: This dry medium ruby colored red wine opened with a cherry and raspberry aroma. Aged in French oak for one year than cellared for two more years found black cherry on the palate with a hint of raspberry on the finish.

Scarlet Run: A Merlot with no oak found raspberry and strawberry patch aromas with a blend of raspberry and strawberry flavors and a smooth silky finish with undertones of chocolate.

Cranberry Apple: The nose opens with an explosion of cranberry. It was sweet but not too sweet with a cranberry flavor with a tart apple finish. This is their best selling wine. It was very good.

River Valley White: Lemongrass and fresh cut hay on the nose led into tropical fruits flavors. I expected a lot of minerality here but didn’t get any.

Peach: Obvoiusly I got peach aromas with apricot undertones on the nose. The predominately peach flavor was more of ripe peaches at their peak of freshness. The winery recommends you have this served over chocolate or vanilla ice cream as well as fresh fruit. They also recommend putting this in a white wine Sangria – now that sounds delectable.

Blueberry: This wine is made from 100% blueberries that are organically grown on their own land. The taste was more like a Port wine with a blueberry aroma and flavor. Although I liked the Port nuances the blueberry didn’t do it for me. I guess because there was way too much blueberry for me, not that it was a bad wine but too much blueberry.

Raspberry: A lot of raspberry going on here as the aroma, flavor, and finish were all the same – raspberry. Although this did strike me more of a raspberry liqueur than a raspberry wine.

Spiced Apple: Upon first aroma I got mulled spices reminding me of New England in the autumn months especially when it’s apple picking season. The flavor was of apple pie. This was a nice tasting wine but in their wine notes it is recommended to serve this heated with a tad amount of brown sugar. This might be nice to substitute this for apple cider when using mulling spices for the autumn fall classic drink.

Entering and leaving Diamond Hill Vineyards there is a “traffic light” welcoming and thanking you for visiting as the driveway at one point is a one lane road for several hundred feet. When I first entered and saw the stop light I chuckled and had a great big smile on my face as I left.


Running Brook Vineyard & Winery Inc.

Traveling to a few of the Massachusetts wineries on a rain soaked morning with plenty of fog cover nonetheless did not “dampen my spirits” –  no pun intended until after I wrote this and realized what it said so, what the heck! It’s a been a week since I visited the Maine Coast for relaxation and the trees in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are well on their way to fall foliage. I think upper New England needs to get with the fall program.

When I embark on a wine trip I have no preconceived notions of anything, I’m just out to enjoy the day and seeing as this was Friday and I was on vacation – well, you get the picture. I usually try to visit 3-4 wineries per trip as after four wineries my palate is shot anyway and I would not be able to give you an honest assessment of the winery. So, I like to limit my winery visits to no more than four at a clip. The reason I’m rambling on is this wine trip, albeit rain soaked, was the best wine trip I’ve ever been on. And you’re wondering why this is? Blame it on the sommeliers in each of the wineries I visited – Running Brook Vineyards & Winery, Coastal Vineyards, and Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery. It was way too crowded in New Bedford to stop into Travessia Urban Winery so I’ll make another trip on a less hectic day such as a Saturday or Sunday.

You must put this on your “wineries to visit” trip list as the wines were very good but the “stories” were great. Here was my experience at Running Brook Vineyard & Winery…

This winery wasn’t much to look at but looks can be deceiving. The inside of the winery was small but was well organized.

The wine bar as you can see will accommodate several tasters at a time but I hit it on a day where I had the place all to myself. Pat, the sommelier, has a great personality and a wonderful sense of humor in the hectic hubbub of winery life. Not only was she attending to my wine samples, she was answering phones and giving me some history of the owners/winemakers. Manny and Pedro were from the Azores in Portugal. Manny is the farmer and grape grower and Pedro, a dentist by day and winemaker by night put in many hours to make the fruit of the vines come to reality for our pleasure. They produce over 2500 cases per year.

They have two properties, one in Dartmouth with 8 acres of planted vines and in Westport they have 13 acres planted. They grow Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, and Pinot Gris. And they’re all locally grown. Locally grown grapes in New England are becoming a staple of the area – so here’s my “in” to tell you to support locally produced wines.

Pat was also kind enough to share the following tidbits of information Running Brook has categorized as “frequently asked questions”.

Oak barrels

hold 225 liters (60+ gallons) yielding 24 cases which turns into 288 bottles. One tank of the delectable juice holds 500 gallons, a large tank (my favorite one) holds 1, 500 gallons=7,500 bottles=625 cases=10 tons. Wow, now you’re talking some numbers.

Oh, I’m not stopping here:


One ton makes 150 gallons of wine.

1 grape cluster=75 grapes=1 glass of wine

4 clusters=1 bottle

40 clusters=1 vine=10 bottles (now we’re getting somewhere)

1200 clusters=30 vines=1 barrel=60 gallons

400 vines=1 acre=5 tons

5 tons=332 cases

Okay, on to the wines they produced. There was no tasting fee for trying the nine wines they had for offerings then again you did not get a signature wine glass either.

2010 Unoaked Chardonnay: I found pear and apple on the nose which continued onto the forward palate with good acidity on the finish.

2008 Chardonnay: This is 60% oaked and 40% unoaked which I found much the same as I did with the 2010 unoaked Chardonnay but I did detect a bit of apricot on the nose and this could be why I preferred this over the unoaked Chardonnay. Note: they will soon be releasing a Reserve Chardonnay (see above oak barrel marked 82 W) – it may be worth the two hour trip to taste this.

2008 Pinot Gris: A floral nose with citrus notes on the palate. This semi-dry full bodied white wine had a crisp clean finish.

2008 Vidal Blanc: Kitchen fruit bowl aroma with an emphasis on pear and apricot lead into a tropical fruit flavor on the palate. This was very nice and I can envision having this on a warm evening on the deck with spicy Thai cuisine.

2010 Vidal Blanc: Bartlett pear aroma and flavor. This was somewhat sweeter than the 2008 version. It had minimal acidity on the back palate.

2007 Pinot Noir: Cherry blossom aroma (if you’ve ever been to Washington, D.C. in April you’ll know what I mean) with a hint of bell pepper. The aromas were a nice combination. On the palate I experienced cherry hard candy and a hint of fig with a chocolate finish. A very nice sipping wine.

2010 Cabernet Franc: Black cherry and blackberry awaken your senses before leading into a black cherry flavor with a subtle hint of white pepper. I liked this one.

2007 Auslesen (OWZ-lay-zun): Honey and golden raisin was found both on the nose and palate. This semi-sweet dessert wine had a lot of character with just two distinct aromas/flavors of honey and golden raisin. I don’t know what they did to make this dessert wine pop the way it did but this knocked my socks off. And yes, I did get a bottle of this. For me, this was the gem of the winery.

2010 Frost: This is a late harvest dessert wine made from the Vidal Blanc grapes which are left on the vine for a “couple” of frosts. I found subtle hints of pear and candied apple on the nose with sweet apple on the palate. It had a nice balance between sweetness and acidity.

Haight-Brown Vineyards, Inc.

Well, I was driving to my third winery of the day and as I drove into the Haight-Brown Vineyard grounds I had a tough time getting a parking spot as there must have been 25-30 cars but lo and behold, I found a parking space two-thirds of the way down from whence I came. I decided to take a few pictures before I went in to taste some wines thinking that the wine tasters inside would start to dwindle down before I was ready for the wine tasting experience. H-B Vineyards is listed as Connecticut’s oldest winery.

I wasn’t ready for what I saw as I bounded up a flight of stairs to the tasting room. They had a great looking wine bar area with barstools for about 25 or so tasters and several tables that could seat about another 12-15 wine snobs. Let me get back to what I wasn’t ready for – every barstool, table and chair were completely filled to capacity. So, I figured I would just wait a few minutes and I would browse around the small gift displays that had some delectable looking cheese behind the glass bakery shelves you see in many bakeries. So to say the least I was really looking forward to the tasting I was about to come across. It was nice to see so many young people (24-32 age bracket) in for a tasting. I believe wine has a great future.

After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity turned out to be a 27 minute wait before I sat down for my first taste of wine from this winery. Did I mention I also spent about 10 minutes taking pictures outside? So, what started as an exciting adventure in my quest to visit the 90+ wineries in New England with Connecticut being the first state for me to conquer, my wine experience was going south fast as I waited almost two-thirds of an hour for a taste of the delectable red and white juices.

After being seated the sommelier, Jackie, introduced herself, welcomed me to H-B Vineyards, and asked me which tasting option I would like to do. There were four tastings to choose from. For $8.50 gets you a sampling of the first eight wines on their tasting menu. The second option is for $11 and comes with chocolate, the $13 fee comes with cheese, and the last option for $15 includes all their wines, the chocolate and cheese ensemble. I chose the basic tasting. All of their tasting options comes with their signature glass. You could also add $3 for the dessert wines.

Along with each of the wines, Jackie would explain the complexities of each wine and after the third wine she looked over and said “You’re getting everything I’m saying, aren’t you?” I then explained I write a wine blog and we started to have a conversation, a future story, if you will. We talked about the movie reviews of which she was a fan of foreign, independent, and documentary films. What started as a potential disaster was soon turned back to reality so I could get into “bud break” mode. I was there for about 45 minutes. Jackie was quite pleasant and knowledgeable, not only of H-B wines but of others as well. She made this an enjoyable and memorable wine experience.

So, here are the wines I tasted:

Chardonnay: Aged in steel, I found pear on the nose and a lemony flavor but not overpowering.

Railway White: This was a nice summer wine with aromas and flavors of citrus throughout.

Covertside White: This light, fruity, and crisp wine had lemongrass notes with a melon flavor and a fruity finish.

Riesling: With less than 1% residual sugar this had a floral aroma and indicative of your German Riesling. A good Asian food wine.

Strawberry Bliss: You guessed it, everything strawberry with hints of honeydew melon.

Picnic Red: A full bodied red wine made from the Marechal Foch grape varietal. I got boysenberry, plum, and cherry nuances in the nose and palate. However, there was something else and I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was on the tip of my tongue, or at least was on the tip of my tongue. I decided to call Jackie over and explain my dilemma. She simply stated: “Vanilla”, and then it hit me, I smelled and tasted vanilla and this made it a most delectable wine. I really think I’m losing the “schnozzola”! This wine was also served slightly chilled, something I normally don’t do. But I do recommend chilling this per the sommelier.

Morning Harvest: A Malbec and Petit Sirah blend found blackberry on the nose with black curant and cassis. A hint of blueberry rounded out this wine.

Big Red: Dry and oaky, this full bodied red exhibited a black raspberry aroma with cherry and spice flavors. A very smooth peppery finish.

Honey Nut Apple: I didn’t get much on the nose or palate (I’m really losing it), however the finish was like Grandma’s apple pie. Yeah!

And the two dessert wines:

White Harmony: A Port style wine with tropical aromas and mango and honey flavors. A really great white Port.

Rapture: Estate grown Port found wild raspberry, cassis, and mulberry aromas. On the palate I found fresh picked raspberries, blackberry, and pepper flavors. It ended with a pungent Port flavor that makes a Port a Port.

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



Truro Vineyards

North Truro is almost to the Eastern end of Cape Cod save for Provincetown and is a three hour plus ride from Southeastern Connecticut but then again I’m on my quest to visit as many, if not all, of the New England wineries within the next year. I’m about 40 % complete so I’ve got a ways to go. You can really see the devastation Hurricane Irene left as many of the trees have lost their leaves and they are severely salt damaged by the storm. However, Mother Nature has a way of mending.

Driving just off Route 6A, the winery is a couple of hundred feet to the right as you enter a spacious parking lot which was nearly full. To the left of the winery tasting room, the vineyards had a lot of grape clusters just waiting to be harvested. This is a sight wine enthusiasts get excited about. The tasting fee for five wines is $8 and if you go with a partner you can taste all ten wines if you “partner up” and each of you pick alternate wines, etc. You also get to keep their signature wine glass to add to your collection.

Upon entering the tasting room the gift shop area is just to your left with many wine items to choose from to make your wine experience a more enjoyable and albeit, easier one from the many gadgets available.

The wine bar was spacious enough but I learned that the wine tastings would be on the patio where there was another wine bar and each party had their own table to sip the wines being offered.

I chose a sunny table to sip and taste the wines. The tastings are held every hour hour and the sommelier greets you with an overview of each of their wines prior to pouring them. Just a note here as I chose one white and four reds to taste, I should have opted for more whites as I found the red wines to be a bit flat, some were watery or lacking deep fruit flavors. Although the red grapes do look delicious.

The one white I chose however was the best of what I tasted hence in retrospect I should have tasted more whites. So, on to the wines I tasted:

2010 Vignoles: This semi-dry white wine had tropical notes on the nose with a hint of cantaloupe and orange zest. Upon first sip a subtle sweetness approached the palate with a delectable tropical blend with undertones of citrus, apricot, and pineapple. A slight mineral finish complemented the tasting experience.

2009 Cabernet Franc: A medium bodied ruby red wine with dense forest, herbs, and earthy aromas. Although the nose was quite pleasing the flavor did not blossom as it did with the nose as it had a touch of cherry and pepper but it didn’t pop.

2009 Zinfandel: Raspberry and plum artfully balanced on the nose yielded an oaky cherry and raspberry flavor with hints of plum and spice. Probably the best of the red collection.

2008 Triumph:  A Meritage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot revealed raspberry and cherry notes on the nose with a slight hint of bacon just starting to cook. The aroma was very pleasing, however it stopped there as the raspberry and black cherry flavors were flat and missing was a mocha finish I seem to experience with many red blends.

Cranberry Red: One of their Lighthouse Series and a blend of Rougean and Syrah varietals and infused with cranberry. I got mostly cranberry on the nose which is what I expected but that was it. This was served chilled and the cranberry flavor was as I expected but I didn’t expect the pomegranate finish which delighted my expectation of the wine.

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

Connecticut Valley Winery

The day I visited the Connecticut Valley Winery I drove in the driveway to see their winery name emblazoned on the front of the gray building in white letters and what is it I see just below the letters – a tour bus and another van similar to the rental car shuttles parked just in front of the winery entrance. I contemplated as I drove while thinking “quick, turn around and come back another day” but said to myself “remember, it’s the small things in life that are worth living for”.

Plus, as I turned into the driveway there was a great big banner with the words “Grape Vines in Training” on the front side of rows and rows of new grapevines. This had to be a sign that I was destined to stop and face whatever it was inside the tasting room – tour bus or no tour bus – it was karma.

Well, when I walked in all the tables (about five) were completely full seating about twenty tasters sitting by the fireplace although not lit and the wine bar was two deep which meant there were at least sixteen tasters having a lot of fun. Alas, the tour people were everywhere but one of the owners (I recognized him from their website pictures) beckoned for me to join him at the wine bar saying as I approached that he would make room at the end.

Wow, was it a festive mood once I scuttled through the sea of glasses, tables, and chairs with the occupants of the tables getting up and adjusting their seating arrangement so I could get by. Not a bad sort, these tour people. I was beginning to like them as they were jovial and quite pleasant to talk with. They were asking what winery I just came from, how did you like it, where was I going next, etc. Several of them urged me to join them for their next winery stop but knew I was not destined for that trip at this time. So, I respectfully declined and they understood but they wish I would still come along so they could hear more stories about the Wit Is Out wine blog.

Once the tour people were safely tucked away in their coach another one of the owners began pouring the wine for my tasting pleasure. The woman behind the bar reminded me of my own Italian aunts in the way she smiled and used her hands to speak to me. I didn’t get the cost of the wine tasting and in all the fuss they decided not to charge me the tasting fee – karma – catchin’ my drift?

For each of the wines she had a quick memory of how it was made, what the weather was, the day of the week, etc. However, it was her rendition of the black bear that really caught my attention. Seems that awhile back a black bear would visit their Port grapevines and eat at his will when the mood struck him. As the family was unwilling to have the bear killed or trapped they allowed the bear to come and go when he got the urge to eat the Port grapes, hence they named their Port – Black Bear Port. Yes, I bought a bottle for a couple of reasons, one the story intrigued me, the Black Bear Port was really tasty, and I love Port. Karma, what was that about karma?

Here are the wines I tasted while I conversed with the tour people and later alone as they left for another adventure:

Chardonel: This wine opened with melon aromas, was very crisp and abounded with grapefruit on the palate.

Chianti: This is a blend of four grape varietals producing earthy aromas and plentiful on the nose with dark cherry flavors with a plum finish. Not quite the Chiantis from Italy but it’s close. An everyday good table wine.

Ruby Lite: A blend of 60% Chardonel and 40% Chianti and I experienced the aromas and flavors of the Chardonel and Chianti except for the earthy aroma, that wasn’t present. But I did get the melon aroma and cherry flavor but not as pronounced as the Chianti.

Deep Purple: You guessed it, this wine was a deep purple color and had reasonably good clarity. Produced from the Chamborcin grape which not all wine lovers are in love with. I got plum and raisin on the nose with blackberry flavors.

Midnight: Made from the Frontenac grape, this wine produced a boysenberry aroma and pepper and mocha flavors. This wine had nice tannins and good acidity.

Just Peachy: Peaches galore as you would expect from the name. Can’t tell you much more than that – peachy.

Raspberry Delight: Oh yeah! Everything raspberry. A really good dessert wine for after the evening’s meal.

Dolce Vita: Sweetness abounded in this wine with citrus flavors. I wasn’t crazy about this wine but you know me and white wines…

Black Tie Cabernet Franc: This delectable wine had fruity notes with pepper and smoke aromas. On the palate I found a cherry flavor with a hint of chocolate.

Orange Vidal: This wine started with an orange zest aroma. The flavors were tropical and citrus notes – kind of weird, huh? Although this was a decent tasting wine it was not my cup of tea.

Black Bear: This red dessert Port named after the bear noted above had a black currant aroma. The palate however found black cherry and black berry flavors with that pungency of Port I so enjoy. My only regret with this wine is I only bought one bottle. Another wine trip perhaps?

The winery also let me try a Sangria but it wasn’t ready for sale yet. I can’t wait for the release as this wine is laced with brandy, yeah, you read this right. Not like any Sangria I’ve ever had.

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


Sharpe Hill Vineyard

I turned into the driveway around 3:30 pm  to visit Sharpe Hill Vineyard and immediately heard the roosters crowing in the background and I decided to just listen to them for a while as I came to realize this would be my last stop of the day and I was certainly going to enjoy the moment.

Making my way across the road to one of their vineyards, still hearing the roosters crowing, I walked along a stone wall and one of the entrances to the vineyards (which were gorgeous by the way) had an ornate iron gate. The stone walls were classic New England boundaries so each farmer knew when he reached the end of his property. It’s remarkable that it was in such good shape as you could tell they had been there for some time.

Back on the winery side of the road to the rock road entrance I was greeted by two large wooden roosters beckoning me to come and try the wines inside. Inside the enormous barn like structure was a very small bar that maybe could fit three tasters. Just beyond the tasting room was a patio with a few tables and chairs. Sharpe Hill also serves dinner for which you usually have to make reservations a month in advance and if you haven’t been here for dinner you’ve missed out. I have been three times and I’ve always had great meals. My quest is to go enough to try all of their menu entrees.

Anyway back in the tasting room. The tasting fee is $7 for five wines or $12 for eleven wines which includes their signature wine glass which is more suited for dessert wines. I have been here several times so I opted for the $7 tasting and tried the following wines.

Ballet of Angels: It’s a crisp, semi-dry white wine that has floral aromas with citrus flavors with a grapefruit finish. This is one of my favorite wines to have with spicy foods. Serve well chilled though.

Cuvee Ammi Philips 2007: Pear and melon notes lead into nice tropical fruit flavors with a hint of lemongrass.

Dry Summer Rose: Both the aroma and flavor hinted of strawberries but not overpowering.

Select Late Harvest: This dessert wine open with pear and apricot aromas and finished with nectarine and pear flavors. Sweet but not excessively sweet. It ended with a hint of honey.

Pontefract 2007: A smooth Port wine with blackberry fruit in the nose and plum and raisin on the palate. Although a good Port I would only want about two to three sips after dinner.

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