Christy actually made it to Sharpe Hill before I did, a fact of which she is inordinately proud. Not only had I started on my Win(e)ding Road adventures before she moved here from Texas last year, but I’m usually the one who organizes the trips – giving her a ring on a Friday night or Saturday morning and saying “I’m heading of to ____ fill in the blank; do you want to join me?” So for her to be able to introduce me to a winery is a very unusual occurrence.
However, I like to think that our joint adventures have inspired her. One weekend in late Spring when her now fiancée, Jeff, was in town for a long weekend, she took him to Sharpe Hill for the afternoon. I’m not exactly sure why she picked Sharpe Hill over any other winery, but late that afternoon my phone buzzed with a series of texts from Christy about how beautiful the winery was, how good the wines were, how much fun they were having, and didn’t I wish I was with them. After I pointed out that I hadn’t been invited so no fair taunting me with “don’t you wish you were here,” I promised that I would join her soon for a return visit, so she could introduce me to a Connecticut Winery.
That day came about six weeks later in July. I was on a week’s vacation, and Christy had a rare Friday with no meetings or appts. So she cleared her calendar, took the day off, and we headed up to Pomfret, Connecticut and Sharpe Hill Winery.
For many Nutmeggers Sharpe Hill is Connecticut wine – or rather their most popular wine, Ballet of Angels, is. It’s Connecticut’s best-selling wine, partly due to the fact that it has the largest distribution of any Connecticut wine. Pretty much every package store in every nook and cranny of the state will have Ballet of Angels. When my colleagues at work first started hearing about my weekend wine trail adventures, they would inevitably ask, “Oh, have you tried Ballet of Angels, yet?” Some of these were people who lived relatively close to one or more wineries and had no idea that they even existed, or that Connecticut produced wines other than Ballet of Angels. But Ballet of Angels… that they knew.
Given all that, why had it taken me so long to get there? That’s a good question. Part of it is that I started my adventures on the western side of the state in the Litchfield Hills (I started in the Summer of ’08 and thought the hills would be gorgeous in the late summer and fall) and Sharpe Hill is in the far northeast corner of the state. And being very much a Type A personality, once started, I wanted to complete the western trail before starting on the east. And as the eastern trail runs largely along the shoreline, I started out working my way east along I95 before heading north towards Pomfret. But if I’m being truthful, most of it was a reaction to all those “But have you tried Ballet of Angels, yet?” questions. I’d get there, but on my time…
Get there I finally did, and the winery lived up to everything Christy texted me that first afternoon. Set in the rolling hills of northeast Connecticut, the winery sits on the side of a hill amidst a backdrop of gardens and vineyards. A trail runs through the vineyards leading you to the top of the hill where you get great views of the surrounding countryside.
The winery itself is charming with a studied historic New England character. A group of interconnected red-barn-like buildings comprise the winery, the tasting room and restaurant. The decor and gardens were obviously carefully selected to evoke a sense of New England’s rural colonial past – right down to the copper plates and kettles decorating the tasting room and the large stone sink in the rest room.
A large formal garden sits across from the parking area, slightly lower down the hill, and the area behind the winery consists of a large stone patio and grassy terrace with abundant seating. The tasting room itself is quite small, and on nice days, like the day we stopped by, they hold the tastings outside, reserving the tasting room for the winter or on rainy days when there will likely not be many visitors anyway. The seating arrangements are both intimate and expansive: spread out across the lawn and patio are small groupings of wicker chairs and love seats (accomodating 2-6 people) surrounding “coffee tables” with lovely floral arrangements. A portable bar cart is set up to one side and people can mingle as they will and enjoy a tasting or a glass of wine at their leisure.
In addition to the winery and tasting room, Sharpe Hill also owns and operates the Fireside Tavern Restaurant offering lunch and/or dinner seatings on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, although the schedule is more limited in the winter months. Space is limited so reservations for seatings is required.
We promised ourselves we would make reservations one day and come back for lunch, but that Friday afternoon we were there for the wines. Sharpe Hill offers two tasting menu options: for $5 you get a logo glass and your choice of six wines; for $10 you get the glass and a tasting of all twelve wines. It was Friday afternoon, we had nowhere else to go, so we opted for the $10/12 wines package.
First up? Yep, you guessed it, Ballet of Angels…