Better Know the Hermann AVA

Hermann AVA

Hermann AVA Map by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

On my quest to be prepared for the conference I am moving on from the Augusta AVA on to Hermann. The town of Hermann was founded by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia in the 1830’s after they sent school teacher George Bayer to purchase land where they could establish a German utopia. Bayer selected the area that is now known as Hermann because it reminded him of his childhood home in Germany. Unfortunately the land was not ideal for traditional farming or industry, but was perfect for viticulture. Lucky for us!

Check out the new Hermann AVA page!



Better Know an AVA Video – Augusta AVA

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I did say that the second video version of Better Know an AVA would be for the Western Connecticut Highlands. But several things occurred. First, I did not anticipate how long it would take me to produce a video. And B. I forgot that I am going to Missouri in April. April 1st. So, clearly Missouri AVAs are prioritized.

First and foremost, the Missouri Win(e)ding Road page was updated as has the Augusta AVA page….


Well, we have video.

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.

Connecticut Valley Winery ~ Whites and Specialty Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

In addition to being voted Best Connecticut Small Winery at the Big E competition, Connecticut Valley also won the distinction of being the Sisters of the Connecticut Wine Trail’s favorite winery.  The whole group loved both the winery and the wines – and trust me, they are not an easy group to please!

The tasting menu starts off with the

Chardonnel A hybrid grape, the result of grafting Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc grapes together, the result is a lovely, crisp, refreshing white wine – one of my favorites across the Connecticut wine trail.  Like all of the Connecticut Valley wines, the Chardonnel has only a light touch of oak.  A pale yellow color with a soft, lightly fruity nose with notes of apricot and peach, the wine is soft and silky in the mouth with light notes of peach and bright citrus and a soft buttery finish.  The Chardonnel would pair well with a wide variety of foods, but I prefer it on it’s own – lightly chilled, it’s a perfect wine to relax with at the end of the day.

Dolce Vita An estate-grown Cayuga White, Dolce Vita is proprietor Tony Ferraro’s favorite wine, according to his son, Jason, who was my host for my third and most recent tasting.   The color is an extremely pale straw.  The nose is soft and both fruity and floral with lovely notes of orange blossom.  In the mouth the wine has subtle notes of pineapple and touches of melon.  On my most recent visit, the gentleman next to me during the tasting said he was picking up watermelon.  I took another sip and thought about it and could get just the barest hint of the watermelon he was experiencing, but for me the overall impression was that of pineapple.  Regardless, it is a lovely wine.

The next three wines, the Specialty Wines, are all fruit-infused wines, and as Jason Ferraro described them “the dangerous wines.”  First up is the

Just Peachy 75% Chardonnay and 25% Seyval Blanc infused with a peach essence, the result is a delightful, soft, eminently drinkable table wine.  The color is a soft gold.  The nose is soft and peachy, but not overpoweringly so.  In the mouth, you realize at once this is not a fruit wine – the Chardonnay/Seyval base produces a dry, lightly oaked table wine and the peach essence provides a depth of fruit that blends beautifully with the notes already present in the grapes.  The result is a delightful, not-sticky-sweet, wine that would pair well with spicy dishes, chinese and even pork.

Raspberry Delight Like the Just Peachy, the Raspberry Delight is a white table wine infused with raspberry essence.  The result produces a very pink wine.  The nose is soft raspberry; a more subtle nose than I had anticipated.  In the mouth, the wine is also more subtle than I anticipated.  There are strong raspberry notes, but rather than overpowering the wine, they produce a bright, crisp, tanginess at the start that smooths out to a lightly sweet finish.   I definitely preferred the Just Peachy to the Raspberry Delight, but the Raspberry Delight has it’s charms.

Orange Delight This is vintner Jason Ferraro’s favorite wine, as well as one of my favorites, to my great surprise.  I did not anticipate liking this as much as I did.  As it was being poured and described, I expected the orange to be too strong a flavor, overpowering the wine altogether.  I have never been so pleased to be proved wrong.  A 50/50 combination of Orange Muscat and Vidal Blanc grapes, this is a semi-dry wine.  Like the Dolce Vita, the color is a very pale straw.  The nose is soft with strong notes of orange floral.  In the mouth the orange, rather than being too sweet, has a slightly bitter/tart edge that balances the fruity sweetness and creates some depth and complexity in the wine that is really interesting.  Overall it’s a very different wine, and not the kind of wine people will be on the fence about – you’ll either like or you won’t.  Regional wine judges and critics do like it, and it’s won multiple medals in competitions, including a perfect score at the Fingerlakes Wine Competition.  One judge liked it so much that after the competition, he called the Ferraros directly to tell them how much he loved the wine – now that’s a fan!

Connecticut Valley also produces two sparkling whites:  the first a blend of chardonnel and cayuga and the second a spumanti produced from the orange muscat grapes.  Like all sparkling wines, neither is included on the tasting menu, but I’ve promised myself I’d stop back and pick up a bottle of each.

Next up: The Reds, including the only wine in the Northeast allowed to bill itself as a Chianti.

Missouri Defiance

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

“Defiance!” I said, while pointing the car down the highway.

“What did I do?” Sophie asked.

“No, no,” I quickly explained, “That is the town we are going to”.

Not that this really helped my 13 year old traveling companion. But then, she really hadn’t done any research.. Defiance is the name of several towns and villages throughout the U.S. It is also the beginning of the Missouri Weinstraße, Route 94 between Defiance and Marthasville.  It was also the final living place (though not resting place) of Daniel Boone.

It is also home to  three wineries.  Chandler Hill Vineyards, Yellow Farmhouse Winery and Sugar Creek Winery & Vineyards.

I stopped at Sugar Creek after finding the Yellow Farmhouse closed (and across the street from a really active biker bar).  The tasting room was off the road and across the Katy Trail and up about 150 feet (yes, it was a steep hill).  I liked that there were different outdoor settings for people.  There were at least two decks, a  patio and scattered tables surrounding a gazebo.  Additionally, there was an area that was set aside for music and (presumably) dancing.

The tasting room was relatively small but opened up into rooms in the back that were available for additional seating or for event rental.  Sophie looked around while a started my tasting.  The winery produces 15 different wines ranging from dry to sweet.  I settled on tasting the dry varietals beginning with the Vidal Blanc.  This is an estate grown wine that was fermented in stainless steel with the addition of oak chips while the wine is aged.  The  wine is light and crisp with just enough oak.

The next wine I tasted was the Chardonel which is a hybrid of Chardonnay and Seyval grapes.  This wine is also an estate selection.  It was fermented in aged in French oak barrels.  This wine was fuller bodies than the Vidal Blanc with nice citrus notes and butteriness.  Overall though, I thought both of the white wines lacked a certain oomph.  The reds, on the other hand, stood out.

The first red wine that I tried was the Chambourcin.  I have to admit that I have been enjoying Chambourcin more and more and this wine was no exception.  The wine was ripe with cherry flavor and dry.  It was aged in oak which provided a richness.

Next was the Cynthiana, more commonly called Norton.  This varietal is a native American grape.  The wine it produced tasted of black fruit and had a pleasant tannic finish.  It was finished in American Oak.  I will be looking for more Norton wines in the future.

The last wine that I tasted that day was the Michael’s Signature Red.  It was produced in honor of the winery owner’s Italian grandfather who taught him about wine making. This wine was softer with a smokiness.  It, like all of the wines that I tasted that day, were estate grown and bottled.

I was surprised to find that the Sugar Creek label did not list the Augusta appellation.  They just designated that they were from Defiance.  The winery is listed as an Augusta winery on the Missouri Wine Country website.  Never fear!  I managed to find AVA designated wine nearby!