One of the nice things about hitting a wine trail in the “off-season” is that you avoid the crowds. On the day that Christy and I stopped by the Haight-Brown Vineyards, we had the place to ourselves for the first 1/2 of our tasting. As a result we were able to linger over the wines – and the cheeses – and spend some time chatting with our host.
Having finished the Whites, we then proceeded to the Reds. Overall the HB Reds are an interesting mix of wines. One thing I noted is that they are young wines, and as a result end with a real bite. When I commented on this to our host, she confirmed they are young wines, but also added that part of what I was tasting were the Marechal Foch grapes which often produce a slightly sour finish.
Picnic Red The tasting notes describe this as a “light, fruity table wine made from Marechal Foch grapes.” According to our host it is only fermented for 3 months, and she indicated that they always serve it chilled. The best way I have to describe it is that I found it to be “thin” – I didn’t find much depth to this wine – and the bite at the end is quite strong.
Morning Harvest Interestingly, this is the same formula as the Picnic Red but it’s made “in a different style.” I definitely tasted the same notes as the Picnic Red, but found this to be a more interesting wine – it had greater depth and complexity than the Picnic Red, and I think if left to age for a while, this could be a very interesting table wine. Like the Picnic Red, I found it to have that “bite” at the end, which according to our host, is due to the Marechal Foch grapes. I must say that it’s fascinating to taste the two reds back-to-back; you really taste the difference that fermentation times and blending styles can make to the wines.
It’s not often that you get a chance to have a tasting experience like this – and if you ever get to the Western CT Highlands, I recommend you stop by HB if for no other reason than to experience the difference between the Picnic Red and Morning Harvest.
Merlot The Reds section of the tasting concludes with HB’s Merlot. The Tasting Notes acknowledge that Merlot grapes can be very difficult to grow in the New England climate. Often you’ll find Merlot blends rather than true Merlots among New England wines. But this is a true Merlot, although it is lighter than California or even Long Island Merlots. This wine was paired with the third cheese, a Cana de Cabra cheese from Spain.
I realize that I (and you) am here because of the wine, but I have to digress and say this cheese is AMAZING! If you can find some – anywhere – try it. There’s an interesting depth to the cheese with the flavor growing more intense as you move closer to the rind. Even more fascinating is that you can actually see that progression when you look at the cheese – it resembles a cross-section of a tree with “rings” – lighter milky color in the center becoming darker as you move closer to the rind. Truly magnificent cheese.
But back to the wine. For New England this is not a bad Merlot, but it’s not a great Merlot either. It definitely benefited from pairing with the cheese, but it’s still a light-bodied and mild wine. I found myself much more intrigued by the Morning Harvest, despite (or perhaps because of?) the sour note at the end.