Cassidy Hill Vineyard

Driving to Cassidy Hill Vineyard I went through the farmlands of Connecticut complete with nuances of cow manure in the air: you either love the smell or despise it. Driving down the last turn from the secondary road I almost felt like I was in the Twilight Zone episode, Walking Distance. Eerie, but not spooky. Anyway I decided to have lunch here as it was around 12:15 pm and it was such a gorgeous day I opted to eat outside with a sandwich and bottle of water I brought along before going in to taste the wines.

Coming into the Cassidy Hill parking lot the vines are viewed from your left (unless, of course, you drove in backwards, then they would be to your right) and the day I arrived I found the parking lot quite full and had to park on the lower level. It was a gorgeous afternoon and I wasn’t going to let an extra 250 feet distance keep me from enjoying some wine. On the patio to the entranceway there were picnic tables and iron cafe tables with chairs for you to enjoy the warm sun with a chilled glass of your favorite Cassidy Hill wine. Entering the tasting room, the decor included a stone fireplace with seating for several parties. It was an open, high ceiling room and the walls were light pine paneling but well done.

Cassidy Hill’s tasting fee is $5 for six wines and if you wanted a signature glass they sold for $3. And you got to taste the wines at a long bar that accommodated about 20 tasters.

Winding Brook: A blend of the Chardonnay and Viognier grapes open with tropical and floral aromas then into melon and peach on the palate. This was crisp and well chilled.

2010 Chardonnay: Fruit aromas with mostly pineapple flavors.

2009 Riesling: Floral, honeysuckle, orange peel aromas led into honeydew melon, tangerine, and nectarine with a hint of cantaloupe. This was very pleasing to the palate.

2010 Summer Breeze: Wow! This wine exploded with strawberry aromas. Strawberry and citric flavors abounded upon the palate. I could have taken a bottle of this wine and sat on their patio all afternoon enjoying the wine and fine weather. It was an exceptional wine.

2009 Malbec: Red berry, clove, and smoked bacon aromas even Cousin Carl would appreciate were on the nose while flavors of red berries and earth tickled the taste buds. This wine was quite like the Argentinian Malbecs I love so much. I was mildly surprised a CT red could be so good.

2009 Coventry Spice: Spice (what did you expect) and boysenberry aromas were the dominating aromas, there were more but I couldn’t detect them. Spice (what did you expect) and fig flavors rounded out this decent red wine.

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

Priam Vineyards

Located in Colchester the winery is a barn-like structure with an outdoor seating area. There were a few picnic tables out in the lawn area so visitors could eat their picnic lunch along with their favorite Priam wine. The vineyards are just to the left of the tasting room as you enter from the parking area. Upon entering the tasting room you get the sense that wine making has just finished as the staff is bustling about getting ready for the day with abundant wandering wine tasters from within the state and surrounding neighbor states. In the parking lot I saw vehicles from New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, and I thought I was going to be the first one in but as it turned out my car was the only one with Connecticut plates.

The sommelier greeted me cheerfully and was eager to explain the wine tastings. You have your choice of three tastings. Tasting level one included five wines (Barrel Select Chardonnay, Salmon River White, Riesling, Westchester Red, and Salmon River Red) for $7, tasting level two included the wines from level one and four additional wines (Cayuga, Blackledge White, Late Harvest Riesling, and a St. Croix – PV) for $14. There were two reserve dessert wines (Salmon River Red – PV, and Essence of St. Croix) for $2 each, and you get to keep the signature wine glass as part of the tasting fee.

Priam also sponsors a dinner with a chef from a Hartford area restaurant paired with each of their wines. In July they host an “unWINED Concert Series” featuring music genres of folk, blues, rock, acoustic, alternative, country, and Americana. I believe I’ll make a couple of these venues. In the latter part of July they host a New England clam bake where part of the proceeds go to the American Heart Association and the New England Seafood Council.

Here are the wines I tasted:

Barrel Select Chardonnay: This wine was well chilled and had an oaky aroma with a hint of vanilla. On the palate I found melon and grated lemon peel. It finished with a peach flavor. This was a really very nice wine – I hope my red wine drinking readers are just skipping over these as I don’t want them to think I’m going soft on my white wine drinking readers.

Salmon River White: This barrel fermented Gewurztraminer/Chardonnay blend opened with fruity aromas leading into apple and peach flavors with a hint of honey. I think I would pair this with Asian cuisine.

Riesling: Floral and fruit captured your schnozzola immediately upon lifting the glass to enjoy the aromas from this wine. Tropical fruits hit the palate much the same way a German Riesling does. As a matter of fact, I thought I was enjoying a German Riesling. I would also pair this with spicy food.

Westchester Red: Black cherry and fig awakened your proboscis leading into European chocolate, cherry (more black cherry than red cherry, but both were there), a hint of vanilla and there were some smokiness, like when you smell a BBQ somewhere in your neighborhood, yeah like that.

Salmon River Red: This is a Bordeaux style wine. The aromas were of smoke, leather, and black cherry. Although I detected black cherry on the palate I found raspberry to be the more prevalent flavor. Not sure if the wine had chocolate undertones or it was because I had a piece of chocolate with the wine; probably the latter.

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

Chamard Vineyards

Turning into the stone and gate entrance up the short rock road on my mission to the tasting room, one wonders or not if I stepped into another portal as I almost thought I was back in Napa Valley. On one side of the driveway were rows of vineyards whispering to no particular tune (or maybe it was the radio station I was listening too), but it was simply gorgeous to see them thriving in the sun-filled day as this was my last stop on my Connecticut Wine Trip #1. Anyway, the parking lot was completely full and I had to park in the back lot pass the pond and water fountain carefully watching for picnic-goers as the place was riddled with people walking around.

Once up in the tasting room I had trouble locating a spot at the wine bar as it was packed like sardines (and I don’t even like sardines). My first thought was to turn around and come back another day but I never look a gift horse in the mouth. BTW, what does a gift horse look like?? The room on a normal day is still small but comfortable as today was packed. Which is a good thing as wine lovers, wine drinkers, and winos are at least out touring the wineries. They did have a nice picnic area in the back of the winery complete with a pond.

The tasting fee was $10 for five wines or you could upgrade to a Riedel wine glass for $15. Remembering that I have several Riedel glasses at home I opted for the $10 tasting and I got to bring their signature glass home. The wine glass however, is more suited for cordials, a shot of Sambucca, a dessert wine, or an ice wine than it is for wine. It was tough for me to get my schnozzola into the glass. I could picture Cousin‘ Carl smirking in the corner of the tasting room while watching me getting my proboscis stuck in the glass. Gee, what a sight this must have been.

Here are the wines I got to taste as the two Cabernet Francs on their wine menu were not available. I was a bit disappointed but I did get to try some other wines.

Stone Cold White: This wine was well chilled and I got an immediate bouquet of citrus and floral notes on the nose. Tropical fruits and lemon flavors rounded out this surprisingly tasty white wine.

Chardonnay: This was an okay chardonnay and for my taste it was nothing outstanding, but did have a fair price for the wine.

Estate Reserve Chardonnay: This chardonnay however, was quite tasty with tropical fruit aromas and melon flavors with a smooth buttery finish. I do prefer buttery chardonnays over oaky ones and this one sure fit the bill.

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: I got to taste this as both of their Cabernet Francs were sold out much to my disappointment as I have had their Cabernet Franc in the past and was quite pleased with it. Albeit, this wine had pleaseant boysenberry and mulberry aromas which led into black berry and licorice (yeah, this surprised me too) flavors with a hint of pepper. A very decent wine with good acidity and tannins, usually estate wines are better than their average ones and this one didn’t disappoint.

Merlot: This Merlot was made of 75% Merlot grapes and the rest with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Pinot Noir. For all intents and purposes, this is a Meritage but because at least 75% of the wine is Merlot they get to call it a Merlot, however I think it is better suited as a blend as it was quite tasty with a cherry jam aroma with black berry and pepper flavors with a really nice mouthfeel. I liked this one a lot.

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

McLaughlin Vineyards

McLaughlin Vineyards located in Sandy Hook which was in an out of the way place and if it weren’t for the GPS this vineyard would have been a bit tougher to find than most. Driving down the long and winding road (Deja Vu?), a rock road I might add and on the last turn of the road up a slight but steep hill I came upon an old-style baseball game complete with the bases, the battery, the infielders and outfielders all dressed in the early 1900’s baseball garb. I thought I was watching a movie scene called “Batter Up” starring good ‘ol Abner Doubleday (although Alexander Cartwright was credited with inventing baseball and not Doubleday).

The entrance to the winery is preceded by a steep rock stairway and you needed to watch your step here as the stairs were a bit uneven. Just outside the tasting room was a nice picnic area overlooking the vineyards and a good view, albeit a long one, of the vintage baseball game in progress. Once inside you entered a small gift shop with a couple of wine racks displaying their wines. You walked through this room into a small hallway leading into the tasting room. There isn’t a whole lot of room, so 15 occupants would be considered crowded.

The tasting fee was $8 plus tax and you tasted all six of their wines – three whites and three reds. You also got to keep their signature wine glass. The wine bar was approximately 4 feet wide which limited the number of tasters that could surround it and was modern in style not the rustic feel I was hoping for. Luckily I was the only one in the tasting room and there were two separate couples outside in the picnic area seemingly enjoying their wine and the vintage baseball game.

Here are the wines I tasted:

Chardonnay: This wine was aged in stainless with oak added to enhance the flavor. I got a lot of pear both in the aroma and flavor of the wine. I also detected apple and had a nice smooth finish. I would venture to say this would go well with a creamy chicken dish or a good casserole.

Blue Coyote: Made from the Vidal Blanc and Aurore grapes. This wine opened with spice on the nose with flavors of apple (probably green apple I would think) and a hint of smokiness. This was my favorite wine at this tasting. I would probably enjoy this with a spicy dish, preferably an Asian style dish. I think it would pair well.

Snow Goose: This is a blend of estate grown Connecticut grapes and had citrusy fruits in both the aroma and flavor. It was fairly fruity semi-dry to dry wine. I liked this but not as much as the Blue Coyote.

Red Fox Rose: This was a fairly dry red wine with hints of strawberry and good acidity. This might go well with the favorite backyard cook-out in the heat of the summer and well chilled.

Vista Reposa: This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cabernet Franc grape varietals. This opened with red raspberry with hints of mint on the nose. The flavor also consisted of red raspberry with pepper and spice mixed in.

Merlot: The last wine I tasted was their Merlot which opened with a red and black cherry aromas and lead into a black cherry flavor with a fairly smooth finish.

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

Bubba & Mollykins

No, this is not a love story but a very simple one about two different dogs from two different beginnings in life. Both pups are as cute as buttons although they aren’t quite pups anymore but I will always refer to them as pups. One is black in color and the other is black and white. One is Pompey (aka Bubba) and one is Molly (aka Mollykins). Bubba is a Pug (he’s the black one) while Mollykins (she’s the black & white one) is a Border Collie. Both are extremely playful and have great dispositions. Neither would hurt a fly however if you tread on their territory you may be able to hear their playful growls. Although Molly got quite protective of the bay window in the living room for anything that dared come into the front yard. This was her territory! And Bubba had to sit higher on the couch than anyone else. This was his territory!

Here is Molly’s story (as told by her):

Hi! My name is Molly and I am 3 1/2 years young. My hometown is Vancouver, BC where I was discovered with my brothers and sisters at the age of 5 weeks in a dumpster. Luckily, people in the neighborhood heard us crying and rescued us. We were sent to the Vancouver City Pound where I met my mom. She was a volunteer there waiting to find the perfect dog for her and it turned out to be me! At first, my mom only fostered me because she wasn’t sure she could handle a dog but after 4 months of fostering, she couldn’t get enough of me and I was adopted! The first year of my life was pretty rough and have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis so I can’t run and play on pavement or else my joints will hurt. Occasionally I need to take it easy or else my muscles will get inflamed and I won’t be able to walk so my mom keeps a close eye on me.

I love to play tug of war with my family and growl because it makes me feel tough. My favorite thing to do is hike with my friends and family although I hate it when I get ticks on me because it’s very uncomfortable for me when they have to be removed.  Sometimes I get so excited that I can’t help but wiggle until my tail hits my face.

I’m a traveling dog and will probably continue to because wherever my mom and dad go, I go too (or sometimes they stick me with my grandparents which is super fun and they allow me up on the chair to snuggle). Either way, I know I’m always with loving family.

Here is Bubba’s story (as told by him):

I’ve been in custody from the time I was six weeks old and I’m currently 4 1/2 years old (in human years that is). Anyway my owners think I’m perfect and they’re right. I mean, who am I to argue with them? Just to set the record straight my name is Pompey who was the behind the scenes caretaker of a brothel in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and in the play, Pompey is used to show the audience what is going on in the story. Boy, could I tell you stories! But that’s for another time.

I was a resident of Colorado for the majority of the time I’ve been on this wonderful earth and even though my owners think I’m perfect I couldn’t have asked for better owners. They really are sweet (and I get away with just about anything – shhh, but don’t tell them that, I’ve got a good thing going here). I’m a mountain dog by heart and I will chase snow until it melts and in Colorado that could be for several months. Of course if we get a foot of snow you won’t be able to find me when I jump in a snow bank.

Just to puff my chest a bit – I’m AKC registered and if it weren’t for my tail I probably would have been a show dog except my tail doesn’t have the correct corkscrew (well, what do you expect, after all this is a wine review). Seems that the “show people” want a tail that corkscrews 2 1/2 turns, I only have 1 1/2 turns. But I’m a cuddler and I always need to be around someone. And I think Molly’s pretty cool too. I love when we get together.

What about you? Any pet stories?

Well, on with the wine reviews.

Santa Margherita 2009 Pinot Grigio. Yellow in color with floral aromas (much like a fresh bouquet of flowers) and golden delicious apple flavor and a smooth silky finish. $20.99, 90 rating. Pair this with bacon-wrapped sea scallops, white rice sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, broccoli drizzled with a balsamic glaze, and an onion roll on the side. This was scrumptious!

Altos Las Hormigas 2009 Mendoza Malbec. Upon opening this wine a deep purple color greeted licorice, fennel, and plum pleasingly on the nose, followed by red & black raspberries, maybe a bit of boysenberry jam and pepper flavors on the palate. This wine ended with a smooth European chocolate finish with a hint of blueberries. $8.99, 88 rating. Pair this with grilled Italian sausage with peppers and onions on a grinder roll. This wine got better as the night rolled on.

Jacuzzi Vineyards 2009 Bianco di Sei Sorelle Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Bartlett pear and peach notes on the nose with a hint of mixed nuts complement the peach and pear flavors with a smooth oaky finish. This is a very nice white wine even a red wine lover would enjoy! Boy, am I getting soft in my old age 🙂 $18.00, 88 rating. Pair this with fresh scrod with a Dijon mustard marinade, brown rice, and broccoli & cauliflower vegetables drizzled with your favorite cheese (you can also get this in a handy vegetable steamer bag – cheese included). Ingredients for the scrod marinade are as follows:

2 tablespoons white wine (the above mentioned wine is a good choice)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon (add more if using fresh tarragon)
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
Dash of garlic powder

Whisk ingredients and brush over scrod and pour remaining marinade over scrod (any white fish will do though) and bake at 425 degrees for 12-18 minutes depending on thickness of the scrod fillets.

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

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Twinkies

No, not the Minnesota Twins baseball team, but the Hostess Twinkies dessert cake with the creamy filling we all loved and enjoyed as kids. You’re probably wondering why am I  going to talk about Twinkies. Well, I’m glad you asked. Many years ago when my younger brother was 6 or 7 his favorite dessert was a package of Twinkies. Not the single serve packages you see today but the “twin” packages of years ago. Remember when Hostess gave you two Twinkies in one single package instead of a single Twinkie in the same package?

Well, there was a time when there were two Twinkies in one package and the best part of the spongy dessert was the cream filling. Well, one fateful afternoon after the Saturday cartoons were over and we had to have the proverbial grilled cheese sandwich (or a sam-ich as my brother called it) for lunch before any desserts were consumed. Did we even know what ‘consumed’ meant back in those days? Anyway when dessert arrived my brother, happily chomped into one of the Twinkies only to discover that the spongy cake was minus the creamy filling. This did not sit well with my younger brother. Alas, with some encouragement from my aunt my younger sibling crafted a letter to the Hostess company giving them an earful that his favorite dessert was missing the all-important creamy filling.

Several weeks later, to our surprise, a package arrived for my brother. Inside the box were six boxes of Hostess Twinkies (remember, each package had two Twinkies times six packages times six boxes which equals a whole bunch (remember my definition of bunch?) and you get a lot of free Twinkies. He also received coupons for another twelve boxes of Twinkies. Now, that’s customer service. What ever happened to those days?

Here are some wines that would probably go well with Twinkies…

Red Rock 2009 Reserve Malbec. This wine had a deep dark blueberry color with berry, clove, and floral aromas. Boysenberry, black currant, and black cherries on the palate. This wine ended with a smooth mocha and raspberry finish. $9.99, 90 rating. Pair this also with pork tenderloins cooked in white wine with onions, potatoes, and carrots.

Butterfield Station 2008 California Chardonnay. This chardonnay opens with vanilla and hazelnut aromas. Buttery flavors mix with tropical fruits with a delicate smooth finish. $5.99, 85 rating. Yes, this goes well with Twinkies.

Concho Y Toro 2009 Fronterra Malbec. Another dark blueberry colored wine revealed blackberry, clove, and spice aromas. Blueberry and raspberry flavors yielded to a smooth velvety finish. $4.99 for the 750 ml bottle & $7.99 for the 1.5 liter bottle, 80 rating. A lot of wine for the price. This also goes well with the pork tenderloins mentioned above.

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

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Special Edition For Turkey Day.

Most of us celebrate Thanksgiving in one form or another, that is either with a lot of wine or with none at all. If you’re in the latter category this post isn’t going to help you one bit. But for those of you that relish the thought of good wine with good turkey here are some of my favorites. I have found that all of these wines go well with the traditional turkey dinner and all the trimmings.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law host the most magnificent turkey dinner on earth. Wine was made for their dinner table amidst ample appetizers, homemade soups (I’m a chicken noodle from the can kind of guy) but my brother-in-law can make some pretty interesting soups that even I can be persuaded to try and they’re usually real good, along with an assortment of breads, and numerous delectable desserts. They conduct the Thanksgiving dinner around a special theme of which we are not privy to until the precise moment.

The most memorable one was a 60’s theme where everyone came as hippies, flower children, and rock stars except for the turkey day hosts who masqueraded as the parents of the hippies, flower children, and rock stars – ingenious comes to mind. Who would of thought to come as the parents. It is one of the most memorable days of the year where when it’s over you can say “yeah, I was there”. So, without further ado, this post is dedicated to family for without them we are lost souls – I’m fortunate to have a soul.

If you don’t mind sharing, post your favorite/ideal turkey dinner and let’s compare notes. Maybe we could create the ultimate turkey meal with a combination of everyone’s favorites.

Okay, on with the favorite wines for Thanksgiving…

Sharpe Hill 2004 Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay. A rich golden color is the opening act for pear, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon aromas leading to apricot and nectarine flavors leaving a delicate buttery and mineral finish. $18.99 and a 90 rating.

Chateau Souverain 2002 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Mixed berry aroma and a hint of spice on the nose with raspberry and black cherry flavors and a smooth delicate finish. $25.00, 91 rating. Although this is pricey I believe you will find most Pinot Noirs to be that way.

David Bruce 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Very similar to the above wine but a $30 price tag, 91 rating.

Stephen Vincent 2006 Pinot Noir. Mixed berry notes on the nose with cherry and raspberry flavors with a hint of mocha. $19.99, 88 rating.

Concha Y Toro 2005 Casillero del Diablo Carmenere. Chocolate and coffee aromas lead to intense spice, raspberry and cassis flavors. A nice mocha and spice finish. $8.99, 89 rating (yes, Cousin Carl & Sparing Sharon- this is for you).

Cline Cellars 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris. A floral aroma gives way to pear and apple flavors with a peachy finish. $12.00, 87 rating (this is for Jacuzzi Jack).

Here’s a bonus wine for the happy turkey day festivities.

14 Hands 2008 Hot To Trot Red Blend. This wine exhibits mulberry, blackberry, and earthy aromas gracefully yielding to black cherry and clove flavors with a smooth mocha finish. $9.00, 89 rating. An excellent low priced red (for Mike’s Cellar Emporium).

Enjoy your day with family and friends so we all can keep our souls close to us.

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



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‘Twas The Night Before…

I purchased another case of wine to experiment on for the next couple of weeks. Yes, six bottles were the Camille Cayran Secret de Campane as I said I would buy up all the wine merchant had. Well, I was going to when someone was looking for a decent wine that wasn’t too expensive so I relented and let them know of this wine (I must be getting soft in my old age). Although I could not find The Flying Winemaker Tempranillo I was able to locate their Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m curious to see if it compares well to the Tempranillo.  Anyway, let’s get back to the wine reviews to see if we get tricked or treated with the following wine reviews. Seeing as Halloween has just passed, you may be surprised that chocolate goes well with just about any type of wine. But, I think you knew that already. So, get your pillowcase ready for all those treats. And this post has nothing to do with Christmas so don’t be looking for any gifts just yet.

Trapiche 2008 Oak Cask Malbec found plum, raisin, and blueberry aromas while cassis and pepper dominated the flavor. This wine finished with blueberry and clove nuances. With a $9.99 price tag and a 79 rating, so this wine falls in the Cousin Carl’s low priced reds category. Just a quick note that anything I rate over 75 I would more than likely stock this in my personal wine cellar. I didn’t pair this with any food but would surmise a guess that it will go well with grilled meats, lasagna, other pasta dishes and any other dish you may challenge yourself to create.

Fabla 2008 Calatayud Garnacha. A deep red-purple color yielded blackberry fruits with a hint of clove and mint julep. Wild, tart strawberry flavor with chocolate mousse nuances left a subtle finish with hints of chilled, tart blueberries. Pair this with chicken roll-ups (which is a combination of boneless chicken breast, provolone cheese, and prosciutto di parma). The chicken roll-ups were attended harmoniously by fresh green beans, mushroom risotto, and fresh tomato topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. Italian star bread rounded out the starches for this meal. I also had this wine afterward as a stand-alone wine and it was as good as it was with the meal, maybe even a little better. $7.99 yielded an 88 rating. A definite keeper for the wine cellar. And yes, this falls into Cousin Carl’s low priced reds category. What would we do without Cousin Carl? Should we dedicate a post to Cousin Carl’s low priced reds? You’re the voting public, tell me what you think.

I suppose we must get a white wine in for those that prefer this as opposed to us red wine lovers. Here goes…

Estancia 2007 Monterey County Pinnacles Ranches Chardonnay. This wine was gold in color which produced a pear/apple aroma with a hint of melon. The palate generated tropical fruits and delectable citrus flavors. A creamy toasted oak finish completed this wine. This was a stand alone wine but I’m convinced it will pair well with an array of food dishes you consider as favorite meals. $14.99 with an 87 rating would fit nicely into anyone’s wine cellar.

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