Christy and I normally head out on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, so being able to go during the week was a bit of a treat. Normally we head out on the Win(e)ding Roads once a month; we’d love to do more, but what can I say, life intervenes. And even though Connecticut is a small state, we often are looking at an hour’s drive just to get over to the wine trails – so we generally plan a route that allows us to hit several wineries and get the most of the trip.
But we were on vacation, and this was somewhat spur of the moment. It was a freebie, if you will, and while we had the address of a second winery plugged into the GPS, as we pulled into Sharpe Hill, it was with a sense of leisure – it didn’t really matter if we decided to stay all day.
The other nice thing about heading out on a weekday is that you encounter far fewer people. It’s definitely a more pleasant experience when you aren’t trying to jockey for position at the tasting bar or getting elbowed by the guy next to you who has definitely had one (or two or three) too many.
We picked up our glasses and headed out to find seats on the grassy terrace. There were a few other small groups, but the seats are arranged in small intimate groupings that seat up to 4 people, and we were able to relax and settle into our chosen seats and to some extent feel like we had the place to ourselves. It was a really nice change from the normal lining-up-at-the bar experience.
We had opted for the full tasting menu – 12 wines including six whites, four reds, and two dessert wines. First up was a tasting of Connecticut’s best-selling and best-known wine
Ballet of Angels This was not my first encounter with Ballet of Angels. I had picked up a bottle at a local package store not long after I moved here from Chicago, and had given it as gifts to out-of-state friends. I even got my cousin Bobbie hooked on it, and brought her a half-case of the wine at Thanksgiving last year. It is a good wine, but there were several others in the Sharpe Hill line-up that I found myself liking better. Ballet of Angels is a blend of 10 different grapes, with Viognier the primary grape. A pale yellow, not quite straw color, the wine has a pleasant, slightly sweet nose with notes of grapefruit. In the mouth, the wine is crisp, clean and light-bodied with lovely notes of citrus and very clean finish. While a dry wine, the wine has a brightness that will appeal to even those who prefer sweet wines.
American Chardonnay 2007 Hands-down this was my favorite of the Sharpe Hill whites. aged in American oak for six-eight months, this is a drier wine than the Ballet of Angels. Also pale yellow in color, the nose is grassy with a pleasant mustiness from the oak. The wine has an earthiness that I haven’t found too often in Connecticut wines, they tend more towards the fruity rather than the earthy, but this wine has lovely notes of green pepper which are balanced by a slightly acidic finish. All in all a very nice wine.
Cuvee Ammi Phillips 2007 This is a limited edition wine, although our host for the afternoon wasn’t sure exactly how many cases they produce each year. The Ammi Phillips is 100% Chardonnay aged 18 months in brand new French oak barrels. The result is a richer, deeper and more buttery wine than the American Chardonnay. The color, while also a pale yellow is a bit deeper than the previous two wines and has some jewel-tone qualities, catching the light nicely. The nose has lovely notes of butter and smoke, and the wine has a soft, smooth mouth-feel. The finish has a touch of both sweetness and acid which balance the smoke, producing a very satisfying wine. That being said, I still preferred the earthiness of the American Chardonnay over the buttery smoothness of the Cuvee.
Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2007 This was described as a French-style Chardonnay, aged six-eight months in French oak barrels. Like the American Chardonnay, this wine is more earthy than fruity, with lovely floral and slight grassy notes on the nose and in the mouth. It’s not as smokey as the Cuvee; a result of being aged in older barrels. While not a sweet wine, it’s definitely sweeter than either of the other Chardonnays, but finishes with a slight tartness. This was my least favorite of the Sharpe Hill Chardonnays; I didn’t find it balanced as nicely as either of the other two.
Vineyard Dry Riesling 2008 While generally not a fan of Rieslings, often finding them sweeter than I generally like, there are Rieslings which I have really liked and will stock in my cellar. Unfortunately this is not one of them. Described in the tasting notes as having “complex citrus flavors,” I found the flavors to be more overpowering than complex. Very strong notes of grapefruit are present in both the nose and the mouth, so much so that they overwhelm the wine. Christy concurred, and we both passed quickly over the Riesling and on to the lone Rosé.
Dry Summer Rosé Made from St. Croix grapes, the Rosé is a lovely soft pale rose color, with a floral, slightly earthy nose. In the mouth, there are subtle notes of strawberry which give the wine an interesting sweetness before finishing on a slightly tart note. This, too, wasn’t one of our favorites, although we did like it better than the Riesling. Christy observed that it seemed watered-down; I don’t know that I felt that, but I did find the wine didn’t have a lot of depth or complexity.
Despite the somewhat disappointing finish with the last two wines in this category, we had really enjoyed the Chardonnays and now cleaned our glasses, sat back and prepared to tackle the reds…