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 tastings… There 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.