Savino Vineyards Revisited

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I first visited Savino Vineyards in Woodbridge, Connecticut late in the season last year by which time they had already sold out of the Cabernet Franc and the Frontenac.  I made a mental note to return in 2010 to sample the latest vintages of the two wines I missed in 2009.

So, as I left Northwinds Winery, I decided to detour south and stop by Savino to see what they had on the menu this season.  Unfortunately, neither Cabernet Franc or Frontenac are included in this season’s wine list, but I did have the chance to revisit the 2008 Seyval Blanc and the 2007 Merlot as well as sample two new wines, the 2008 St. Croix and the 2008 Merlot.

I also was lucky enough to meet owner and winemaker, Gennaio Savino.  Savino grew up in Italy making wine and returned to the business after he retired.  He planted his first vines about 10 years ago, and today his vineyard encompasses 8 acres and includes Seyval Blanc, St. Croix, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes.  All of his wines are produced from estate-grown grapes, although he does bring in a small amount of Merlot from California to blend with his locally-grown Merlot.

2008 Seyval Blanc I first tried the 2008 Seyval Blanc, the only white Savino produces, on my visit last Fall.  At the time I noted that the predominant notes were citrus, particularly grapefruit and were a bit strong.  Over the ensuing 8 months, the wine has mellowed.  Still crisp and tangy with a nice burst of acid on the finish, the citrus notes are softer and a bit lighter.  I still picked up the grapefruit, but it wasn’t as pronounced as before.   On second tasting, I found myself taking to the wine even more than I had previously, and I had enjoyed it on first tasting.   It’s not that often that I take the chance to go back and try the same wine, same vintage, only months later.   Often when I return to a winery, I either want to sample wines I wasn’t able to taste during my previous visit, or try the new vintages.  However, now I’m rethinking that strategy, and will definitely peruse the wine lists with an eye for the chance to revisit a wine I’ve previously tried.

2008 St. Croix The 2007 St. Croix was my favorite of the Savino wines on my first visit.  At the time I had bought a bottle and drank it a few months later, finding it to be a lovely, complex wine that paired very well with the beef I had for dinner that evening.   The 2008, while it didn’t disappoint, didn’t quite live up to my memories of the 2007.  Dark purple in color, with a tangy, fruity nose, the wine is lighter-bodied with an earthy fruitiness and notes of cherry that linger on the lips.    In my notes I likened it to eating just-ripe, just picked cherries.   What made the wine interesting though were the earthy notes, up front I detected notes of soil and grass, and it wasn’t until the finish that I got the cherries.  Again, not a bad wine, but not as strong as the 2007.

2007 Merlot The tasting concluded with back-to-back Merlots, 2007 vs. 2008.  I had sampled the 2007 Merlot on my previous visit, and given my reaction to the Seyval Blanc was very interested to see if I found a similar change in the 2007 Merlot.  Unfortunately not.  The nose is a bit richer, more jammier than I remembered, but in the mouth the strong peppery, slightly bitter notes that I picked up on my previous visit were still present.   It’s not bad for a Connecticut Merlot, which tend to be lighter-bodied and not as smooth as their California or Oregon counterparts, but it still didn’t win me over.

2008 Merlot The 2008, however, was a completely different story.  The difference between the two begins on sight: the color, which in the 2007 is a dark purple, is more of a bright ruby in the 2008.  The nose is much more subtle, duskier and while there are still notes of cherry, it is less jammy than the 2007.  In the mouth the wine is stronger bodied, richer, more lush, with soft deep notes of cherry, warm soft spice rather than the sharp bite of pepper, and a nice light smoke from the oaking.  It’s smooth and opens up nicely in the mouth.  This one could, just possibly, win me over to Connecticut Merlots.

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