Cherry Creek Winery @ The Old Schoolhouse – Brooklyn, MI

After seven years in New England, I relocated to southeast Michigan in December 2014.   Despite having been born and raised in Detroit (proud graduate of Cass Tech High School!), Michigan hasn’t been home for more years than I am willing to admit to.

Relocating in winter while also working 100% from home is not conducive to exploration – my first several months’ experiences were limited to weekly grocery store runs, babysitting for my sister, and an occasional weekend movie with cousins.

So with a few days vacation in late May I decided it was time to learn my new home state of Michigan the way I learned my last – one winery at a time.   With a full tank of gas and a randomly chosen winery on Michigan’s Pioneer Wine Trail, I headed out for what turned out to be an auspicious start to my latest Win(e)ding Roads adventures.

Cherry Creek Winery @ the Old Schoolhouse, Brooklyn, MI

Cherry Creek Winery @ the Old Schoolhouse, Brooklyn, MI

Housed in a beautifully restored 1870s schoolhouse in the heart of the Irish Hills, only a few short miles from the Michigan International Speedway, Cherry Creek Winery and Vineyards is a great find – neither the winery nor the wines disappoint.

Founded more than 15 years ago by Denise and John Burtkas, Cherry Creek Winery has two locations, the original in Albion, MI and the Old Schoolhouse, which opened about 10 years ago.   All wines are 100% Michigan grapes sourced from the Burtkas’s vineyards in southeast Michigan and through partnerships with vineyards along the Lake Michigan coastline.

With a menu that includes reds, whites, rosés and a fruit wine (Michigan Cherry, of course),    picking only five for this first tasting was the hard part…

Wood Duck White (Dry Riesling)
I’ve found myself more interested in Rieslings recently, particularly as I’m finding more local wineries making a dry Riesling, instead of the often too sweet versions that seemed to be everywhere only a few short years ago.

The Wood Duck White is a really nice wine.   Light, crisp, with just a hint of grapefruit on the finish, I found it soft in the mouth and very drinkable.  The fruit and acid are nicely balanced, and the wine has a nice full body which gives it structure.   A great wine for a lazy summer afternoon.

It was one of the bottles I brought home with me, and we uncorked it last night pairing it with grilled Lake Superior whitefish and fresh Michigan corn.   The wine complimented the fish beautifully, and the corn’s sweetness brought out some of the wine’s lightly floral notes.

Gewürztraminer
I loved the nose on this wine – notes of citrus, honeysuckle (perhaps?  I am not as good differentiating florals as I should be), the nose evoked light spring breezes.   In the mouth, the wine was sharp, but not tart, with citrus notes that hit the edges of my tongue.   The wine also evolved in the mouth, starting out smooth and somewhat quiet in the front of the mouth only to open up on the finish.

Tasting Room bar was made from reclaimed wood from the original structure. Jenna, my host for the afternoon, is an enthusiastic ambassador for the winery.

Merlot
Moving on to the Reds, I started with the Merlot, which came highly recommended by my tasting room host, Jenna, as one of her personal favorites.   The nose was fruity, predominately cherry, very reminiscent of the red wines I found in Connecticut (in fact, I once participated in a blind tasting of Merlots at McLaughlin Vineyards in Connecticut and was the only person to correctly identify the McLaughlin Merlot, which I did solely from the nose).

In the mouth, the wine is more subtle than I expected – I think the nose misled me, and I expected a more fruit-forward wine such as the ones I had been drinking in Connecticut.    I found this wine to be more herbaceous than fruity, medium-bodied with mineral notes and an interesting slight chalky finish.

Montage
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chancellor Noir, this was my favorite of the afternoon.    Deeper nose than the Merlot but with similar notes of cherry, the wine is smooth and rich.   In the mouth, the wine has notes of stone fruits but not so strong that the wine becomes “jammy.”   Brought a bottle of this home as well, and am looking forward to opening it later this summer, perhaps paired with grilled steaks or lamb chops.

Frontenac
100% estate grown at the Old Schoolhouse location, the Frontenac was the most interesting wine of my visit.    Served chilled, the wine had strong notes of cranberry – which I admit, I don’t come across often.   Fruit forward with a strong but smooth finish.   The wine wasn’t available for sale the day I was there, but it’s definitely worth a return visit later in the year for another taste.

In addition to the wines, Cherry Creek also has a small gift shop featuring locally made sauces, jams and jellies and a Michigan cherry salsa which is highly addictive!    The winery hosts local musicians from 5-8pm Saturdays through mid-September and will be opening a cafe sometime this summer.   The Burtkas have also recently launched the Grand River Brewery, in Jackson, Michigan featuring local craft beers, handcrafted spirits, and Cherry Creek wines.

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

With Thanksgiving over, the inevitable slide into the Christmas holidays has begun. Usually in the weeks before Thanksgiving, this depresses me. However, this year I got the opportunity to taste a wine that made me wish for the arrival of holiday and mistletoe.

The Biltmore Estate has been producing wines since the 1970s and presently producing wines from both estate and contract grown grapes. VinoVerve had its first taste of wines from the estate when Marguerite Barrett first tasted the Century White on 2009’s Open That Bottle Night.  Besides good wine, I love the sense of history that comes from the Biltmore Estate and their wines.

The Estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II a scion of the great Vanderbilt family.  Being the youngest of his father’s eight, the bulk of his father’s wealth went to his older brothers, but G.W. was not left penniless.  He build the Biltmore with the plan to pursue intellectual pursuits which he did, including experiments with horticulture, animal husbandry and silvaculture.  Unlike many intellectuals of his time, his goal was to make the estate self-sustaining.

In furtherance of this goal, GWV’s grandson began the winery.  Starting with French-American hybrid grapes, the estate is now growing Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Viognier.  The wine makers are using North Carolina grapes as well as those from California and Washington to produce award winning wines.

The Christmas at Biltmore® White Wine is the perfect wine for a holiday meal or party.  It is fruity and off-dry to semi-sweet which will match perfectly with spicy foods.  It is lovely for sipping in a crowded party and if sweeter wines aren’t your thing, you probably have an Aunt Rita who drinks nothing but.  The flavors of orange, spices with a touch of mint scream Christmas and the bottle label with a holiday tree seals the deal.

This wine is available at the winery, online and in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.

Enjoy your holiday season!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
December 1st, 2011

 

Disclosure:  I received this wine as a sample.

 

 

WBC’11 – Drinking Local

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

First, let me say – great job so far to the conference organizers.  The first day of WBC’11 went off without a hitch, the sessions were all good, discussion was lively and interesting, and, despite the heat, dinner and the Virginia wine tasting at Monticello was tremendous.

Not surprisingly the breakout session that really drew me was the Drink Local panel featuring Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report and, we learned yesterday, a new board member of DrinkLocalWine.com; Rémy Charest from Quebec, who blogs at The Wine Case, and Frank Martin, wine writer for The Washington Post and founder of DrinkLocalWine.com.

The panel quickly turned into a group discussion with the full room with two topics generating the most discussion, the price of local wines, which to many consumers often feel quite expensive being in the $15-$30 range, and the locapour/locavore issue, in particular why more chefs and restaurants who say they are committed to use of local ingredients don’t also include local wines in their restaurants.

The thoughts and ideas were varied.  The panelists pointed out that too often chefs don’t go out to the wineries to source local wines, and the winemakers don’t visit the restaurants to try to place their wines.    It was also noted that many local wineries don’t produce enough volume to distribute widely in restaurants and that often in smaller markets you’ll find local restaurants serving local wines because the restaurant and the winery are both part of the same community.

Lenn Thompson pointed out that people who enjoy local wines need to be more vocal about asking for local wines when they are in restaurants.   I agree.

However, are there enough of us who truly embrace the Locapour philosophy to make a difference?   How many bloggers attending this year’s conference have featured local wines in their blog this year?   Probably more than I anticipate, but far less than should.

Should we be spending more time and energy building the Locapour movement among our neighbors – and let the restaurants follow?  Having a local wine on the menu is great, but not if I’m one of only a few people who might select it each year.

When I moved to Connecticut about 4 1/2 years ago and started down this journey of exploring my new home one winery at a time, I was absolutely amazed at how many of my colleagues at work, who had lived their entire lives in Connecticut, had no idea that Connecticut had any wineries, no less a very vibrant and thriving local wine community.  Or, if they were aware of Connecticut wine, they either thought it was all crap, or all fruit wine, or it was just Ballet of Angels, the one wine that has a fairly wide distribution across Connecticut.  They had no clue that there were over 30 wineries in all areas of the state, that several of them were no more than 30-45 minutes away, and all of them were well within a 2-hour drive from their homes.

Some of my more open-minded, adventurous friends soon joined me on the wine trail and began to experience for themselves the range of wines available throughout the state.   They began to expand their palates, learning they liked a wider range of wines and grapes than they had believed, and while not all the wines were great, they found some new favorite wines right in their own backyards.

Best of all, they enjoyed the experience and the wines so much that they began planning their own trips with husbands, friends, and relatives, and now when we get together, people are including as part of their regular conversations new wineries they’ve visited, trading notes on the new wines they’ve discovered, and generally encouraging others to hit the trail.

This was the piece of the puzzle that I felt we missed at the Drinking Local Wine panel yesterday.   With all the talk of encouraging local wines into restaurants, of confronting the often long-standing mis-impressions of local wines as being bad, of encouraging state tourism boards to better promote their local wine culture, and of better marketing local wine regions to those outside the region, I didn’t hear much discussion on how we foster a local Locapour community.

I would argue that people like Gretchen or me – or indeed, many of the people attending yesterday’s panel – are the vanguard not the target audience for Locapour efforts.  Just speaking for myself, I’m already very committed to the Locapour philosophy and at any given time you’ll find 50-75% of the wines in my house are from local vineyards that I have personally visited.   I am curious about other regions and am regularly searching both the internet and the library for information about different wine regions, local wineries, reviews of local wines, blogs, etc.   And whenever and wherever I travel, I try to find time to include a visit to at least one local winery on the agenda.   And yes, I go into wine shops and restaurants and ask if they offer local wines.

But I also have almost daily conversations with neighbors and colleagues who believe the only good wines come from the West Coast, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South America.    Pointing out that even 10-12 years ago people were not embracing wines from South Africa they way they do today, or unless you were a serious wine drinker had never heard of Malbec or Tempranillo and now even the most basic restaurant wine list carries them, usually gets me a “but that’s different” response.

Really?  How is that different?  Why, if the wine comes from an emerging wine region overseas is that “different?”  Why if you’d never heard of Malbec or Tempranillo grapes before everyone seemed to be talking about them is that any different than trying a St. Croix or Marechal Foch from your local winery?

Is the real answer, my cynical side asks, because “everyone was talking about” the Malbecs and Tempranillos and few, if any, are talking about local wines?  Is it because we are snobs – even if we won’t admit it – pooh-poohing anything local because it’s familiar, and the familiar often doesn’t have the same caché as a far-off quasi-exotic location?

And is it because we are lemmings, again however much we won’t admit it, and if the wine press, the wine bloggers, and the wine “buzz” isn’t talking about wines from the “Other 46” it must be because they aren’t worth talking about?

And if that is the answer, then should we focus more time and energy on building a wine region’s buzz from within?  How do we get our neighbors, colleagues, families out on the wine trails?  How do we engage more of the bloggers?  How do we publicize the local wine community to the local community?  And then how do we get the mainstream wine community to notice?

I don’t have all the answers, but I am certainly interested in the discussion.

 

 

WBC’11 Speed Blogging – Tabarrini Winery

Marguerite Barrett

2008 Adarmando

100% Trebbiano Spoletino, from 70 year old vines.

Region: Umbria

Aged in stainless steel; no oaking

Nose: very interesting; there’s a depth to the nose without a single really strong discernible note – I picked up a bit of green pepper; Gretchen picked up honey.  The interesting thing is it changes with each breath.

Palate: Crisp, dry, with notes of grass and a hint of acidity on the finish.   Very interesting wine.

Price point: $17.00 – $22.00

Distribution across the United States; lowest price is on tabarrini.us

 

WBC’11 Speed Blogging – Barboursville Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett

2009 Virginia Vioginier Reserve

An Italian winery that has moved into Virginia.

Nose is lightly fruity with notes of melon.

Palate has more citrus with notes of pineapple and a touch of grapefruit.  Crisp and refreshing, the wine is very well balanced with a clean mouth feel, and a slight creaminess.

Price point is $20 – $22.

Currently distributed in mid-Atlantic and starting to distribute more widely.

Holmberg Orchards Winery ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

Holmberg Orchards Winery Wine Barn

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

As I’m closing in on my goal of visiting, at least once, every winery in Connecticut, I stopped recently at Holmberg Orchards in Gales Ferry to sample their fruit wines and ciders.

A fourth-generation family-owned working farm, Holmberg Orchards has been around since 1896, first as a vegetable farm, and then in the latter half of the 20th century moving to Orchards and fruit.   The winery opened in 2007 producing fruit wines and ciders.  The winery has done so well that the family planted their first grape vines in 2010 to expand their wine menu and harvested their first crop of Pinot Blanc in 2011.

In addition to the winery, Holmberg Orchards has pick-you-own fruit orchards, a bakery and a small retail shop that sits directly on the main road at the foot of a small hill leading back to the wine barn, a small small wooden cabin-like structure that sits at the front of the orchards.

The interior of the barn is cool and uncluttered – the space is dominated by a U-shaped tasting bar which occupies the middle of the room.    There’s space around the edges of the room for people to move around each other, but not much space for mingling – on busy days, I imagine the overfill simply forms a line out the door.   While there are no tables and chairs set up inside the wine barn, there’s a deck off to one side of the structure and plenty of open space on the lawns for those who want to bring a picnic lunch, grab a bottle of wine or cider, and spend a relaxing afternoon in the shade of the Orchards.

And if you didn’t bring a picnic lunch, a short drive or walk back down the gravel-lined lane brings you back to the farm store which has a great selection of vegetables, sandwiches, and other foodstuffs, much of it made or grown locally either by Holmberg Orchards or local farmers.    While I didn’t stay for the entire afternoon, I did stop at the farm store, picking up some fresh locally-grown sweet corn and a freshly made tomato-spinach-feta quiche which was melt-in-your-mouth good ~ one of the best quiches I’ve ever had in my life.

The winery is open from May 1st through the first weekend in November, Saturdays and Sundays 12-5.    Tastings are $6 and include the entire wine menu: four wines and three ciders served in a souvenir wine glass.   Gales Ferry is only minutes away from the two casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, and close to the Mystic/Stonington area and the wineries in the southeast corner of the state.

Holmberg Orchards Winery
12 Orchards Lane
Gales Ferry, CT
860-464-7305
www.holmbergorchards.com

The Wines of Paradise Hills Vineyard

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

When I first arrived at Paradise Hills Saturday afternoon, the place was hopping – the bar was full of people at various stages of their tasting and a few others were milling around admiring the building and the grounds while waiting for a spot at the bar.   Being in no rush, I just hung back watching the action and listening to the stories being told by the members of the Ruggerio family as they poured the tastings.

But this also gave me the chance to spend a few minutes with Paradise Hills’ winemaker, Margaret Ruggerio, something which I don’t often get a chance to do because I so often visit wineries on the weekend, and the traffic levels usually preclude a leisurely conversation.  But whether I called attention to myself by taking pictures or furiously scribbling notes or whether if not pouring, the family just mingles through the room greeting guests, the end result was a very pleasant 10 minutes chatting with Margaret Ruggerio while waiting for space to open up at the bar.

In addition to talking about the history of the vineyards and the winery as well as her own background, Margaret also talked about her approach to winemaking – in particular her focus on making each of the wines distinct.   I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of this claim; I’ve heard this from other wineries and winemakers, and while wines each have their own character, so often you’ll find a winery producing several wines using the same base grape, and so while there are distinctions, I wouldn’t have said they were distinct.   But with Paradise Hills’ wines, Margaret Ruggerio was not exaggerating.  Each of the wines was quite distinct, beginning with the

Vino Blanco del Paradiso – a crisp, refreshing white table wine that is a blend of Trebbiana grapes imported from Italy and estate-grown Cayuga White.   The nose is very delicate with lightly floral notes of apple blossom and a hint of crisp green apples.   In the mouth the wine is very light on the palate with a subtle grassiness on the front developing into stronger, but not overpowering, notes of grapefruit at the back, and a touch of green apple tart-sweetness on the finish.   The balance is really interesting – the grassy earthiness offset by the fruitiness were a pleasant combination.   This wine definitely benefits from being served chilled, and while I enjoyed the tasting, I think this would be even more interesting when paired with food – say grilled shrimp with just a splash of lemon…

Washington Trail White – named for the “Washington Trail” a historic area of the state through which General Washington and the Continental Army traveled to pick up supplies – and gunpowder – from nearby Durham during the Revolution.  Parts of the trail run directly through the Ruggerio’s property, and they’ve found a number of late Colonial/Revolutionary War-era artifacts which they are will be displaying in the winery.

The wine is a blend of Chardonnay brought in from California and estate-grown Seyval Blanc grapes.   The result is a very smooth, fruit-forward wine with soft notes of pear on the front and brighter notes of citrus on the finish.   The citrus builds as the wine moves to the back of the mouth and then softens on the finish.   Not surprisingly, it was suggested that the wine would pair very well with spicy foods.  Overall a really nice wine, but my favorite among the whites was the estate-grown

Chardonnay – 100% estate grown Chardonnay from the vineyards right outside the winery’s front door, this is a really lovely wine.   Like all of Paradise Hills other wines, the Chardonnay is fermented and aged in stainless steel with any oaking being introduced through chips or staves.    The nose on this wine is gorgeous, rich, soft and fruity with lovely notes of sweet pineapple.   In the mouth the wine is rich and soft with notes of melon on the front and butterscotch on the finish.   One of the things that I found particularly charming was how the butterscotch builds and develops as the warm wines in your mouth – it pulls the wine through palate.    This wine would be great for sipping on its own or paired with a wide variety of food.   As soon as I tasted it, I knew I was going home with a bottle, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it more fully sometime soon.

The last of the four whites, the Cayuga White, is currently sold out, so not available tasting.   So we switched glasses before moving to the Reds.   Yep, you read that right, we switched glasses…  Paradise Hills serves their tastings in “real” wine glasses, not their souvenir glass (which they do have available for purchase for anyone who wants one).  The whites are served in a Bordeaux style glass and the reds in a Pinot Noir style glass – by using these glasses rather than the much smaller-bowled glasses of the typical souvenir wine glass, it’s better for the wine and only enhances the tasting.

The Chardonnay vineyards

Washington Trail Red – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Merlot from Washington and estate-grown Chambourcin, this is an interesting example of the influence of terroir.   While there are few places here in New England that successfully grow Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, when they are grown locally I’ve found the result to be very fruity.   But the California and Washington grapes bring more earthy elements – still fruity with notes of cherry and blackberry, particularly from the Chambourcin, the wine is not as fruit-forward as the more typical New England red.   The nose is subdued with slightly floral notes of cherry blossom.  Medium-bodied, in the mouth the wine has, as mentioned above, discernible notes of cherry and blackberry tempered by a subtle earthiness and a smooth richness that softens the “bite” of the Chambourcin.   A very interesting wine; one I think a lot of people will like.

The last wine of the tasting is the President’s Choice.  Using a recipe that has been passed down for several generations in the Ruggerio family, this was the star of the show for me as well as the couple next to me.   The Chardonnay is described as the winery’s “signature wine” – but the President’s Choice is the family wine.   A full-bodied red, the wine is smooth, rich and very satisfying.   The nose has lovely notes of dark berries and a light earthiness.  Well-balanced, the wine has notes of blackberry at the front developing to notes of mocha on the finish.   One of the most interesting characteristics of the wine is that I found it to linger in the middle of the palate, rather than the back – as if the wine gravitates to that intersection point where the fruit begins to give way to the chocolate…

Unfortunately this wine is not currently available for sale – the Ruggerios kept their first vintages small, producing only 1200 cases of all their wines combined, waiting to see how the wines would be received before committing to larger production.   President’s Choice, not surprisingly, has been exceptionally well-received and they’ve already sold out – and they’ve only been open two months.  They have enough bottles to continue to include the wine in the tasting menu, and they anticipate having the second vintage available in September, at which time they’ll resume sales.   There were several of us at the bar that afternoon who were making notes in our calendars to come back in September!

Jean & Cheryl take note – we definitely need to include this on our next SOTS outing!

**

Keeping with their philosophy of promoting local agriculture and husbandry, the Ruggerios help foster the next generation by providing a scholoarship to a graduating senior from the Lyman Hall Agricultural program who is going on to study agriculture or wildlife conservation.   To help fund the scholarship, the family agreed that all tips received from winery guests will be added to the scholarship fund – so if you get a chance to stop by help develop the next generation by leaving a generous tip in the jar!

**

Congratulations to the Ruggerio family – Paradise Hills is a great addition to the Connecticut Wine scene, and I look forward to many return visits, as well as enjoying the bottles of Washington Trail White, the Washington Trail Red and the Chardonnay I brought home with me that afternoon.

Connecticut’s Newest Winery

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Saturday found me heading south to Wallingford and Connecticut’s newest winery, Paradise Hills Vineyard.  Owned and operated by the Ruggerio family, the winery opened to the public on May 1st and has been doing a brisk business all season.

The Ruggerios have been in the wine business for more than 15 years, having started growing grapes in nearby Hamden, CT and purchasing the current property in Wallingford and planting the vineyards in 1997.    They grow Chardonnay, Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Cayuga and because of the age of the vineyards, the vines are well established and produce high quality grapes.    For years, Paradise Hill sold their grapes to Jerram Winery in New Hartford, CT, and only recently decided to open their own winery.

Like many Connecticut wineries, Paradise Hills is truly a family affair, with multiple generations and branches of the family playing key roles in the winery and vineyards, including construction of the winery building itself.    I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Paradise Hill’s winemaker, Margaret Ruggerio, who in addition to giving me a bit of the history of the vineyards also discussed the construction of the winery building, which took three years to complete and was constructed primarily by family, friends, and employees of the winery.

A graduate of local Lyman Hall high school’s Vocational Agricultural program, Margaret Ruggerio, who also has college degrees in botany and wildlife conservation, is the winery’s principal winemaker, currently producing six wines, four white and two red, each of which, she is proud to point out, are distinct.  (More on the wines themselves when we get to the tasting on Thursday).   She and the family are committed to sustainable agricultural practices and even constructed the winery building to be as “green” as possible.

Which brings us to the winery itself – as mentioned above, construction began about three years ago and with the exception of the foundation, most of the construction was completed by family, friends and vineyard employees.   The building is Tuscan-inspired, a nod to the Ruggerio’s Italian heritage, but the clean lines and fresh non-fussily decorated interior provide a touch of New England charm.   The building is entirely geo-thermal, the air conditioning and heat are generated from the groundwater below the building.  The only traditional electricity that is used in the heating and cooling systems is that needed to run the air handlers to provide air circulation.   The family carried through this approach throughout the building, using natural materials as much as possible, and even using hand-harvested cedar trees from the property for the fence posts and rails that line the entrance and walkway.

The Tasting Room is a bright, airy, welcoming space, with light green walls, a lovely slate tile floor, and a charming copper-topped bar.    The Ruggerios put a lot of thought into the space planning and have incorporated not only space for 16-20 people to stand comfortably at the bar, but enough room behind the bar for the family to move easily as they welcome guests and pour tastings.    It’s one of the best planned spaces I’ve seen yet in any winery, with plenty of counter space, a large wine cooler, and depth of room behind the bar so four or five people can move easily around each other.   The result is a much more relaxed experience for the customer (at least in my experience), because they appeared less cramped and harried behind the bar, I felt more relaxed in front of it.  In addition to the bar, there are also about a dozen bar-height tables and chairs in the main room, and a long covered porch overlooking the Chardonnay vineyard with additional seating.   Quite a few people ordered a bottle of wine after their tasting and settled in to enjoy the gorgeous weather – and gorgeous views – from the porch.

While no one gets into (or stays in) this business without loving it, it’s obvious after spending even a few minutes with them that winemaking is a real passion and joy for the Ruggerios.    Each tasting is accompanied by lots details of the wine, local history, and family stories.   I overheard several people comment that it was one of the more detailed and fun tastings they had experienced – and I concur.

Coming Thursday – the wines of Paradise Hills and how the Ruggerios are helping to support the next generation.

Paradise Hills Vineyard
15 Windswept Hill Road
Wallingford, CT 06492
203.284.0123
www.paradisehillsvineyard.com

Congratulations to the 2011 Big E Winners!

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The “Big E,” held every September, is a joint state fair for the six New England states.   As part of the agricultural competitions, each June the Big E hosts an annual wine competition for wines produced in New England and New York.  This is the premier wine competition here in New England, and our local wineries proudly display the medals won by their wines each year.

While New York, not surprisingly, dominates the winner lists, more than 60 Connecticut wines won medals in 2011, including some of my favorites:

  • Hopkins Vineyard  2007 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine – Gold Medal
  • Bishop’s Orchards New England Style Hard Cider – Silver Medal
  • Sharpe Hill Vineyards 2007 St. Croix – Silver Medal
  • Connecticut Valley Winery Chianti (2010) – Silver Medal (the 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages won Bronze Medals)
  • Jerram Winery S’il Vous Plait – Bronze Medal
  • Jonathan Edwards Winery 2010 Pinot Gris – Bronze Medal
  • Miranda Vineyards Goshen Farmhouse Red – Bronze Medal

Some of my favorites from my Rhode Island visits also earned medals: Sakonnet Vineyards 2009 Vidal Blanc, a Gold Medal winner and Newport Vineyards 2010 Riesling, a Silver Medal Winner.

A complete list of the 2011 Results can be found on The Big E website, and you can track Vino Verve’s experiences on the Connecticut and Rhode Island wine trails by clicking on the “Win(e)ding Roads” tab above.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to sample some of the great local wines the Northeast has to offer – this list is a great place to start.  Happy Trails!

 

 

Exploring America One Winery At a Time

Harvest Hosts logo from program website (www.harvesthosts.com)

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

So, returning back briefly to my afternoon at Hardwick Winery…

In addition to a B&B, Hardwick is also a participating member in Harvest Hosts, a program I was introduced to for the first time that afternoon.

Harvest Hosts pairs RVers with local farms and wineries.   The farms and wineries allow self-contained RVers (i.e. no plumbing or electrical hookups required) to stay for up to 24 hours on their property free of charge.   The RVers avoid camping fees, and the farms and wineries get increased traffic and exposure.

The network of host sites is extensive with sites in most states in the continental US as well as Eastern and Western Canada and the Baja peninsula.   For a full list of host sites and details interested RVers need to become program members (there’s a $30 annual fee to become a program member), but the maps available on the public website show easily more than 100 hosts.

Personally I think the idea is brilliant.  I only wish I had an RV – and the summer off work – I’d be out there right now exploring America one winery at a time.