Heritage Trail Vineyards ~ The Whites

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

Continued from Tuesday, November 10th.

To our surprise, the tastings weren’t presented according to the printed tasting menu, and we actually began with the two sweeter whites before moving on to to the lighter, drier whites.  It was an interesting choice, explained to some degree, by our server’s announcing that the first two she was pouring for us were her favorites among the Heritage Trail wines.  Unfortunately, they weren’t ours.  The first selection was the

Winthrop White.  100% Cayuga estate grapes, the tasting notes indicate that this is Heritage Trail’s “Estate Boutique label.”   It’s a sweeter wine, almost too sweet, but is completely overpowered by the nose which is very earthy and bordering on unpleasant.  As this was our first wine of the tasting, both Christy and I thought the odors were from the glass – as if it had been washed in extremely hard water.  But after surreptitiously sniffing our water glasses, we realized it was the wine.  The nose has a strong, pungent, mustiness which Christy said reminded her of the smell of a manure.  Interestingly, you don’t taste the earthiness; the wine itself is light and sweet.  With a softer – or fruitier – nose, the wine would have been quite pleasant, but we just couldn’t get past the nose.

We quickly moved on to the

Sweet Reserve A blend of 70% Cayuga and 30% Seyval grapes, this, as the name implies, is another sweet wine.  The tasting notes indicate this is a semi-sweet wine, but it more closely resembles a sweet dessert wine.  In the mouth, there are lovely notes of citrus and apricot, although there is a strong citrus/acid bite at the end which was a bit startling.  But as with the Winthrop White, what we tasted was overshadowed by what we smelled: another strong, musty, earthy nose.  Not as pungent as the Winthrop White, we still found the nose unpleasant and had a hard time getting past it to enjoy the wine.

We were thinking about saying something to our server when she returned, particularly given that she had been so enthusiastic about these wines when she poured them.  Perhaps we had gotten tastings from a couple of  bad bottles?  But then we overheard a different server saying to the people next to us who had openly commented on the smell, “oh yes, we get that a lot; people often say they find the nose to be very strong…”  and we realized, no we didn’t get a bad bottle.  But it did make me wonder why they didn’t mention the nose upfront and perhaps explain what it is we were smelling and why…

Heritage Trail Vineyards Cafe, Lisbon, CT / Photo: Marguerite BarrettChristy suggested it might be the grapes – both were predominantely Cayuga.  Maybe the nose was a hallmark of the grapes?  But we’ve both had a number of Cayuga wines at other wineries, and didn’t have this reaction to the nose.  We then started to worry that perhaps this was a hallmark of all the Heritage Trail wines.   Luckily the next wine was much more to our liking…

Quinebaug White Another Cayuga blend, this time with Vidal, the Quinebaug is a light-bodied white wine, drier wine with a touch of sweetness.  The nose is pleasantly earthy, with grassy notes.  In the mouth, the wine has subtle notes of citrus and pear with a crisp finish.    We both liked this wine, although in all honesty, some of what we liked was that it didn’t have the nose of the first two wines.  Finally, we finished up the whites with the

Chardonnay This is an unoaked Chardonnay with a soft, fruity nose with notes of grapefruit.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth with lovely notes of grapefruit and a nice balance of acid at the finish.  Very nice Chardonnay, particularly for those who prefer their Chardonnays without oak.

With the whites behind us, we rinsed our glasses and awaited the Reds…

Continued on Tuesday, November 17th.

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).

Sakonnet Vineyards ~ The Whites

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Thursday, October 22nd

Coastline, Newport County.  Photo Courtesy of Christy Sherard

Coastline, Newport County. Photo Courtesy of Christy Sherard

Sakonnet Vineyards falls within the Southeastern New England AVA which starts just south of Boston and runs along the coasts of southeastern Massachusetts, through Rhode Island and into southeastern and central Connecticut.  The region’s climate is similar to some of the cooler wine regions around the world, most notably the Loire Valley in France, and for Rhode Island winemakers in particular, the presence of the Atlantic Ocean coupled with the warmer waters of the Narrangasset Bay provide an ideal micro-climate for grape production.

Sakonnet produces eight whites from predominately Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer grapes. The tasting menu includes all available Sakonnet wines (white, red, and dessert), and you get your choice of up to six.  Having become old hands at this, it took no time at all for Christy and me to build our joint tasting menu, beginning with the

Vidal Blanc 2008 This was my favorite of the Sakonnet whites.  Made from 100% Vidal Blanc grapes aged in stainless steel with no oak, the wine has that lovely “vidal” nose – bright and fruity, with lovely notes of grapefruit.  The wine is smooth, crisp and very refreshing, with notes of grapefruit and a slight sweetness that balances out the grapefruity tartness.  Our host suggested that in addition to pairing with foods, particularly seafood, this is a great wine for use in cooking and recommended using it when cooking scallops.   I don’t eat scallops, but I could definitely see using it in a wine sauce to accompany grilled salmon.

Cock of the Walk White A blend of Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, the tasting notes indicated “apple, melon and ATTITUDE.”  Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling the “attitude.”  Maybe it was the bottle we had, but I found the wine to be very light with no really strong discernible notes.  The nose was pleasant but light, and in the mouth the green apple notes were very subtle.  This is a low oak wine with a very light smokiness.  Christy also found it a bit anemic, and we both agreed the Vidal Blanc had more character and depth.

Photo Courtesy of Christy Sherard

Photo Courtesy of Christy Sherard

Fume Vidal Reserve 2007 Another very nice wine made again with Vidal Blanc grapes, Sakonnet’s “signature grape.”  Aged in small American and French oak barrels, the Fume Vidal is a drier and more aggressive wine than the Vidal Blanc.  The grapefruit notes in both the nose and the mouth are stronger, and the oak brings out sharper, richer fruit notes with a light toasty finish.  If forced to choose, my preference would be the Vidal Blanc 2008 for it’s crispness, but the Fume Vidal is an interesting wine, and definitely made my list of wines to watch for.

Reserve Chardonnay 2007 A pleasant wine, but overall not as interesting and distinctive as the two Vidals.  Barrel fermented and sur lie aged for one year in French Oak, the Reserve Chardonnay has lovely notes of both fruit and floral in the nose and soft notes of melon in the mouth.  The oak provides a light buttery smoothness and subtle notes of honey.  There’s a nice balance of acid to round out the wine and give it depth and interest.

Comparing notes as we rinsed our glasses in preparation for the first of the reds, both Christy and I agreed that the Vidals were definitely the stars among the whites.

The tasting continues Thursday, October 29th with the Sakonnet Reds & Dessert wines.

Sakonnet Vineyards is located in Little Compton, RI
See our 10.22.09 post for information on the winery including tasting room hours, winery tours, and contact information.

Alba Winery ~ The Whites

Alba Vineyards - Tasting Room Entrance / Photo: Marguerite BarrettMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

A tasting at Alba includes your choice of six or seven of the 18 wines available for tasting: five whites, one blush, three reds, and six dessert wines produced under the Alba Vineyard label, and three reds produced under the Chelsea Cellars label.  Despite the fact that the Chelsea Cellars grapes are picked whole and shipped to New Jersey for pressing, aging and bottling, New Jersey law prohibits the winery from labeling them as Alba Vineyards wines as none of the grapes are grown locally.

I always find it challenging when forced to “choose my own” tasting menu.  On the one hand, and particularly if it’s my first visit to the winery, I want to select a range of wines that showcase the range and depth of the winery’s cellars and the winemaker’s art.  On the other, there are types of wines (blush, semi-sweet) and varietals (pinot grigio, riesling) that are not among my favorites, and I’ll tend to avoid them.   Always gravitating towards those tried and true varietals that I tend to drink more often (cabernet franc, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc) presents the opportunity to specialize at it were – comparing similar wines from winery to winery – but runs the risk of never discovering something new or sampling a local gem.

There’s always the fallback of simply asking the winery staff to select wines for you, but that does take some of the fun out of the experience.

As I’ve come across more and more wineries that allow you to create your own tasting menu, I’ve developed a few simple rules that have stood me in good stead: First, balance the tasting between whites, reds and dessert wines (if the winery produces dessert wines), allowing yourself the chance to sample the winery’s range.

Second, look for pairings or contrasts.  Often wineries will produce different “versions” of the same or similar wines, an oaked and an unoaked Chardonnay, for example, or an estate or reserve version of a wine.  Tasting these back-to-back will often prove to be one of the highlights of a winery visit.

Third, look for things that are different, particularly if they are unique to the area or region.  Part of the fun of winery visits and tastings is the chance to try something you’ve never or rarely had, and that you’d be unlikely to try if you had to purchase an entire bottle.

Fourth – CHEAT.  If you’re with friends or in a group, coordinate your tasting selections and pass glasses; the wineries certainly don’t mind, and you get to taste a bigger selection!

Alba Vineyards 2So keeping all that in mind, particularly rule #4, Maree and I made our selections.  We both opted to start the tasting with Alba’s most popular wine…

Mainsail White The Mainsail is described by the winery staff as being “like an everyday Pinot Grigio” in style.  The wine is actually a blend of Cayuga (very popular grape here in the Northeast) and Vidal Blanc with a bit of Riesling thrown in for  the “aroma.”  The lighting in the tasting room is soft and yellow-ish, so it was tough to get an accurate “read” on the color, but in the glass the color appeared pale yellow.  The nose was bright with distinct notes of melon and grapefruit.  In the mouth the wine is light-bodied, with definite grapefruit flavors and a nice balance of acid, particularly on the finish.   This is an easily drinkable wine, and I can see why it is so popular.

In addition to the Mainsail White, Alba has two white “pairs,” a more traditional Riesling and a Dry Riesling, and a Chardonnay and Estate Barrel Reserve Chardonnay.  Maree opted for the traditional Riesling but took a pass on the Dry Riesling, and in keeping with rule #2, I decided in favor of the Chardonnay/Estate Barrel Reserve Chardonnay pair.

2005 Riesling While definitely sweeter than the other whites, the Riesling is still tending towards a drier wine.  The nose is sunny, with strong notes of fruit, particularly melon.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth and velvety with distinct notes of melon.  Maree also noted honey, although I must admit I didn’t pick that out myself.  A nice wine and one that Riesling fans would definitely enjoy.

2005 Chardonnay The Chardonnay is initially oaked in a combination of French and American barrels and then moved to stainless steel for finishing.  The result is a light-bodied wine which has a very light nose with notes of green apple and grass.  In the mouth, the wine is clean, with crisp notes of apple and just a hint of citrus.  The oak is subtle, providing a touch of vanilla that smooths out the wine for a satisfying finish.

2004 Estate Barrel Reserve Chardonnay In contrast to the Chardonnay, the Estate Barrel Reserve is aged completely in oak and subjected to Sur Lies aging by stirring the wine during fermentation to increase contact with the yeast.   The Estate Barrel Reserve is, as a result, very different from the Chardonnay.  The nose has an earthy smokiness and in the mouth, the wine while smooth and lush, is also very smoky with strong notes of burnt toast.  It’s an interesting contrast with the Chardonnay, but I found the oak to be too overpowering for this to be a really compelling wine.