One of the great things about writing for Vino Verve, other than hitting the road and exploring new wineries, is that I find I’m inspiring others to do the same. Often it starts with friends joining me on the wine trail and enjoying it so much that they then take others. Less often, I’ll hear from someone who read one of the posts and said, “you know, I thought I’d give it a try.” One of my SOTS (Sisters of the Connecticut Wine Trail) buddies, Jean Levesque, dragged her husband out on Memorial Day weekend as well, spending the afternoon at Sharpe Hill. Tom, her husband, enjoyed himself so much that Jean should have no trouble dragging him out again – in between SOTS excursions, of course.
Taylor Brooke was first discovered by another wine trail buddy, Christy Mangle (formerly Christy Sherard), who with her husband, Jeff, headed over there late last Fall. Their reviews were so glowing that I immediately moved Taylor Brooke to the top of the list of remaining wineries. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to get there (New Year’s weekend), they were closing down for the season and were really open only for wine sales. Upon hearing that I had driven over from Hartford, in the snow no less, Linda Augur kindly offered to pour an abbreviated tasting menu for me that afternoon, and I promised to come back for the full experience once they opened again in the Spring.
Which is where I found myself on that beautiful Sunday afternoon over Memorial Day weekend. Taylor Brooke produces 10 table and dessert wines and five seasonal wines. The table wines include 4 whites, including one of their fruit-infused Rieslings; 3 reds, and 3 dessert wines. Guests are invited to taste two wines on the house, and then can select either another six wines (for a total of 8 ) for $4 or the entire menu, including any of the available seasonal wines, for $6. A logo glass may be purchased for an additional $3. Never one to pass up an opportunity to sample new wines, I immediately opted for the full tasting menu for $6.
Woodstock Hill White The tasting kicks off with a lovely blend of estate grown Vignoles and Riesling and Connecticut-grown Cayuga White. Although the Augurs have recently planted Cayuga White themselves, it will be another few years before those grapes are ready for production. In the meantime, they partner with a nearby vineyard to obtain their Cayuga White grapes. A pale straw color, the wine has a delicate floral nose with notes of orange blossom. In the mouth, the wine is crisp but delicate, lightly sweet with floral notes, and just a touch of acid on the finish to provide balance. This would pair nicely with seafood and summer pasta dishes.
Riesling Next up was the Riesling. One of Taylor Brooke’s specialties is their Rieslings, producing a number that are infused with fruit essences. This is a dry Riesling, and one of my favorites among the Taylor Brooke whites, second only to the Green Apple Riesling. The color is a very light yellow. The nose is light and delicate with notes of grass, in particular that light, fresh early spring grassy smell when the grass is really starting to come up again after the winter. In the mouth, the wine is soft and smooth with light notes of grass and maybe green pepper. There’s a slight buttery finish, nothing overwhelming just enough to provide a touch of sweetness and a soft lingering finish. Overall a very nice wine, and a nice change from the fruitier wines found elsewhere throughout Connecticut.
Traminette Taylor Brooke led by owner and winemaker Richard Augur were among the first to grow Traminette in Connecticut. The grape is a hybrid of Gewurztraminer and Seyval Blanc, created by Cornell University in 1996. While it has many of the characteristics of a Gewurztraminer, the Traminette is particularly suited for the shorter growing seasons and colder climates of the northeast and upper Midwest, and you’ll find Traminette grown in New York, Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, as well as New England. Taylor Brooke’s Traminette is 100% estate grown. A pale straw color, with a lovely, slightly earthy nose, the wine is very similar to a Gewurztraminer. Sweeter than the previous two wines, with floral notes on the palate as well as light touches of peach and honey. The peach notes really come through at the end and the wine finishes beautifully. This would pair well with spicier, but not overly heavy food: Thai, for example, or even sushi.
Green Apple Riesling My favorite of the Taylor Brooke whites, this is one of their fruit-infused Rieslings. Not a blend, the fruit-infused Rieslings are the result of incorporating natural fruit essence (similar in concept to vanilla extract) into 100% Riesling. The results are very impressive producing wines with deeper, more distinctive fruit notes without creating overly sweet fruit wines. The notes of Green Apple are distinct in the nose, but gentle – I expected the green apple to be much stronger than it actually was. The earthy, slightly grassy notes of the Riesling were still present and blended beautifully with the slightly floral tart smell of green apple blossoms. In the mouth, the wine has many of the hallmarks of the Riesling, drier with lightly grassy notes. As with the nose, the green apple is distinct but not overwhelming, providing both a light sweetness and a crisp tartness reminiscent of that first bite into a crisp green apple. The mouth feel is soft and silky and the wine has just enough acid on the finish to provide a nice balance and contrast. Overall, a very nice wine.
Summer Peach The whites concluded with the first of Taylor Brooke’s seasonal wines, the Summer Peach. Available May 1st each year, the Summer Peach is one of their more popular wines. Like all the Rieslings, the color is a pale straw. The nose is stronger than either the Riesling or the Green Apple Riesling, with very distinct notes of peach. In the mouth the peach notes are strong, but not too sweet. Like the Green Apple Riesling, the mouth feel is soft and silky, with a satisfying finish. The acid provides a very slightly bitter finish which I found to be a bit off-putting; it’s almost as if the strength of the peach notes were leading me to expect more of a dessert wine with a smoother, richer finish. Still, overall a very nice wine and one that will pair well with a wide variety of late spring/summer dishes, particularly grilled food, seafood and summer pastas.
As that finished the whites, I took a short break, rinsed my glass and prepared for the Reds…