In addition to the distinction of being the only winery in Connecticut that does not charge a tasting fee, Bishop’s Orchards is the only winery that produces fruit wines exclusively. The majority of Bishop’s wines are either apple- or pear-based, and all are made from fruit grown in the Bishop orchards in Southeastern Connecticut. Bishop’s currently produces twelve wines, although the Hard Cider was not available for tasting the day I stopped by; all are pleasant, and most have won awards at either the Big E or the International Wine Competition. If you are planning a day on the Eastern Wine Trail, don’t skip Bishop’s just because they produce fruit wines. While I wasn’t converted to a fruit wine “fan,” I enjoyed the tasting and found it an interesting juxtaposition to the more traditional wines of Chamard and Jones which I also visited that afternoon. Fans of sweeter wines will likely discover a few wines in the Bishop Collection that they find intriguing.
Pearadise The tasting began with a light white wine made from locally-grown Bosc pears. The color is a very pale straw, and the nose has soft notes of pear. Pearadise is a dry wine with touches of sweetness from the pear; the finish is crisp and clean. The tasting notes recommend serving it chilled, and indeed, I’d recommend serving all the Bishop wines chilled. This would pear nicely with light fruits and cheeses and grilled chicken or fish.
Stone House White Produced by aging in oak, Bishop’s Sweet Apple Cider, this is a light, dry white wine with strong notes of apple and a subtle smokiness from the oak. The tasting notes indicate that this “reminds one of a Chardonnay” but I found it too light-bodied. While the notes of apple were strong in both the nose and mouth, I found the wine itself to be a bit weak and slightly watery. I expected a bit more body and depth from a wine that began as an apple cider. It could be that I had a tasting from a bad bottle, but this was not one of my favorites.
Celebration Another apple-wine, this one is listed in the tasting notes as “off-dry.” Celebration had a bit more body and interest than the Stone House White, and the notes of apple, while present and noticeable, are not overpowering.
Happley ImPeared This is a blend 1/2 apple and 1/2 pear. As with the other wines, Bishop’s ferments apple and pear cider and then combines them to create this wine. It’s an interesting blend; the slight tartness of the apple provides an interesting contrast to the smooth sweeter pear, and together are more interesting than when standing on their own. I starred this as one of the more intriguing wines.
Faulkner’s Spiced Apple A semi-dry, apple wine with strong notes of nutmeg and cinnamon in both the nose and mouth. The wine is made with Bishop’s Orchards mulling spices and would be interesting warmed, or even perhaps further mulled. The notes of apple are strong yet not overpowering, and blend nicely with the spices. I enjoyed this wine, but it doesn’t have the depth or body of Digrazia’s Autumn Spice.
Apple Raspberry Blush Another semi-dry wine, the Apple Raspberry blush is a rich pink color, with light notes of berry on the nose. In the mouth, the flavor of the raspberries is very strong and overpowers the apple. The presence of the apple is important, however, as it smooths out some of the tartness you sometimes find with raspberry wines.
Amazing Grace This is Bishop’s newest wine, produced and named in honor of their newest grandchild, born about 10 months ago. A blend of cranberries and apple, the wine is crisp and pleasant. The nose has lovely notes of tart cranberry, but in the mouth, the cranberry is subtle, and overall the wine is lightly sweet with a smooth finish. I admit to being very surprised with this wine. I expected something much sharper and certainly wasn’t expecting to like it. While not my favorite of the afternoon, it was one of my preferred wines.
Honey Peach Melba This was another pleasant surprise. With both honey and peach, I expected a very sweet, very rich wine. Instead what I found was a light-bodied, slightly sweet wine with a nice balance of peach and honey. The touch of honey tones down the peach flavor and together they blend into a smooth, crisp wine. This will pair well with fruits, cheeses, and light chicken and pasta dishes.
Blushing Beauty The first thing that strikes you about this wine is the color – it’s a lovely, deep amber color. Like all the other Bishop wines (with the exception of Amazing Grace which adds a touch of red to the wine for color), the color of the Blushing Beauty is the natural color produced by the fruit. Also a peach wine, Blushing Beauty is a sweet wine, but not a dessert wine, with light notes of peach in both the nose and the mouth.
Crimson Rose A blend of strawberries and raspberries, this is a sweet dessert wine with strong notes of raspberry in both the nose and mouth. I found the wine to be too light-bodied for a good dessert wine, while the flavors were nice, it didn’t have that rich depth that makes a great dessert wine. However, it was also pointed out that the wine reduces nicely into a syrup for fresh fruit or ice cream, and I found myself more intrigued when I thought of the wine as a sauce component than as a stand-alone dessert wine.
Strawberry Delight I imagine this is one of the more popular of Bishop’s wines, but is was one of my least favorites. A dessert wine, I found it to be too sweet with a slightly bitter finish. The strawberry notes are very strong in both the nose and the palate. I found myself wishing this were a sparkling wine; the effervescence may have provided a depth or a texture that would help balance the sweetness of the strawberries.
Overall I found the Bishop’s Orchards wines interesting. The pear wines had the most depth and character and rated higher on my list. Not surprisingly, my least favorites were the berry wines (strawberry and raspberry), and I often found those too sweet and the berry flavors over-powering. However, I have always preferred drier wines, and those of you who favor the sweeter wines should definitely find some wines of interest among the Bishop’s wine list.