St. Francis 1999 McCoy Vineyard Cabernet Franc

The first time I visited St. Francis Winery in 2001 I knew there would be quality wines produced here. Just looking at the bell tower I was almost convinced I was in Italy, not Sonoma Valley. Their grounds and vineyards are simply elegant and it’s easy to spend an afternoon here. Well, that’s just what I did!

The wine staff at St. Francis and I sort of hit it off the moment I stepped into the tasting room. Yeah I know, it’s their job to get to know you and tell you all about the winery. After completing the regular tasting menu, the wine staff asked if I’d like to try their Cabernet Franc that was being released the very next day – you know what my answer was, especially as this wine varietal wasn’t on the tasting menu!

Cut to present day in 2012 and the anticipation of opening this wine to see if it was as good as it was eleven years ago. Well, the wine cost me $45 when I first bought it and upon opening the wine it was still a dark ruby color although it did show signs of a well kept wine with a slight rusty hue on the rim of the wine once it was poured. The Cabernet Franc didn’t disappoint as it opened with dark cherry, eucalyptus, fig, and mulberry on the nose. Ripe wild black raspberry and mocha on the palate with a red cherry finish. This wine was a 10 when I bought it and it’s a 10 today. My only regret is not having any 1999 vintages left to open.

I’m confident though if you purchase any vintage of the McCoy Vineyard Cabernet Franc you won’t be disappointed. Seeing as I live about 3,000 miles from the winery I became a wine club member. I opted for the three bottles every quarter with each shipment carrying two reds and one white. Although this wine club is their higher tiered wine it is well worth the price of admission.

 

 

The Goats Do Roam Wine Co. 2009 Bored Doe

I couldn’t resist picking up this bottle, I just love the “wit” 😉 The Goats Do Roam wines hail from South Africa and I’ve tasted some pretty decent wines from this area of the world. This didn’t disappoint.

Sporting 14% alcohol by volume and a blend of 49% Petit Verdot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc opens with black licorice, black berries, and tobacco on the nose. On the palate I experienced black cherry, and other black berry fruits with hints of black olive and fig.

Reasonably priced at $10.99, we paired this with a wheat pizza (yah, I’m trying to eat healthier) that was topped with Mexican cheese mix, sauteed mushrooms, onions, and red peppers. We also topped this out with 93% lean hamburg.

I have to say that this deep crimson colored wine was better the second night. I’m not sure if it was because I used the Vinturi aerator or not but suspect this was the reason it tasted better. I liked this wine and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first opened it and I wouldn’t mind keeping this as a staple in my cellar – if nothing more, it is a conversation piece.

Coastal Vineyards

I didn’t think I had the right place as I drove up and there was only one car in the driveway and it didn’t look open. So instead of just wandering off into the sunset I decided to call them to inquire if I was in the right place. Ah, indeed I was as Joyce, the sommelier came out of the back of the house and directed me to the tasting room.


As you can see the wine bar can accommodate about three tasters at a time. When I arrived I was the only one there and half way through my tasting another couple showed up and the bar was at full capacity. Don’t let the small bar area fool you though as the wines were quite good. They only had five wines available during my visit and it was worth the visit, I’m glad I called. I can’t remember what the tasting fee was as I do not have this in my notes, I’m presuming it was minimal, however I do not see a signature wine glass in my wine glass collection so I’ll presume they did not give one out. On to the wines I tasted.

Pinot Gris: Pear, peach, and nectarine aromas with crispness and good acidity on the palate. The flavors were much the same as on the nose. This was chilled just right.

White Wine: A blend of the Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer grapes provided a floral bouquet that ended with ripe pear on the palate.

Gewurztraminer: Floral and fruit bowl aromas on the nose led into tropical fruits, pear, and apple flavors with a clean, crisp acidic finish. Very nice.

Vidal Blanc: Floral notes on the nose with apple and pear on the palate and the sweetness balanced quite well with the acidic finish.

Seaside Red: A blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Chambourcin. It had a light garnet color with a light berry aroma. Candied red apple and cherry on the palate with subtle hints of mocha and vanilla. A very decent New England red wine that I was quite pleased with.

Their vineyards are 95% planted on 8 acres of land with the other 5% of the grapes coming from local wineries truly encompasses the ideal of being a local winery, not that world wide wines aren’t good but local wines in New England are starting to get some recognition.

So, when you get a chance, stop by their tasting room and experience their wines as they only produce around 600-700 cases per year. They also bottle exclusively with screw tops, but with an average of 3% spoilage from tainted corks I can fully understand the need to incorporate this into the wine bottling process. You all know how I feel about corks but I would rather open the wine with the knowledge that what’s inside will be fresh and delectable.

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

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 atwww.hopkinsvineyard.com

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

Langworthy Farm Winery

As I was traveling from Newport to Langworthy Farm Winery, the GPS directed me over the Jamestown Bridge and of course the big yellow sign alerting me of a toll ahead and seeing as these are such a nuisance I wasn’t looking forward to the experience. So I’m scrambling to get my wallet out of my back pocket and I see another sign that states “EZ Pass – All Lanes” and I immediately look just to the right of the GPS and see a white box about 3 inches square  with the words “EZ Pass” on it and said “Whoa – sweet!” to no one in particular. Alas, I was able to forget about twisting and turning to get my wallet and instead headed right for the sign that said “EZ Pass only” and was a happy camper.

Once I reached the winery it is adjacent to their Bed & Breakfast.

Inside was warm and welcome as the day was coming to an end as this was my last winery of the day and was looking forward to sampling their wines. They had two tasting fees, one for $7 for 5 wines and the other was $9 for 7 wines which included their signature wine glass. I opted for the 7 wines to taste and this is was I got out of them:

Weekapaug White: This Chardonnay had grapefruit and pear on both the nose and the palate. This wasn’t crisp nor did it pop for me, maybe it was too chilled, not sure.

Shelter Harbor Chardonnay: Now this one was a different story. It was aged in American oak for six months. I got fresh grapefruit and lime notes on the nose. This had fruitier flavors than I expected and had a smooth finish with a nice mouth feel.

Shady Harbor Pinot Blanc: This had hints of Chardonnay and Riesling and was steel fermented and then stored in oak barrels for three months. Lemongrass and ocean marshy grasses on the nose with a lemon/lime flavor. This was chilled just right and was very tasty.

Rhody Riesling: Fermented in stainless steel this wine opened with pear and citrus on the nose and continued onto the palate. A nice mouth feel at the end.

Charlestown Cabernet Franc: Aged for fourteen months in oak barrels I found strawberry and red cherry aromas with a red cherry flavor. This medium bodied wine had just a hint of pepper and earth on the finish.

Avondale Cabernet Merlot: This is a blend of 75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot found red berries on the nose with black currant and cassis on the palate. I also found a bit of fig on the finish, albeit subtle.

Pawcatuck River Red: Stainless steel fermented and blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot found blackberries on the nose with a blueberry flavor with hints of mocha on the finish.

Haversham Reserve Chardonnay: Aged in French oak this starts off oaky but then turns buttery (yeah, it surprised me too). I got much the same as their Shelter Harbor Chardonnay but more pronounced and could have easily had a glass of this on their outside porch

and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting there and taking in the sun’s rays watching the vines grow. Sometimes slowing down is a good thing.

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

 

Savino 2009 Cabernet Franc

One of my favorite grape varietals is the Cabernet Franc right along side of the Borolo, Barbera, Nero D’Avola, Malbec, Carmenere, Syrah, Petit Verdot – okay, okay more than a few. The only thing better than a glass of this delectable juice is having the whole bottle. The Savino 2009 Cabernet Franc red wine has a plum color and the nose opens with distinctive aromas of raspberry, licorice, tobacco, and mocha which is a really nice combination and great for the ‘ol schnozzola. I enjoy active noses with the wine aromas as it gives me a prelude to what the wine is going to taste like, more often than not the aromas live up to the impending taste. Well, this didn’t disappoint as the palate found black and red cherry flavors with hints of plum and strawberry on a smooth silky finish. Guess I’m going to head back to Savino for more of this and at $18.99 this is a very decent buy.

Savino Vineyards

Savino Vineyards is located in Woodbridge, CT and are open for tastings on Saturdays and Sundays 12 pm to 6 pm from June 4th through December 17th so you only have two more weekends to get out to Savino Vineyards. Actually it’s one and a half weekends. The tasting room appears very small from the outside however there is ample room for a dozen or so tasters with seating at several tables and chairs. The two sommeliers were quite pleasant and cheerful and asked us if we’ve ever been here before to which we replied “No”. They walked us through each wine and then let us know if we had any questions during the tasting to just ask away. Their tasting fee is $5 and includes their signature wine glass. I did find out that the farm winery was originally a pig and cow farm but now had beautiful grapevines planted all in a row.

Just before the first wine was poured they brought out a plate with cheese, Italian sausage, and crackers for our palate during the tasting.

2010 Seyval Blanc – $14.99: The first aromas were of grapefruit and then I got lemon afterward. Once the lemon hit the nose it didn’t overpower the grapefruit but blended in with it giving it a nice aroma. This carried over into the flavor but I found it more pleasant than the aroma.

2010 St. Croix – $12.99: Produced from CT grown grapes found black currant and cassis on the nose. Black cherry, fig and mocha flavors rounded out this local made wine.

2009 Frontenac – $18.99: The aroma started with raspberries and chocolate on the nose and it took a few smells for me to detect a hint of vanilla and the three aromas blended quite well. On the palate I found blueberry and fig with a bit of a bite on the finish. However after eating some of the delectable food dish the second sip did not have the bite to it.

2009 Cabernet Franc – $18.99: A nice plum color with raspberry and licorice on the nose led into black and red cherries flavors on the palate with a nice smooth finish with a subtle hint of plum.

2009 Merlot – $18.99: A light red color with black currant on the nose with a hint of vanilla. Sweet raspberry and blackberry flavors with a smooth creamy finish. After eating a chocolate morsel the flavor intensified.

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:

Grapes:

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.

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.

 

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…