Bishops Orchards Winery

Arriving at the winery the scene is a typical farm market complete with carriages to carry your foods, fruits, pies and other delectable farm ware. Upon entering the building, fruit was upon the nose (gee, what did I expect, you’re in a fruit winery, no an orchard, no a fruit stand, no a pie shop, okay, where am I)?

Okay, let’s presume I’m in a winery to taste some wines and here’s what is on the wine menu of which you can pick six wines for $6 and you get a signature wine glass to take home with you: Honey Peach Melba, Berry Best Friends, Whitfield’s Pearadox, Pearadise Celebration, Happley Impeared to name a few. Hey, I didn’t make up the names, remember you’re in a winery where the wines are made from fruits like apples, pears, apricots, raspberries, etc., etc., etc. Please do not call the Witless Whiner help line at 1-800-888-5555 to express your concern over anything in this post unless you want to face a pearilous pearsecution as that may come to be and you certainly do not want to face that wrath. As you have guessed I’m not a fan of fruit wines but to tell you I was mildly surprised with what I found here. The sommelier, are they called sommeliers in a fruit winery or are they called applepearliers? Only kidding:)

Here’s what I tried:

Whitfield’s Pearadox: Yup, you guessed it – pear, pear, and some more pear. No matter what I did, swirled and I got pear, smelled and I got pear, smelled again and I got pear, tasted it and I got, yup, pear. You guys catching on yet?

Happley Impeared: Uh, where do I start? Okay, see Whitfield’s Pearadox.

Faulkner’s Spiced Apple: Okay, pear everywhere, sorry I think I’m trapped in a Twilight Zone episode. Actually, this apple wine reminded me very much like an apple pie (my favorite pie) complete with the cinnamon finish. I was very surprised with this wine. I almost bought a bottle. Did I say that out loud or was I thinking it?

Honey Peach Melba: This was almost like a peach melba dessert made with apples only in liquid form. I prefer the one I can eat.

Apple Raspberry Blush: Now this didn’t seem like a fruit wine as it was quite tasty with a good combination of apple and raspberry flavors one no more dominant than the other and a nice complement to each other.

Strawberry Delight: A really nice dessert wine. Strawberry explosion is more like it.

I do have to mention that the sommelier was quite knowledgeable about the wines I was tasting and she recommended what dishes would pear, pare, uh, I mean pair well with each wine and she did a remarkably great job.

BTW, I did buy an apple pie for dessert that night and it was just like the Faulkner’s Spiced Apple wine only in solid form. It was a real treat.

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

Jones Winery

Jones Winery was the third winery I visited on the Connecticut Wineries Tour #1 and the farm was a typical New England farm setting, complete with the red barns. After I parked the car I took a leisurely stroll about the vineyard and winery grounds and then went to the tasting room. Upon entering the tasting room you get a sense of enormity as the room could easily fit approximately 100 people in it with around fifty at the wine bar. A very rustic stone wall and glass enclosures gave it a very rustic yet modern look to it. Nice place to have a family reunion as it would accommodate most families comfortably.

The tasting fee was $6.75 plus state sales tax and you tried six of the nine wines they had. Plus you got to keep the signature wine glass too. Off the tasting room was a gift shop with wine paraphernalia, t-shirts, and other such stuff plus a few wine racks displaying their wines. The wines available for tasting were: the Pinot Gris Vintner, Stonewall Chardonnay, Woodlands White, in the white wine category. For red wine they had a Cabernet Franc Vintner Select, a Merlot, and Ripton Red. One fruit wine called First Blush. The dessert wine list had the Black Currant Bouquet and the Raspberry Rhapsody.

I chose the following wines:

Pinot Gris: This opened with floral notes and citrus on the nose. Honeydew melon was the dominant flavor. I would have liked to pair this with steamed shellfish such as clams or oysters (although I prefer the oysters raw) or maybe mussels. If not steamed then a hot grill would work well too.

Woodlands White: Made from the Cayuga grape this semi-sweet wine had floral notes and melon aromas and flavor. This should pair well with sharp cheeses, grilled chicken and asparagus, or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich – hmm, I’ll have to think about that a bit more.

Cabernet Franc: Opening notes were of earth and spice. Red berry fruits on the palate with a raspberry finish. A very decent Cabernet Franc.

Ripton Red: A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Estate Grown Connecticut grapes. This was very earthy  (or as one of our oenphiles said: “It’s like chewing on sticks!”). However, this reminded me of a decent Chianti. And yes, I would pair this with Grandma’s spaghetti and homemade marinara sauce with plenty of Italian bread to soak up the extra sauce you put in the bowl.

Black Currant Bouquet: A dessert wine, and you guessed it, black currant aromas and flavors abound in this nice after dinner wine with hints of plum on the finish.

Raspberry Rhapsody: Sweet with everything raspberry as the name suggests. This would go well with European chocolate or for that matter, any chocolate. The sommelier remarked that this wine “was a party in a bottle” and I couldn’t agree more. This wine really popped.

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…

DiGrazia Vineyards

Upon first entering DiGrazia Vineyards you are greeted by enormous trees lining the driveway as you view a rustic wine/water tower giving you the sense of the history of wine making. Here I was, excited about embarking on my wine trip. This is the first time I have been to this vineyard and I was pleasantly surprised with my visit.

Just before entering the wine room there is a sitting area under a trellis bearing vines and you can imagine wine making from the beginning of time. I could envision myself relaxing under the trellis having a picnic lunch with some of the delectable wines I was about to encounter.

I really was not prepared for what was about to happen next. Upon entering the tasting room I noticed another couple enjoying the fruits of the vine while speaking with a lady from behind the counter. There was also another gentleman behind the counter and I was greeted with a great smile and a welcome to the winery. He inquired if I was interested in a tasting – what was I to say?

The tasting fee is $6 (did not include a souvenir wine glass) and let’s not forget the State of Connecticut wants to get in the act and has now started taxing the tasting fees with a 6% sales tax. You picked six wines from the fifteen wines listed on their menu (although he did let me try eight of the wines). The tasting room decor was in dark wood giving you a rustic setting with soft lighting and setting the mood for a wine tasting you hope is great.

Anyway, the sommelier behind the counter noticed I had my notebook and asked “Are you a professional wine taster?” With a simple smile I confessed I was a novice tampering with the written word for a wine blog. Well, was I surprised to find out that the gentleman I was speaking with was the owner of the vineyard. Dr. DiGrazia has been interested in wine for many years as he studied in Switzerland.

During our conversation he retold a story of when he spoke at a wine convention in Oakland, CA many years ago. He mentioned in his speech that his winery was capable of producing 1,000 bottles an hour. He was interrupted by one of the members of the audience that remarked “I understand that you are from Connecticut (sounding out each syllable phonetically while emphasizing the last syllable) that the 1,000 bottle an hour for California wineries would be considered an experimental batch of wine with an air of snootiness. All this was being conveyed while I was on a private tour of DiGrazia’s wine room and accessories used to make the delectable wines produced in this small vineyard amongst the many old pictures he had on the wall. You could almost envision working in the fields with a slight wind on a hot, humid day picking grapes that were mature and ready to begin its journey into the fermenting stage.

An hour later I finally left the winery with some memories of a kind soul that made a difference in how I viewed wine and life.  Alas, I had four other wineries to visit but could have easily spent the afternoon listening to his stories. After all, stories are what keep us going. If you haven’t visited DiGrazia you should put this on your list of wineries to visit this year. This was my first visit here but definitely not my last. Now, the wines I tasted…

Winners Cup: This dry Vidal Blanc had great acidity with tart apple and floral notes along with citrus flavors. I would have liked to pair this with shrimp and broccoli over angel hair pesto as I think this would make for a great meal and wine pairing.

Anastasia’s Blush: A rose wine with a lot of sweetness with great floral notes.  Honey-dew melon and cantaloupe dominated this wine. Serve chilled. I could imagine having this on a hot summer night.

Newbury: This red wine opened with raspberry and cherry notes on the nose with an explosion of red berry flavors. Although medium bodied it had a lot more oomph and I would attempt to pair this with grilled lamb or rabbit.

Paragran: A red wine with strong pomegranate aromas just like opening a fresh pomegranate and sticking your ‘ol schnozzola right into it. What a pleasant aroma! I found not only pomegranate flavors but pear as well. I do believe when I open a bottle of this wine there would be no use in re-corking it later as I doubt any wine would be left – and that’s just me drinking it.

White Magnolia: Most of you already know that I’m a fan of ports. Well, my white wine oenophile neophytes, this wine is laced with brandy and I was quite impressed with this. White grape juice aroma and the flavor was quite pleasant with the brandy. I could have this for dessert every evening.

Wild Blue: This wine was also enhanced by brandy and you guessed it – this was everything blueberry with sweetness in the finish.

Blacksmith Port: Ah yes ports, one of my favorite sipping liquids. This had the pungency of ports that I like and a nice long finish.

Signature Blacksmith Port: Just like the Blacksmith Port only intensified. This is a winery -only wine so you have to visit them to buy a bottle. If you’re a port lover this won’t disappoint.

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