The weather for my kickoff weekend exploring the wineries of Massachusetts couldn’t have been any more perfect along with my choice for the inaugural winery.
Hardwick Vineyard and Winery is located in the central portion of the state, an easy day trip from either Hartford or Boston. The vineyards and winery are owned by the Samek family, who are only the fourth owners of the Federal-Era mansion built in 1775 by Giles E. Warner, a prosperous Yankee farmer . The house had never been modernized, i.e. no electricity or modern plumbing, and over the years the house had fallen into disrepair, and by the time the Samek’s bought it in the mid-1990s, the house required extensive restoration.
In 1998, they planted their first grapes and today grow 8 varieties of grapes on 7 acres, including Seyval Blanc, Niagara, Pink Catawba and Marechal Foch, which were the central grapes in the wines I tasted on Saturday.
Located just outside the town of Ware, the approach to Hardwick takes you along a long, gently curving country road, lined with a charming mix of older farmhouses and newer family homes. And just when you think you’ve gone too far and have missed the winery, you come out of a long curve to find vineyards on your right and the house and winery in front of you.
For a first-timer like me, you don’t realize your initial view is of the side of the house, not the front. When the Samek’s chose to restore the main house to it’s original condition without modernizing it, they also built an extension with electricity, modern plumbing and other amenities of 20th-century living. Built in a style that mirrors that of the original house and featuring a barn-red “front” door that undoubtedly serves as the home’s main entrance, it includes a full modern kitchen, living space, and additional bedrooms which the Samek’s have now opened up as a B&B. The extension was carefully planned so that from the exterior it flows seamlessly from the main house and feels very organic, as if it was always part of the house. A large 5,000 square foot barn was built on the back of the extension (to the right of the house as you approach from the road) to house the winery and tasting room. It wasn’t until much later in my visit that I realized the original house fronted the street, and I had, in fact, come up on the side.
The winery and tasting room is charming and inviting with plenty of room to accomodate large groups or events. The three story building is built into the side of a slight incline, with the winery and barrel rooms on the “ground” floor sheltered from the sun, providing some natural temperature control.
There is ample parking out back, and a short walk up the dirt and gravel drive brings you to the main entrance which leads you into the second floor, a space set up for large parties or events. The entrance to the newest addition to the winery, a large wooden deck which runs the entire length of the building, is off to your right, just past the stairs leading to the third floor tasting room. The tasting room is a wonderful space, large windows along the front wall admit abundant sunshine into the open loft-style space. A large L-shaped tasting bar occupies the space in front of the windows, and there is ample room to serve a good 15-20 people comfortably. Across the room from the bar is a small media center with a TV/DVD set up so visitors can watch the HGTV Restoration America segment on the home’s restoration. There’s plenty of space to spread out and mingle, and visitors are encouraged to linger and chat with their hosts or each other.
Hardwick currently produces six wines, two whites, two blushes, and two reds, one dry and one sweeter dessert wine. All the wines feature locally grown grapes, although they do bring in grapes from the Finger Lakes region to supplement their crop. Tours of the restored mansion, which used to be available year-round, are now limited to the December holiday period, but a corner of the Tasting Room has been set up so visitors can watch the HGTV’s Restore America’s segment on the restoration. The video is fairly short – 8-10 minute max – and is fascinating. Not only is the story compelling, but it’s fun to know you are sitting in a piece of history. I strongly encourage you to make time to check out the video if and when you stop by the winery.
The winery is open from March – December, Fridays-Mondays. Tastings are $5 and include all six wines as well as a logo glass. Throughout the summer, the winery hosts live Jazz on the first Sunday of each month, and particularly with the new deck, the winery is a great place to just hang out, relax and enjoy a gorgeous summer afternoon.
On Father’s Day, June 19th, Hardwick will be hosting a tractor show from 10-5, with live music at 11:00 and 2:00.
Hardwick Vineyard & Winery
3305 Greenwich Road
Ware, Massachusetts 01082
Coming Thursday: The Wines of Hardwick Vineyard & Winery
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