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?

 

Mineral Hills Winery

I was able visit only two wineries on this wine trip and this was my second winery of the day. Mineral Hills Winery is located at Godard’s Red Hen Farm and the tasting room looks like a converted apple orchard building. If you look real close and just to the left of the “Open” flag you can see stacks of apples for sale.

But once inside the resemblance stops at the threshold and it opens into their tasting room with many of their products on display. They are members of the Hampden County Beekeepers Association as well as the Massachusetts Farm Winery Association.

When I arrived, one of the owners, Larry was in the back room of which I was able to visit (more on this later in this post).

The tasting fee was $5.10 (including the tax) for any five of their wines and I started my tasting with the following and Larry put out several cheeses for the tasting:

2010 Chardonnay: This opened with floral notes with fruity aromas. Distinctive apple and pear flavors followed.

Seyval Blanc: A white Rose that was slightly sweet with grapefruit on the palate.

Apple Wine: This fruit wine had the aroma and flavor of fresh apples on a dew drenched morn in the apple orchard early in the picking season. Can you see the apples falling from the tree?

Mead (honey wine): This had a nice honey aroma on the nose. Then I tried the honey that produced this mead and then another sip of the mead wine, wow! The first sip of wine was much different after tasting the honey and taking a second sip. And yes I did come home with a bottle of this wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Plenty of fruit on the nose, plum with nuances of earthiness. Plum and black cherry followed on the palate with a hint of mocha on the finish.

Then I tried the barrel tasting of his newest Cabernet Sauvignon and the tasting notes were very similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon and it had an even longer finish with subtle hints of vanilla which complemented the mocha. I can’t wait for this to get bottled in 2012. Note to self: get back to the winery for this wine:)

One of the most exciting aspects of getting to go into the back room is seeing the following…

Yes, these bottles represent the winemaker’s “experiments” and I found that Larry and Sue are very passionate about making wine, being in the wine industry, and learning about wine in general. They were easy to talk to and the four other tasters and I had a great time conversing with both of them in the back room.

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

Hardwick Vineyard & Winery

Driving up to this winery I passed through some beautiful countryside scenes, however you could still see the devastation caused by both Hurricane Irene and winter storm Alfred. This was a really sad scene to see as so many tress were down across the area it’s a wonder they received power at all. But upon arrival at the vineyard the tasting room was in a big barn adjacent to the main house.

And when I arrived there was quite a crowd and the sommelier, Becky, wanted to know if I was there because of the show Chronicle and as I looked perplexed and asked “What’s Chronicle”. One of the other tasters wanted to know if I was from Connecticut and when I said I was they all knew that I did not see this local show. Seems that a local TV station highlights “stuff” in the area and Hardwick Vineyard and Winery was featured on the show, hence the reason it was so busy. Well, busy is a good thing as were their wines.

The bar area was quite ample and there is room for a lot of tasters at once. The tasting fee was $5 for six wines of your choice and you also received a signature wine glass. Most of the wineries I have visited will give you an ample pour of the wine for your tasting pleasure. Here at Hardwick Vineyard & Winery the pours were at least 2 oz each so make sure you stay there for awhile after you have finished the tastings. Here are the wines I sampled.

Giles E. Warner: This dry white wine opened with orange peel and citrus notes on the nose. Orange slice with a hint of apple found it’s way to the forward palate and had good acidity with a clean crisp finish. This wine is a blend of the Seyval and Vidal Blanc grapes.

Yankee Boy White: Pear was the dominant aroma with hints of green apple. Sweet apple (dominant) and pear nuances on the palate. I found it quite interesting that the aromas and flavors reversed in its complexity. It was a really nice combination and a pretty good wine too.

Yankee Girl Blush: A blend of Seyval, Vidal, and Pink Catawba varietals was a peach colored wine more so than a blush colored wine and produced peach and tropical notes on the nose. The palate experienced peach and melon flavors. This was very nice.

Massetts Cranberry: Made with 10% local Cayuga grapes this had a nice cranberry aroma and flavor. A little too much cranberry for me though.

Hardwick Red: The Marechal Foch grapes in this wine found plum and dark berries with a hint of boysenberry on the nose. Mostly plum was found on the palate with hints of black cherry and boysenberry on the finish, maybe some fig as well.

Quabbin Native: Made from the Pink Catawba grape it opened with floral notes with some lingering grapefruit. The flavor was a delectable Peach Melba dessert. I got an unexpected surprise when Becky poured the same wine a second time that had been heated with mulling spices. It was remarkable and much better than mulled apple cider. This was the gem of the winery.

There was also an outside area that could also be utilized for relaxing on your visit although it was nice but chilly with temperatures nearing 60°.

Be sure to take the time and visit this winery in one of your future wine trips even if you didn’t see it on Chronicle. You can even book an event as they have plenty of room downstairs. One other note though; I read a saying that was on one of the beams above the bar area which stated: “Guests: If we get to drinking on Sunday and ask you to stay until Monday, we really don’t mean it“. Good thing I went on a Friday:)

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…

 

The Magnificent Wine Co. 2008 House Wine White

Okay, I’ve been neglecting my white wine drinking oenophiles for awhile now so I bought this on a whim as I liked the simplicity of the label with the stick house and figured I’d give it a try. Well, this was anything but simple as this straw yellow colored wine from Washington State in the Columbia Valley produced floral, pear, honeysuckle, and peach aromas that took its time traveling through my schnozzola and I enjoyed every second of it. I almost didn’t want it to end. Alas, it must come to end at some point.

On the palate I found numerous flavors of pineapple, pear, apple, peach, tangerine, and lemon that was crisp and clean. I wasn’t surprised to get so many aromas and flavors as this white wine is a delectable blend of Chardonnay 78%, Riesling 11%, Muscat 5%, Gerwurztraminer 5%, and Pinot Gris 1% – gee, ya think? Make sure you serve this chilled as it goes quite well with seafood dinners, creamy chicken dishes, and spicy Asian food. I’ve decided to make this 13.5% ABV a staple in my wine cellar and priced at $10.99 is a very good buy.

Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery

The tasting room reminded me more of a Spanish style abode than what I’m used to seeing in New England but nonetheless an inviting place to be. Just outside the tasting room and to the right of the parking lot the vineyards beckoned to be viewed, alas with a glass of wine in hand to stroll among the vines enjoying the afternoon.

Paradise Hills charges $6 for the tasting fee and you can purchase their signature wine glass for $5. They also had farm fresh eggs to purchase which is a first for me to see but thought it quite practical seeing as many of the CT wineries were farms before becoming wineries.

Inside the tasting room there was ample room around the wine bar which was a copper hammered top (sorry I didn’t get a picture of this) but seemed to fit the fairly modern decor. In addition to the wine bar there were a number of tables and chairs if you wanted to sit while tasting the wines.

Here are the wines I tasted and was told by the sommelier that they produced their wine Bordeaux style. Sorry for not providing prices.

Washington Trail White: A blend of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc grapes had apple and citrus notes on the nose with apple and mineral flavors. Too much minerality for me.

Chardonnay: Pear and floral notes opened on the nose in perfect harmony and the flavors were of pear and apple with a buttery finish. There are times I really prefer a buttery Chardonnay and this certainly fit the bill.

For the red wine they provided another wine glass with a larger bowl.

Washington Trail Red: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chambourcin had black cherry, raspberry, and mocha notes on the nose. Much the same followed on the palate but an added pepper finish rounded out this wine which was very good.

It ended with their dessert wine.

Vino Bianco del Paridiso: Oat, banana, and apricot on the nose with nectarine and peach flavors with a sweet aftertaste but not sugary so it was very pleasant.

 

Gouveia Vineyards

The view from Gouveia Vineyards is breathtaking and one that I would love to see from the bay window of my own home.

The view from the tasting room for the livestock in the area and the hills in the distance, one thing for sure this vineyard is in a picturesque setting.

Once inside the tasting room there was ample room for everyone to either do a tasting or to just browse their gift shop which was quite extensive.

The tasting fee which includes their signature wine glass is $7, however in CT remember to add the tax bringing the total cost of the tasting fee to $7.44. This is one of the few CT wineries not to incorporate the tax into the total tasting fee instead adding on top of the fee.

Stone House White – $15: On the nose there was a lot of minerality and stone which was actually overpowering. However, the nectarine and peach flavors made up for the bouquet.

Chardonnay Steel – $18: Red grapefruit aroma was very pleasing and the grapefruit flavor was nice too but again this had too much minerality for my tastes.

Whirlwind Rose – $15: This light colored rose wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Seyval Blanc, and Chardonnay that opened with a light floral bouquet with flavors of raspberries but again there was an overabundance of minerality on the finish. Again, I’m not a fan of a mineral aftertaste.

Stone House Red – $20: A delectable blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon with black cherry and pepper aroma. The flavor was much the same as the aroma only the pepper was more pronounced and missing was the mineral aftertaste.

Merlot – $20: Red cherry and pepper both on the nose and palate with a subtle chocolate finish.

Epiphany Reserve – $25: Raspberry aroma and flavor. Rich, silky, smooth with a nice mouth feel.

The ones I didn’t try:

Oaked Chardonnay – $18

Cayuga – $18

Seyval Blanc – $15

Cabernet Franc – $22

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.

Three Wishes NV California Chardonnay

Doppelganger

Nanette Fernandez was, from her very birth, “special” in that she had a unique ability to heal. Mostly it came in some form of telekinesis, or I prefer to think of it as a passport to another world, where reality delves into the mind for a parallel perception of the surreal harmonizing with reality. She preferred her ‘nickname‘, Nellie, over her given birth name and one of her mother’s pet peeve’s was that Nellie had gone through dolls quicker than most children…

This non-vintage California Chardonnay opened with pear and floral notes on the nose and I detected a hint of dried apricot. On the palate I found a nice combination of peach and melon flavors with an acidic lemongrass finish. A very decent Chardonnay that I paired with spicy Thai ginger salmon with leftover vegetables (green beans, carrots, peas, vegetable baked beans – sort of cleaned out the icebox) and spiral fries. The surprise in this wine is that it only cost $2.99 (a pretty good value for the cost) and if I remember, I bought this at Whole Foods. I guess this is their version of “Two Buck Chuck’s” wines found at Trader Joe’s. For the cost it is a very decent wine to serve with spicy foods. I have not tried this stand-alone so I can’t comment on this as on the second night it lost a bit of the aroma and the flavor wasn’t as pronounced and I had this with chicken. I liked it better with the spicy Thai ginger salmon better.

 

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.