Taylor Brooke Winery ~ The Reds & Dessert Wines

Much of the art work in the Tasting Room is used in Taylor Brooke's wine labels.

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

If you’re a fan of Cabernet Franc, as I have become, or just interested in exploring a bit, and you’re in the southern New England area this season, I recommend making a trek over to Taylor Brooke Winery to check out their last vintage of Cabernet Franc.   After doing a full evaluation of their vineyards, they decided to take out the Cabernet Franc and replace it with Corot Noir, making this the last vintage they will be producing.

The reds section of the tasting menu kicks off with the Cabernet Franc.  Taylor Brooke produces their Cab Franc in the Pinot Noir style, medium bodied and fruity.   The color is a medium ruby.  The nose is lightly earthy with notes of plum.  In the mouth the wine has light cherry notes and a peppery finish.  Upon first taste, the wine feels both young and light, however it does open up with subsequent sips.  It’s not as robust as the Gouveia and Chamard Cabernet Francs, and fans of the more full-bodied reds of California and Oregon will likely not be won over to Connecticut Cabernet Francs here.  However, it’s a nice wine when given a chance, and I anticipate it will improve with a few years of cellaring.

I’m looking forward to Taylor Brooke’s Corot Noir, which they’ll begin producing once they finish the last of the Cabernet Franc.  I’ve not found many Corot Noir wines; Land of Nod is the only other winery that comes to mind that produces a Corot Noir wine; other wineries, I suspect use it primarily for blending.  It’s not a grape I know much about, and it will be interesting to see what Richard Augur does with it.  But more on that in a year or two.

Roseland Red After the Cabernet Franc we moved on to the Roseland Red, a meritage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.   The Cabernet Franc is from the Taylor Brooke vineyards, and they bring in the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot as juice from California and Oregon.  Made in the Bordeaux-style and aged in Hungarian Oak, this is a really nice wine and my favorite among the Taylor Brooke reds.   Also a medium ruby color, the nose is delicate and lightly fruity – an interesting change from the earthy/floral noses of the whites.   A light/medium bodied wine with both spice and cherry throughout.  The finish is peppery with a hint of smoke and leather from the oak.  The wine opens up over multiple tastings and would pair very well with grilled meats and heavier pasta dishes.

Woostock Valley Red The reds finish with Taylor Brooke’s 100% St. Croix wine.  While St. Croix is grown all over southern New England and is used by many vineyards in blending, this is only the second 100% St. Croix wine that I’ve found in Connecticut, the other being Maugle Sierra’s which I had tried earlier that morning.   If there are other predominately St. Croix wines, they were not called out as such during my tastings.   While fruity, Taylor Brooke’s St. Croix is not as fruity as Maugle Sierra’s; like many of their other wines, there are earthy notes that come through the fruit, possibly the differences in terroir between the northeastern hills and the southeastern shoreline.   The Woodstock Valley Red is garnet colored with a light nose with pleasantly earthy, grassy notes.  In the mouth the wine has bright notes of cherry, although it is not the rich “jammyness” that I found with Maugle Sierra’s.  The finish is slightly spicy; I found it hard to pinpoint what I was picking up.  It’s not pepper, although it has some of the sharpness of pepper.  Indian spices came to mind – perhaps a bit of curry?  Still not sure…  Also aged in Hungarian Oak, the finish is lightly smoky.

With the reds concluded, I rinsed my glass and prepared for the dessert wines.  As regular readers of Vino Verve know, I have a particular weakness for dessert wines.  I love that rich silkiness of a good late harvest or ice wine, and am always on the lookout for new wines to add to my collection.

First up was Taylor Brooke’s Late Harvest Riesling. A pale gold color, the nose is delicate with very discernible notes of apricot.  The mouth feel is silky and lush, and on the palate the wine is smooth and rich with notes of apricot with a honey finish.  There’s a touch of acid on the end which is interesting if unexpected.   During the tasting, Linda Augur serves this with chocolate, and the chocolate definitely smooths out that touch of acid, producing a more satisfying experience.

Chocolate Essence One of Taylor Brooke’s most popular wines, if not the most popular wine, they can’t keep this on the shelves.  From start to finish it takes a minimum of one year to produce Chocolate Essence, which given its popularity means Richard Augur always has this in production.  The wine is a chocolate-infused, port-style wine made from Merlot, which is brought in from Long Island.  They add 20 gallons of brandy to 100 gallons of Merlot and then add cocoa bean essence.  The result is heavenly…  A lovely ruby color which sparkles in the light, the nose has deep rich notes of chocolate, lighter notes of berries and a slight smokiness from the oaking.  In the mouth, the wine has bright cherry notes on the front and soft notes of chocolate throughout.  The chocolate deepens and is stronger on the finish leaving you with the sensation of just having eaten a really good chocolate covered cherry.   It would be excellent on its own, it would pair well with a variety of desserts: fruit and cheese or cheesecake immediately came to mind.  Linda Augur also recommends drizzling it over ice cream in place of chocolate sauce.  Yum!  Once opened it is good for 4-6 months, so you can savor a bottle all summer long.

That concluded the afternoon’s tasting.  I will be heading back soon, though, as the second of their seasonal wines was released last week: the St. Croix Rosé.

The Wines of Maugle Sierra

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I arrived at Maugle Sierra at 10:58 am only to find another car, one with Pennsylvania plates, already there ahead of me.  I was not the only one who decided to hit the road early in an attempt to avoid the Memorial Day crowds.  By the time Paul Maugle had arrived to open the gates just after 11 am, a third car had joined us, and together the 7 of us greeted our host and made our way into the tasting room.

Maugle Sierra produces 7 wines, six of which are available for tasting.  The 7th, the Espiritu de St. Croix, Maugle’s dessert wine, while available for sale, is not included on the tasting menu.

1740 Ledyard House White The tasting begins with what Paul Maugle calls a “naked” Chardonnay.  Almost 100% Chardonnay from grapes brought in from Long Island, Maugle adds a “splash” of Golden Vidal, a locally grown grape.  Cold fermented in stainless steel and never oaked, hence the “naked,” the wine is crisp, light and delicious.   While the soft yellow-y interior lighting made it difficult to fully gauge color, the 1740 Ledyard House White is a pale yellow color.  the nose is crisp and light with notes of citrus, particularly a subtle grapefruit.  In the mouth, the wine is light and delicate with a nice acidity.  Notes of apricot and light melon blend with very subtle citrus notes.  The finish is smooth and quite satisfying.  A nice summer wine that would pair well with fish, salads and lighter grilled chicken dishes, or would be quite nice on it’s own.

1740 Ledyard House Rosé Maugle Sierra presents it’s one rosé in between the two whites.  Produced from St. Croix grapes with a splash of the vidal and cold-fermented, the rosé is a pale golden-pink color which is really lovely in the glass.  The nose is very light with very subtle floral notes.  In the mouth, the wine is lightly sweet with notes of distinct notes of grapefruit and a smooth finish.  Overall, a very pleasant summer wine.

Maugle developed the rosé for Abbott’s in Noank, Connecticut, a restaurant set directly on the waterfront at the mouth of the Mystic River.  Abbott’s specialty is lobsters in the rough, and in season, you can stop by pick up a whole lobster and a bottle of 1740 Ledyard House Rosé and head down to the docks to enjoy a seaside al-fresco dinner.

Ledyard Sunset White The second of Maugle Sierra’s two whites is a Vidal wine, which Paul Maugle describes as “late harvest style.”  While I didn’t find it as sweet as many other late harvest style wines I’ve tried, it was definitely richer and more full-bodied than the Chardonnay or the Rosé, explaining why it’s included after the rosé on the tasting menu.  Aged for one year in French oak, the wine is a light-to-medium gold color with a lovely fruity nose with notes of pear predominating.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth and sweet, although not sweet enough to be classed as a dessert wine.  The notes of pear continue to predominate on the palate balanced by a crisp acidity at both the front and the finish which help keep the wine from tipping into the cloyingly sweet category.   Not one of my favorites from the Maugle Sierra menu, but I tend to prefer drier wines in general.  Still, it’s a very nice wine and those who like sweeter table wines should find this one charming.

10-foot high fences are erected around the vineyards to keep out the deer

1740 Ledyard House Red The reds kick off with a Merlot/St. Croix blend.  The Merlot grapes are brought in from Long Island, but the St. Croix is all grown locally on Maugle Sierra land.  Merlots are tough here in the northeast, as regular readers of Vino Verve undoubtedly know.  The grape does not do as well in the colder winters and shorter growing seasons and the result is a wine that is less robust and rich than the Merlots of the west coast.  Most of my friends who I have taken on the Connecticut Wine Trail have been really disappointed with the Merlots.  By blending it with the St. Croix, rather than trying to make a true Merlot, Maugle Sierra produced a very nice wine, combining the richness and fruit of the Merlot, with the robustness of the St. Croix.

The 1740 Ledyard House Red is a medium-bodied garnet-colored wine with a rich fruity nose with notes of cherry and black cherry.  The mouth feel is soft with light tannins and very strong notes of cherry.  After the first sip, Paul Maugle starts handing out the chocolate, which really brings out the tannins, reducing the overall sweetness and evoking a slight smokiness from the oaking.

Ledyard Sunset Red Another St. Croix blend, this time with Cabernet Franc grapes brought in from Massachusetts, the Sunset Red is also a medium-bodied, garnet-colored wine.  The nose is brighter than the House Red, with more of the sea-air-tang I find so often in Northeastern reds and notes of both cherry and plum.  In the mouth, the wine is a bit more traditional than the House Red, and in a blind tasting I probably would pick this one as the Merlot.  Although we know how well I do in blind tastingsThere are very discernible notes of cherry, slight tart which helps balance some of the sweetness.    A nice wine, but my least favorite of the Maugle Sierra Reds.

Last up is Maugle Sierra’s signature wine, the St. Croix.  St. Croix grapes are a hybrid developed in the early 1980s by Elmer Swensen in Osceola, Wisconsin from native and French-America grape stock.  A very hardy grape designed to withstand the cold winters and short growing seasons of the Upper Midwest, St. Croix has migrated east to New England.  You’ll find many, if not most, wineries here in New England grow St. Croix grapes, although most will use them for blending with other, less cold-hardy grapes, to provide more depth and robustness in the wine.  The grape itself is are not overly sweet and the wines they produce often lack tannins, another reason why it is often blended with other grapes during wine production.

St. Croix Paul Maugle describes his wines as “jammy” – and this is the wine that best exemplifies that.  Estate-grown and double-fermented in oak barrels, the St. Croix is a dark purple color with a beautiful soft and subtle nose with light notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is soft and silky with almost no tannins.  Lightly sweet from notes of cherry, there is just a touch of bitterness at the end which provides a nice balance.  The fruit notes are rich without being overpowering, and the “jamminess” is the richer flavor of hand-crafted jams made from darker fruits like dark cherries and blackberry. The finish has a bit of heat with notes of pepper.  One of the things I enjoyed most about the wine was the way it opened in the mouth.  Each subsequent sip provided additional depth and complexity and the wine really came alive.

When I had visited back in December with my wine trail buddies, Deb, Cheryl, Jean and Melissa, I was a little nervous about bringing them to Maugle Sierra.  They had not been overly impressed with most of the reds we had sampled on the Western Wine Trail, most of which were produced from lesser-known, colder-climate hybrids, although they really liked the reds of wineries like Jonathan Edwards, whose reds have strong bases of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon brought in from the west coast.  The St. Croix, however, they loved – and I think everyone of us brought home at least one bottle.  High praise, indeed.

That concluded the Maugle Sierra tasting, so I finished up my notes and hit the win(e)ding and winding roads, heading north on Route 169 to Woodstock, Connecticut and Taylor Brooke winery.

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.

The Inevitable Red Hills Map

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I am nothing if not predictable. After discovering that there was a Lake County in California, it was all but certain that I would have to prepare a map of it….

So… Voilà

The Red Hills Lake County is one of five AVAs located in Lake County, California including Clear Lake, High Valley, Benmore Valley and Guenoc Valley. Red Hills is located on the southwestern shore of Clear Lake. It is located at the foot of Mt. Konocti, an extinct volcano between Excelsior Valley, Big Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains. The appellation was designated in 2004 and consists of 31,250 acres of which 3,000 are under cultivation. The soil is volcanic and is full of shards of obsidian that was formed as the magma from the Mt. Konocti cooled quickly due to the waters of the lake. The elevation of the area is betwen 1,400 and 3,000 feet and receives between 25 and 40 inches of rain per year. The region is perfect for Bordeaux and Rhone grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Mourvedre and Zinfandel.

Wineries and vineyards located within the AVA include:

Sol Rouge
Fortress Vineyards
Ferrel Ranch Vineyard
Red Hills Winery
Obsidian Ridge Vineyard
Fore Family Vineyard
Becht Vineyard
Eden Crest Vineyard
Roumiguiere Vineyards – Red Hills Ranch
Snow Lake Vineyard

More Washington AVAs – Red Mountain

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

At the time of this writing, the Red Mountain AVA is, indeed, the smallest appellation in the State of Washington, although if the trend of designating smaller and smaller sub-regions continues we will eventually have every block of vineyard considered unique.  The appellation is located in both the Yakima and Columbia Valley AVAs in Benton County, Washington between the towns of Benton City and Richland.  This area has 4,040 acres, 600 of which are under cultivation.

Appropriately enough given the name of the appellation, the area is known primarily for its high quality red varietals including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah.  It is believed the quality comes from the Southwest facing slopes which are warmer than typical for the Columbia Valley and cool evenings which preserve the acid levels within the grapes.  Additionally the gravelly soil with high levels of calcium carbonate and acidic soils help to balance the flavors and concentrate the berry flavors of the grapes.  Is this how the mountain got its name?  No.  It is named for the wine red color that the native cheatgrass turns in the spring.

Wine began to be produced on the Mountain in the 1970s with John Williams of Kiona Vineyards and Jim Holmes (now) of Ciel du Chaval.  There are now 13 wineries including:

The total acreage in the AVA under cultivation is 14.85% of the total… imagine the wines that could be produced from 15% or 20%!

I Hope There Are No Rattlesnakes In Those Hills

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Located completely within the Columbia Valley AVA and within Benton and Yakima Counties, Rattlesnake Hills is a 16 mile long stretch of territory of basalt mountains. The AVA was created in 2006 but has been under cultivation since 1968 when the Morrison Vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling for Chateau St. Michelle. Currently there are nearly 30 vineyards in the area some of which can be found here

Grape varietals grown in the hills include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürtztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Semillion and Viognier.

The AVA is centered around Zillah, Washington. I am hoping given that I will be in Walla Walla which is relatively close by, that I will get to experience the hills for myself. I was especially relieved to learn that the name “rattlesnake” comes from the shape of the hills… and not for any reptilian invaders in the area. I am like Indiana Jones that way. I hate snakes.

Rattlesnake Hills AVA

Heritage Trail Vineyards ~ The Reds

Marguerite BarrettHeritage Trail Outdoor Patio, Lisbon, CT / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Thursday, November 12

Both Christy and I found the reds to be interesting, fruity and quite enjoyable, and we definitely preferred them to the whites.  We also found ourselves somewhat puzzled as to why the staff so preferred the Winthrop White and Sweet Reserve over any of the reds.  But that’s the beauty of a tasting menu; hopefully there’s something for everyone somewhere on the list.

Heritage Trail currently produces three reds, beginning with the

Shetucket Red A blend of Rubiana grape (another grape developed by Cornell University) and Merlot, the Shetucket Red is a surprisingly pleasant drinkable table wine.  Garnet colored, the nose is lovely with rich cherry notes and that “sea-air tang” that I often find in northeastern reds.  Aged for one year in French oak, the wine is on the light side of medium-bodied with subtle notes of cherry and light spice on the end which provides an interesting finish.

Rochambeau Red Heritage Trail’s newest wine – 2007 was the first year produced – the Rochambeau Red is a blend of Villard Noir, Chambourcin, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon fermented in stainless steel for 20 days and then transferred to aged French Oak and racked in American oak.  The result is a lighter-bodied table wine with soft notes of cherry and dark berries and pleasant notes of toast on the finish.

Cabernet Franc The tasting finished with Heritage Trail’s Cabernet Franc.  A deep garnet color, this is a medium-bodied wine with a soft nose with nice notes of cherry.  In the mouth, cherry is again the predominant note with a pleasant vanilla finish from the oak.  This isn’t one of the strongest Cabernet Francs on the Connecticut Wine Trail, but it’s a eminently drinkable wine and my personal favorite of the Heritage Trail wine list.

Having finished up the tastings, we each ordered a glass, me of the Cab Franc and Christy the Shetucket Red and settled back to relax and enjoy the peacefulness of Heritage Trail’s lovely views in the late afternoon summer sun.

Williamsburg Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Tobin Logo via JohnMorrell.com

Tobin Logo via JohnMorrell.com

I have always wanted to go to Colonial Williamsburg. It calls a nerd like me. During the Bicentennial, we Miller’s got into the Tobin Packing Company car (Dad was a salesman for the company) that looked like a skunk (it was black and white with a Tobin’s decal on the doors) and drove down south… We didn’t stop at Williamsburg because there was an argument about whether we should stop at Kings Dominion. Plus we had already stopped at Mount Vernon.

When I am visiting Nanny and the cousins in Virginia Beach, I don’t get a chance to stop either. They keep me busy catching up. What I really need is to bring the girls with me so that I can use them as an excuse to go. Not that they are interested in Interpretive History. They might have had their fill of that in Salem.

What I was able to do while in Virginia was to make a stop at the grocery store. And there I found a decent selection of local wine (NOT an option at my local Jewel). So I picked up a couple of bottles.

WilliamsburgYesterday, we opened this one. Williamsburg Winery was created in 1985 by the Duffeler family and produced its first wine in 1988. The first wine produced was the Governor’s White. It is a medium-bodied semi-dry wine with grapefruit and Golden Delicious apple flavors (or maybe apple pear, I am undecided). The wine doesn’t list what varietals were blended to create it. But the winery grows Cayuga, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Traminette and Vidal Blanc in their vineyard. Judging from the flavors I would guess that Vidal Blanc was one of the primary grapes used for this wine.

Other wines produced by Williamsburg Winery include:

  • James River White
  • Plantation Blush
  • Susan Constant Red
  • Two Shilling Red
  • John Adlum Chardonnay
  • Andrewes Merlot
  • Arundell Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Acte 12 Chardonnay
  • Burgesses’ Measure Merlot
  • Henings Statute Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Seyval Blanc
  • Viognier
  • Merlot Reserve
  • Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
  • Gabriel Archer Reserve
  • Virginina Trianon (a Cabernet Franc)
  • Vintage Reserve Chardonnay
  • Late Harvest Vidal
  • Blackberry Merlot
  • Raspberry Merlot
  • Spiced Wine

The wines range in price from $7.50 to $65.00 with the majority of selections in the $9.00 to $16.00 range. WIlliamsburg Winery can be ship to California, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Washington, DC, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio.

Williamsburg Winery is NOT in the confines of Colonial Williamsburg but rather a couple of miles outside of the town. Along with the winery, the property is home to a hotel, Wedmore Place and the Gabriel Archer Tavern. It is located at:

5800 Wessex Hundred
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

Sakonnet Vineyards ~ the Reds & Dessert Wines

Marguerite BarrettSakonnet Vineyards, Rhode Island / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, October 27th

Looking back over my notes, it appears that Christy and I only selected five wines (2 whites, 2 reds and 1 dessert wine) each, rather than the six we were entitled to.  I’m trying to remember if that’s because we each chose the same wine in two cases – or if we just counted wrong.  Knowing us, it was probably the latter.

Anyway – having finished the whites, we moved on to the Reds.  First up was the

Cock of the Walk Red – Like its counterpart Cock of the Walk White, the tasting notes also describe Cock of the Walk Red as having “lots of ATTITUDE.”  And unlike the white, with the red I did get attitude.  A blend of Lemberger, Cabernet Franc and Chancellor, this is a medium-bodied, fairly complex wine.  The color is a lovely dark plum and the nose has rich notes of plum.  In the mouth the wine opens with notes of spice and a hint of cinnamon and has rich notes of plum and cherries on the finish.  There’s an interesting musty earthiness, particularly on the finish, that gives the wine some character.  It’s a more complex wine than I expected, and Christy and I were divided; I liked it much better than she did.  The one thing we did agree on is that you’re unlikely to be neutral about this wine – you’ll either like it or you won’t.

Petite Red This is a new wine for Sakonnet, released for the first time this year.  A blend of younger estate grapes (interestingly they don’t share the specific varietals), this is a decent table wine.  Red-purple in color, the nose is bright and fruity, and there are bright notes of berries and cherry on the palate.  The Petite Red could pair with a wide variety of food, and would definitely be a”utility-player” wine to keep on hand.

Cabernet Franc 2005 As my regular readers know, I’ve been preferring Cabernet Francs lately.   The grape does well in the colder, northern climes, and the wines produced are dispelling the myth that the Northeast is too cold to produce strong reds.  While I’d probably rank this in the middle of the pack of New England Cab Francs I’ve tasted to date, I did enjoy this wine.  A lovely garnet color that caught the light nicely, the wine has an interesting plum & pepper nose.  In the mouth, the wine has notes of black currants and a touch of grassiness.  The oak brings out notes of musty leather in the nose and an earthiness in the mouth that provides a sharp, dry finish.

Sakonnet Vineyards, Little Compton, RI / Photo: Marguerite BarrettRhode Island Red The final wine we chose was the Rhode Island Red,  which Sakonnet calls “New England’s Signature Red.”   A blend of Cabernet Franc, Chancellor and Lemberger, this, like the Petite Red, is a nice “utility-player” table red, although this is a richer, more complex wine than the Petite Red.  The nose has soft floral notes, and in the mouth there are light notes of blueberry, a touch of grassiness, and a very light toastiness from the oak.

That finished the reds, and we had just enough time to squeeze in one dessert wine each, Christy opted for the

Port 2006 Made from estate-grown Chancellor grapes and aged for two years in American Oak before being fortified with brandy.  The result is a rich port wine, with notes of cherry and a slightly peppery finish.

My choice was a late harvest Vidal Blanc

Sirrius Christy and I both really liked this wine.  The nose was lovely (in my notes I actually underlined lovely several times) with that rich, deep sweetness that you so often get from Vidal Blanc grapes.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth and rich, with soft notes of apricot.  Definitely a nice dessert wine, the Sirrius would also be good sipped on its own as an aperitif.

Comparing notes, we both agreed that the three Vidal Blanc wines (Vidal Blanc 2008, Fume Vidal Reserve 2007 and Sirrius) are Sakonnet’s stars and really stood out from the rest of the pack.  With that, we packed up and headed back down the road to Newport and dinner on the water.

Sakonnet Vineyards is located in Little Compton, Rhode Island.  You can find their wines in local package stores and restaurants throughout Rhode Island, or purchase wine directly from the winery or their website.  They offer free shipping on cases over $150 and also offer a Rooster Rewards program in which you earn points towards discounts off future purchases.

Firelands Wines

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

So after all that discussion of the Ohio and the Firelands, did I finally get around to tasting any wine? Of course I did!

Firelands Tasting RoomI began with the Pinot Grigio, currently the most popular wine according to the ladies in the tasting room. I could taste green apple and grass. It was a little less crisp than some of the pinot grigios than I have had in the past, but this is a good thing… Sometimes, those wines get too bitey and for some reason that makes the hinge of my jaw hurt. (I never said that logic was my strong suit).

Next up was the Riesling. This was advertised as tasting of apples but I thought it had more of a honeyed flavor that reminded me of pears. This is made in what I consider a more traditional style, in that it was semi-sweet. I love the new modern dry Rieslings as well, but there is something to be said for the full, fruity and floral tones of the traditional method.

I even sampled the Gewurztraminer which I had tasted with Henry Bishop, Rory and Kevin (albeit not the same vintage). It is still an excellent blend of tropical fruits and rose petals. The best of two different worlds.

Home Wine Making at FirelandsAdditionally, I tasted both the Pinot Noir (a wine that I have enjoyed from Great Lakes regions, i.e., Niagara Escarpment) and the Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet was herbal and lightly spicy and nicely dry. The Pinot Noir was smoke with anise and cherry.

Additional offerings under the Firelands label include:

Cabernet Sauvignon
Barrel Select Chardonnay
Rose de St. George
Country Estate Red
Walleye White and
Ice Wine

Additional wines from the other Lonz, Inc. labels were available including the Mantey, Dover, Mon Ami and Lonz (from grapes produced on Middle Bass Island). I picked up a Mantey Cream Sherry for my father. He has always been a fan of Ohio sherries and am looking forward to tasting it with it in the near future (most likely Thanksgiving).

Additionally, the winery is a source for homewine makers and sells juice in the autumn (until it runs out).