I have to say it was hard to tell who was having more fun at Dalice Elizabeth Winery’s Grand Opening Celebration last weekend – the guests or the owners.
Gretchen had received a news alert on Thursday afternoon, which she promptly forwarded over to me, announcing the opening of Connecticut’s newest winery, The Dalice Elizabeth Winery in Preston. The festivities kicked off on Friday afternoon with a ribbon cutting and brand unveiling ceremony beginning at 4:30 and continued until 8:00 with Italian cooking demonstrations, live music and the star of the event, the wines. On Saturday afternoon, when I arrived, people were still talking about how successful Friday had been, and how they had had to force people to leave because everyone was having such a good time.
Saturday afternoon the party was still continuing. Inside the tasting room John Wilcox, owner and winemaker, greeted guests, poured tastings and answered the myriad questions people brought with them. Outside there was a large grill going making marvelous steak and bruschetta appetizers. Chairs and tables were set up around the lawn for people to sit and enjoy the wines, the view and the company. The overall atmosphere was casual and relaxed; people mixed and mingled and took turns at the tasting bar so everyone got a chance to sample all the wines.
The Dalice Elizabeth Winery is owned and operated by John and Mary-Lee Wilcox and their grandson, Blaze Faillaci. The trio are owners of a gourmet food distribution business, Sumptious Selections, a business that Mary-Lee started with her daughter, Dalice Elizabeth. Eleven years ago, the pair were days away from opening a winery and retail store when Dalice Elizabeth died suddenly and unexpectedly. The family put the winery on hold, resurrecting the plans a few years ago.
The Wilcoxes have a long history of winemaking; Mary-Lee’s father, Raphael Blaze Faillaci, immigrated from Italy bringing with him the wine press still used by Dalice Elizabeth today. John, Dalice Elizabeth’s winemaker, has been crafting wines for years, and he and Mary-Lee also run a wine-making school. Their formerly private-label Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon have garnered a number of awards and critical acclaim over the years, but until now, have not been available to the public.
The current Dalice Elizabeth vintages are all made from grapes brought in from California and Washington, although the entire winemaking process is done here in Connecticut. They’ve planted both Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc on the Preston property, but it will be another three to four years before those vines are producing grapes ready for pressing. In the meantime, John continues to produce well-crafted artisanal wines from his west coast grapes, including two whites (Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio) and six reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Old Vine Zinfandel).
Only the reds were available during opening weekend; the whites will be released shortly after the first of the year. And of the reds only four were available as they had sold out of both the Sangiovese and the Syrah before I arrived. But the remaining four made up for any lack. All were rich, complex, smooth wines that practically melted in the mouth. The Cabernet Franc had lovely notes of cassis and raspberry, and I made a friend in Mary-Lee when I exclaimed “oh this is lovely” after the first sip. The Merlot is a brighter wine, with strong notes of cherry. The Old Vine Zin is rich and mellow with notes of plum and chocolate that linger in the mouth. And finishing the tasting was the Cabernet Sauvignon, rich and complex with notes of black currants and a hint of chocolate on the finish.
I will definitely be going back; already Christy (who was out of town and couldn’t make the grand opening) and my cousins Bobbie and Andy have volunteered to take a return trip with me. In the meantime, I purchased a bottle of each to bring home with me – just to be sure I had a “good enough” sample to truly assess each wine.
Congratulations to John and Mary-Lee Wilcox, Blaze Faillaci and the Dalice Elizabeth Winery. Here’s to great wines and a great afternoon!
6 Amos Road, Preston Ct 06365
Dalice Elizabeth is open year-round for wine tastings and sales. Current hours are Thursdays and Sundays, 11-5; Fridays and Saturdays, 11-8. Hours may change during the winter; check the website for details.