Walker Road Vineyards – 2012

Arriving at Walker Road Vineyards on a beautiful sunny afternoon I had noticed the entrance to the vineyard changed from last year’s visit. They also moved from the basement of their home into a barn-like structure not too far from the vineyards. So things are looking up for them.

You may want to get to this winery soon as they are only open the first full weekend of each month. I hope in the future they decide to change this as I think it would be better for business.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the small bridge from the parking lot, which is also small but navigable providing there aren’t too many vehicles in your way.

Upon entering the tasting room you get a rustic feel and they have done a great job with  it compared to the old wine bar (last year) which was a small bench with maybe 3-4 tasters being able to taste wines. The new wine bar can accommodate quite a few more tasters. Sorry for the blurry picture but I wanted you to get an idea of how the place was set up.

When I first entered the tasting room I met Jim Frey and his wife Bruce-Elizabeth and they inquired if I wanted to do a tasting. Last year they did not charge for the tasting but you didn’t get a signature glass either. The tasting fee was $5 plus you got to keep the winery glass. If I’m not mistaken this is the first year Walker Road Vineyards has offered signature wine glasses. They only produce two wines but they’re pretty good and the tasting notes are as follows. I forgot to record the wine prices but do know both were well under $20.

Gertrude’s Garden: A blend of Traminette, Seyval Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc produced aromas of peach, apricot, and melon on the nose. The flavors consisted of citrus, lemon zest, and fresh herbs. The finish reminded me of lemon meringue pie.

Red Table Wine: This red blend consisted of the St. Croix, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese-Brunello varietals . It reminded me a lot of the wine my grandfather made, probably due to the Sangiovese-Brunello varietal. I found black cherry, pepper, dark plum, and cherry hard candy aromas. On the palate were blackberry, black currant, and plenty of pepper. A long finish ended with hints of European mocha.

Here’s a view of the vineyards from the tasting room.

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

Lost Acres Vineyard – 2012

Lost Acres Vineyard is new to the CT Wine Trail Passport this year and their sign indicating where I should go to enjoy a wine tasting is one of the signs I look for.

But let’s back up for a minute so you can see where the tasting room and other wine activities are conducted.

Did you notice the deck on the right side of the barn structure. Looks like a great place to spend an afternoon sipping some wine while admiring the vineyards.

And yes, this is the path leading up to the tasting room where I have never been before but am willing to take the plunge. When I entered, the tasting room was cool as it was becoming warm outside once the sun was intent on staying for awhile.

As you can see there is ample room to accommodate a lot of wine tasters either at the wine bar or in many of the tables that are set up here. Once inside one of the owners, Michelle welcomed me to the vineyard. The tasting fee is $6 including the CT state tax (I always like it when wineries include the tax within the tasting fee) for trying six wines on their menu. Plus you get their signature wine glass too. So, on to the wines and where the fun begins.

First up was their Chardonnay ($14.99) which opened with lemon, melon, and lemongrass aromas leading into citrus and apple flavors. Serve slightly chilled this was a very good wine to start of the tasting venue.

Next, I tried the Wedge White ($13.99) which is a white blend consisting of Cayuga, Chardonnay, Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, and Vidal Blanc. I found this wine to have clean crisp citrus aromas and flavors with some good acidity. This would be a great wine to have on their deck enjoying an afternoon with friends.

The next wine on their list was a fruit wine called Old Orchard Apple ($12.99) and as the name suggests you get apple aromas and flavors with a neat little tart apple finish.

The Riesling ($17.99) was next up on the tasting menu and I found lemongrass and fresh cut hay on the nose with a lingering spice cornucopia. This was a really surprising array of aromas and the flavors consisted of sweet apple and pear.

The Rock Wall Red ($15.99) was a blend of Carignane, Gamay, Merlot, and Petit Sirah. This red blend opened with plum, blackberry and jammy aromas. Much the same for the flavors but a nice spice and peppery finish followed leaving a nice mouth-feel on the palate.

The last wine on the list was the Merlot ($13.99). On the nose I found jammy blackberry and wild black cherry and on the palate I found cherry hard candy and plum flavors with a nice complement of pepper. Then I tried a chocolate morsel and this seemed to bring out the plum flavor more and as it turned out the last wine I tasted was my favorite.

If you haven’t stopped here yet, you’ll want to make the trip. One thing that I enjoy so far and I know I’ve only visited two wineries so far but how pleasant and friendly the wine staff and the tasters are so far – let’s hope that the trend continues.

Next week – Arrigoni Winery

Taylor Brooke Winery

Traveling through the scenic roads of Northeastern Connecticut along the rolling hills you eventually come across a gray New England style building enticing you to drop by. In back of the tasting room you can take some time from your trip to enjoy a self-guided tour of the vineyards amidst the many outlying trees and a gentle breeze. Then you are ready to embark on a wine extravaganza.

Taylor Brooke’s wine tasting fee is probably one of the best I’ve come across so far on my Connecticut wine trips. You can taste any two wines free of charge or eight wines for $4 or everything on their wine menu depending on the season for $6 which includes the tax. This is the first winery on my trip not to charge the CT sales tax as they have opted to incorporate it into the cost of the tasting fee. You can purchase their signature glass if you want to.

Upon first entering the tasting room you get a sense of New England at its best. The bar area would easily accommodate 12-15 tasters at a time without being crowded with enough room to swirl and sip your wine. They also carry local products from the area. The owners, Dick & Linda, are two of the friendliest people you’ll ever come across. Dick was a wealth of knowledge citing facts about residual sugar, brix, and of course, bud break.

I’ve never seen anyone so excited about “bud break” and after looking at some of the vines afterward I could see where “bud break” would be exciting. You see, bud break is when the bud breaks and begins the process of becoming a grape and you can guess what happens after it becomes a grape. Well, bud break is like stopping and smelling the roses or taking time to smell the coffee or watch the sun go down in the evening or watching the sunrise in the early morn or going to the beach at dusk and take a leisurely stroll just where the ocean hits the sand and you don’t care if the water gets your pants wet. It’s just a small aspect of life but it’s those small happenings that make us who we are. I think I like “bud break”.

Taylor Brooke winery has also set up a scholarship fund for a Woodstock Academy senior that will be entering the field of agriculture. They also have an “Adopt A Vine” program where you receive a certificate and for three years you get one bottle of wine from the previous harvest.

If this winery isn’t on your wine tour you should make a point of adding it. Usually when I visit a winery there is at least one wine that just doesn’t sit right with my palate and I wish I never tried it. Well, that didn’t happen here as I enjoyed all eleven of the wines I tasted and the wine quality was exceptional. Okay, on to the wines I tasted in the middle of spring:

Riesling: On the nose was a floral and fruity aroma sort of like a bowl of fresh fruit. The flavor was also like a bowl of fresh tropical fruit with a hint peach.

Traminette: This wine is a blend of Gewurztraminer and Seyval grapes and very similar to the Riesling.

Green Apple Riesling: What can I say, the aroma and flavor said “apple” but it’s unlike an apple fruit wine I’ve ever tasted. You can definitely tell the difference between the two. Try this on a warm sunny afternoon. It will cool you down with crisp clean flavors of apple. Try it with ham, chicken, or pork. Better yet cook these meals with the wine, the apple gives the pork and ham a great flavor.

Summer Peach: This wine is what the name implies – peach, pure and simple. Although I have not tried this with food as every time I open a bottle the temperature is usually above 80 degrees and slightly humid and between my wife and I this bottle is gone in seconds flat. Not really seconds flat but it seems that way as this is a great wine to sip on a hot sunny day. I should try this with grilled chicken and asparagus.

St. Croix Rose: I really questioned if this was a Rose as it was as dark as a Merlot but was not a Merlot. I’m not sure if it was a Rose either. Gee, I’m confused – think I need to go back and try this again.

Cabernet Franc: Lighter than most Cabernet Francs I’ve tasted with lots of fruit on the nose and palate with a hint of chocolate, my favorite part of tasting Cabernet Francs. Almost reminded me of a Pinot Noir.

Woodstock Valley Red: This medium bodied wine was full of cherries, with hints of bell pepper and spice. I could picture having this with grilled upland game such as pheasant or quail with wild grain rice and a medley of pearl onions and peas or perhaps Brussels Sprouts cooked with bacon.

Roseland Red: This is a blend of St. Croix, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I love the flavor of blends and this one didn’t disappoint. Both red and dark berry aroma and flavor took my senses into another world with a spicy finish. Yeah, you read my mind – pair this with a juicy steak.

Most of you know me well enough that I am not real fond of dessert wines especially with them being so sweet. Well, the following dessert wines are in a different class of dessert wines.

Late Harvest Riesling: Although this was sweet it seemed more to have sweetness without being too sweet. I got a whole lot of fruit on this from nectarine, peach, pineapple, honey, and apricot to name a few. A real delectable concoction of fruits.

Chocolate Essence: When I first heard this was a chocolate infused Merlot Port I had to make sure I heard correctly so I said “Chocolate infused what…?” Well, I’ve been told by some that the chocolate reminded them of a Tootsie Roll and others have said it reminds them of Dove chocolate. The first time I tried this was quite the experience and each time I try this it never ceases to amaze me how they even got three distinct flavors in a wine. On the first sip it was like a dark chocolate Hershey Kiss exploding on impact with my taste buds. Let that mouth feel sit for a spell before taking the next sip. When you feel adventurous enough take a second sip where you’ll get a fruitful concoction of raspberries and cherries (flavors indicative of many Merlots). Again, let this sit for a while and when you get brave enough have a third sip of the Chocolate spirit and you get the pungency of port. How the wine maker got three distinct flavors and at different times of the sipping wine cycle is magical – is his name Merlin?

Raspberry Rendezvous: This is a raspberry port style wine and yeah, you guessed it – raspberry, raspberry, and raspberry in this. It reminds me of a raspberry sundae. Get the picture? I wonder if I mixed the Chocolate with the Raspberry – Hmmm, I don’t even want to think of the possibilities.

If you’re not a fan of dessert wines you will be after you’ve tried these. They also have the following wines but were sold out and I’ll have to wait for their next release: Woodstock Hill White, Autumn Raspberry, Winter Pomegranate, and Cherry Riesling. Taylor Brooke will be coming out with an inaugural release of 100% Connecticut grown Merlot  from the Dave Brown Vineyard sometime in the fall. I have already marked my calendar for the weekend I think it will be available.

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