Connecticut Valley Winery ~ The Reds

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Connecticut Valley leads off the Reds with their Chianti, the only wine produced in the Northeast that’s allowed to be called a Chianti.  In 2004, the United States and the European Union reached an agreement prohibiting the use of wine labels, such as Chianti, that had become “semi-generic” to only those wines produced in specific regions within the European Union.  Also included in the agreement are “Champagne,” “Madeira,” “Port,” among others.   Certain US wines, such as Connecticut Valley’s Chianti, were grandfathered in, thus allowing this to be one of the few non-European wines allowed to be called a Chianti.

Chianti Connecticut Valley’s Chianti is a blend of 7 different grapes, 4 grown locally, including Grenache, Sangiovese, Chianti and Chardonel grapes.  The result is delightful: rich, medium garnet color with a lovely, fruity nose with rich plum notes.  In the mouth, the wine is very smooth and fruity with notes of both cherries and summer berries.  The wine is dry and lighter-bodied, with very low tannins, producing a nice smooth finish.  This is a great summer sipping wine and would pair well with grilled meats and fish.

2010 Ruby Light A rosé style wine, the Ruby Light is a 50/50 blend of Frontenac and Chardonel. Deeper and richer than the Chianti, the wine has lovely notes of plum on the palate and a touch of pepper on the finish which provides some complexity.  The nose is bright and fruity with a slightly floral citrus note.  Like all the Connecticut Valley wines, the Ruby Light is smooth with low acidity.  I found I would have liked a bit more acid on the finish to open up the wine.

2010 Deep Purple An estate-bottled Chambourcin, the 2009 vintage was completely sold out on my previous visits, so I looked forward to this with great anticipation.  The nose is quite strong with lovely notes of cherry.  On the palate, the notes of cherry predominate, bordering on overwhelming the wine.  The cherry notes add a strong sweetness, and despite being a dry wine, it borders on the semi-sweet due to the strength of the cherry.  The couple next to me at the tasting really liked this, and those who prefer sweeter wines should really like this.  The Deep Purple should hold up well when paired with meats such as beef and pork.  Overall an interesting wine, but not one of my favorites.

2010 Midnight An estate-bottled Frontenac, this is one of my favorites among Connecticut Valley’s wines.   The nose is soft and rich, with lush cherry notes, although thankfully not as strong as those in the Deep Purple.  Like the Deep Purple, the cherry notes are very strong in the mouth, but the Midnight has a slight finish of chocolate/mocha, which likely comes from the dark french oak barrels in which the wine is aged, that smooths out the wine and balances the cherry.  The result is less sweet and more interesting than the Deep Purple.  This would pair well with drier, richer foods.  Judith Ferraro also uses the Midnight as the base for a mulled wine, combining it with cranberries and mulling spices.  She always keeps a batch going during the winter and offers it at the end of a tasting.  The result is absolutely divine – and the perfect wine for those cold northeastern winter evenings in front of the fire.

2009 Black Tie Cabernet Franc This is Connecticut Valley’s most awarded red wine.  75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Geneva 7 (GR7), a hybrid grape produced by Cornell University and first released in 2003.  A hardier grape designed for colder-weather climates, the GR7 is used primarily as a blending component.  Connecticut Valley’s Cab Franc is a smooth, dry wine, the driest of Connecticut Valley’s wines.   In the mouth, the wine is soft and silky with notes of cherry and a peppery finish that doesn’t linger overlong.   This should age very nicely, and I imagine it will really open up if allowed to cellar for a couple of years.   Each time I taste the wine, I find myself more and more intrigued, and after the third tasting have added it to my list of favorite Connecticut Cabernet Francs with Gouveia‘s and Chamard‘s.

The tasting finishes with Connecticut Valley’s one dessert wine, the

Black Bear A port-style wine, the Black Bear has a strong, rich deep nose with notes of both cherry and chocolate.  As with the Black Tie and the Deep Purple, the strongest notes present on the palate are those of cherry, although there are slight notes of raspberry and dark chocolate both of which provide a slightly tart bitterness to balance the cherry and keep the wine from being overly sweet and cloying.  The finish is smooth with light, lingering notes of chocolate.

That concluded the tasting, and as I didn’t have another winery on my list for that afternoon, I indulged, ordering a glass of the Chardonel a plate of crackers and cheese and settled into a comfortable chair on the patio for an hour in the sun.

In addition to the wines, Connecticut Valley also hosts wine-pairing dinners featuring the cuisine of local chefs paired with Connecticut Valley wines.  Their most recent dinner was Valentine’s Day.  If interested in future dinner, check out their website and/or send them an email and Judith will put you on her watch list and contact you once they’ve scheduled the next dinner.

The winery is open all year round Saturdays and Sundays 12-5 or by appointment.  They also have extended hours during the summer wine season, call 860-489.WINE for details.

Win(e)ding Roads: The Frescobaldi Crus Wine Seminar at the Sun Winefest 1.17.09

Castello di Nipozzano

North East Tuscany

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
The Castello di Nipozzano estate is in the heart of the Chianti Rúfina DOCG.  A DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) is a sub-region of the larger DOC regions, and the classification guidelines are more stringent than those of the DOC.
The Chianti Rúfina appellation is the coolest and highest elevation in the Chianti region; with sandy soil and a dry and windy climate, the region is ideal for growing Sangiovese grapes.  The castle at the center of the estate dates back to the year 1,000, and was rebuilt in the 1400s to incorporate extensive wine cellars for the estate’s burgeoning wine production.
The seminar featured two wines from this estate:

Montesodi Chianti Rúfina, DOCG Chianti Rúfina
This is one of the Frescobaldi family’s favorite wines, as well as being their birth wine.  Bottled separately from other wines on the estate, the Montesodi is 100% Sangiovese and is aged for 18 months in small French Oak barrels.  The color is a deep purple, with a jewel tone quality to it.  The nose is smooth, floral and soft, with light notes of berry.  Our host described it as a “kitty-cat” wine – the nose just curls up and purrs…  A strange description, but surprisingly apt.  
The Montesodi is a full-bodied wine, more reminiscent of a Cabernet than what one typically expects from a Chianti.  Slightly acidic, I tasted rich fruit notes, possibly plum.  There also were strong notes of minerality, and the wine had a bite at the end when drunk by itself.  It pairs exceptionally well with food, however;  pairing with a sharp cheddar balanced the wine beautifully – and it really came alive in the mouth.  
The wine retails for about $50 US.  About 2,000 cases a year are imported into the US making it one of the easier wines to find of those featured during the seminar.   
Mormoreto, IGT Toscana

Also from the Castello di Nippozano estate, the Mormereto is a blended wine: 70% Cabernet grapes, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Like the Montesodi, this wine is also bottled separately, and is aged for 12 months in small French Oak barrels.
The nose is deep and rich, with notes of berries and a hint of cherry.  Also a deep purple, the color is denser than the Montesodi; it doesn’t catch the light and have that jewel-tone element I found in the Chianti.  A full-bodied wine, the taste is complex – definitely notes of berry, but also strong minerality.   Very dry, the wine has a chalky element to it.  Paired with food, particularly strong cheese or meats, the wine blossoms – becoming even richer and more complex.
Retailing for $50-$60 US, approximately 2,000 cases a year are imported to the US.  Both the Mormoreto and the Montesodi can be found on Wine.com.
Last stop – and next post: the Castelgiocondo estate and the Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino and the 2005 Lamaione.