Win(e)ding Trails: Continuing Adventures on the Connecticut Wine Trail

Sunset Meadow Vineyards
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Heading south on Route 63 from Canaan into Goshen, the Sunset Meadow Vineyards

are on your left. The Tasting Room is a 1-story building with a porch running the length of the front and a large patio area with outdoor seating on the side. Everything about Sunset Meadow is welcoming, from the seasonal decorations on the front porch
to the large open tasting room.

The tasting room itself is paneled in wood with a large bar running along the entire length of the back wall. Comfortable bar stools are spread out across the bar area, and there’s room to accommodate at least 12-15 tasters at a time. Behind the bar, wine racks line the walls, and off to your right French doors lead onto the patio area. A tasting is $6 and includes a Sunset Meadow Vineyards glass for you to take home. The staff is extremely pleasant and will stop and chat. When I stopped by last week, the Tasting Menu consisted of 5 wines:
Riesling – a nice Riesling; crisp with hints of apple. I’m generally not a big fan of Rieslings, and so passed quickly onto the Cayuga White.

Cayuga White – This is a crisp, fruity white that would be great with chicken or fish. I was quite impressed; the wine has a complexity that is interesting in the mouth. The tasting notes indicate grapefruit, melon and peach. I must admit I wasn’t able to discern any specific fruit, but the medley of flavors that balanced nicely, and in the end I find prefer wines that balance to those that have strong notes. The Cayuga was awarded a Bronze Medal in the 2008 International Eastern Wine Competition.

Merlot – I must admit I was less impressed with the Merlot than with the other wines. I’m finding that with respect to reds, Connecticut does better with blended wines. Perhaps it’s the climate, perhaps it’s the soil, but Connecticut Merlots don’t really stand up to the western coastal wines or even those of Long Island. The tasting notes indicate cherry and hints of black pepper and butter. I picked up more of the pepper and less of the cherry, and that could also have influenced my overall opinion of the wine.
Twisted Red – This wine is a blend of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger and Chambourcin and is aged in French Oak. It’s a full-bodied red, and on tasting my first thought was “Interesting, but probably needs to be aged a bit.” As it turns out, I was right. The tasting notes indicate that while it can be drunk immediately, it can also be saved for a few years. My impression is that if you leave it for a couple years before uncorking, you will a really rich, mellow red. I’ll let you know in a couple of years when I pour the bottle I bought after my tasting. This wine won a Bronze Medal at the 2008 Eastern States Wine Competition (the “BigE”), and was my favorite of all the wines featured in the tasting.

St. Croix – The tasting concluded with the St. Croix, a limited production, full-bodied red. This is an interesting wine: smooth, with a fruity bouquet, I detected notes of spices and pepper, and the wine grew more complex as I sipped. The tasting notes indicate the wine can age up to an additional 4 years, and I think this wine will definitely benefit from waiting a few years before uncorking.
I’ve been to the Sunset Meadow Vineyard Tasting Room twice now, and both times really enjoyed myself. It’s comfortable, with pleasant hosts and good wines. I’m looking forward to returning when the weather gets warmer, buying a couple bottles of wine and sitting on the patio with a few friends watching the sun set over the hills.

Note to Kevin & Gretchen – United has direct flights from O’Hare to Bradley every day!

How Local Do You Want Your Food?

(Editor’s note: This piece is being cross-blogged over at GastroNerds)

The current thinking in food and green living is eating locally. Locavores concentrate on eating foods that are grown within 100 miles of where you live. By doing this, we eliminate the possibilities of being effected by the kinds of food recalls that have been all too commonly lately. Why do you eliminate them? Well, all of our spinach wouldn’t come from ONE valley in California which might eliminate the chances of it ALL being contaminated by the same e-coli germs.

Another good point to this trend is that when your food is grown three hours away there is a higher chance of being at its peak freshness when it arrives at you table. Not to mention the decreased use of transportation and thus oil and gasoline. A substantial benefit when looking at the rising food costs in this country. So, yes! Eating locally is good for us all. But how close up do you want to see your food? We tested those ideas the other day when we ate locally here in the Hamptons.

Our Stops:

Mecox Bay Dairy: Ultimately we were not at the dairy at all but at the farmstand next to it. We purchased a piece of the cheddar which was a pale golden and the Mecox Sunrise, a gorgeous triple cream that seemed quite camembert-like. We drove next to the pasture and we looked at the cows, calves and heifers (Jersey’s known for producing a rich milk). They looked very peaceful within view of the million dollar homes.

Iacono Fresh Poultry: Off the beaten path in East Hampton, they have been selling fresh eggs and poultry for generations. And we were there for the poultry. As fresh as you can get it. What did we get? Two chickens about 7 lbs total that were presented to us in the old fashioned way. They were brought to us, carried by their feet with their heads still attached and their throats obviously cut. I have never been presented my chicken like this before. And I am sad to say that I failed to get my chooks on film before they were transformed.

After our approval, they were taken to the back and with a few swift cuts were transformed into the same kind of poultry that I have come to expect. I even went out back and looked over yard where the chickens, mostly Rhode Island Reds, geese and ducks are hanging out. When they see us coming, they come closer to the fence hoping that we will give them a treat. This means that they are not stressing about their approaching doom in the way that your most ardent 11 year old vegetarian would describe to you (and YES, I have been told about it). In fact, the only animals that appear to want to bolt are the two goats on the property. Figure that out if you will.

Wolffer Vineyards: A regular stop for us when we come out the Hamptons. Why? Well, we are in their wine club for one. We stopped here to pick up 2 Reserve Chardonnays, 2 Pinot Gris, 2 Roses and a Verjus. The nice thing for budding locavores to remember is that there is mostly likely wine being produced near you as well. Every state in the Union has at least one winery. And that includes Alaska and Hawaii. So it turns out that there is no excuse for not drinking locally too. The tasting room was nicely appointed so that you can buy a bottle and take it out to the patio that looks out over the vineyard and enjoy the wine right there. Unfortunately, we could not linger! We had cooking to do.

Our choice? Simpler the better was the decision. So we decided to roast the chickens on the grill. I made a rub of paprika, thyme, onion powder, salt and pepper and sprinkled some inside the rinsed out cavity of my two birds. Also inside went half a lemon. The remainder of the rub was massaged onto the skin of the bird with a bit of olive oil to help it crisp.

To accompany the chicken, I prepared a risotto. Using the local asparagus of the household and by that I mean canned which while revolting did mix right into the risotto and really underscored the flavor of the rice’s special ingredient, the Sunrise cheese. We cut off some of the rind, but the rest melted right into the mixture.

The chickens came of the grill. They were superb. Probably the best tasting birds that I have ever eaten. Juicy, crispy and flavorful all at the same time, it was delicious. With our meal we drank some of the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris which set off the tastes perfectly and more than stood up to the rich flavors. The risotto was perfect with the chicken. The cheese was slightly tangier than the normal mixture of cream and parmesan that I would have used. But it was richer and creamier as well. The asparagus? It was there. That is all that I can say about it. My in-laws have traditionally felt that having asparagus in the house all the time was a classy thing to do. But unfortunately, their reliance on canned tends to gross our generation out.

And speaking of generations, the younger crowd was not enthusiastic in their love of this local eating thing. Lillith refused to step out of the car at the chicken farm. And Imelda was a bit freaked out. This carried over to the cooking and eating of the chicken as well. Ultimately they could NOT resist tasting the chicken because the smell was too delicious. Lillith, herself, acknowledged this. But I have to admit that my attempt at a joking with her, suggesting that she join PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) went over like a lead balloon. I guess she just felt a little guilty enjoying food that was LITERALLY running around this morning. Que sera.

I did assure her that the chicken would be used as much as possible. And that like Kosher and Halal butchers, I thanked the birds for their sacrifice. This seemed to help her. And she knows that I will keep my word. The carcasses have been saved. I will make my father-in-law chicken soup from them before I go. Maybe I will even use my mother-in-laws pressure cooker to do so. Cross your fingers that I don’t blow up the kitchen with it.

A lovely "Marytage"

By Richard Takamoto
Mid-Atlantic Region Correspondent

First, let me say that finding a store in Maryland with fine wines, or one with a broad selection, has been a challenge of immeasurable proportions. Chicago has left me very spoiled. To make matters worse, Maryland is one of those states with archaic laws that do not allow residents to receive shipments of wine from out of state. Perhaps there are ways to get wines from out of state, but I have not heard how. I have found most wine and beer stores in Maryland are small, and many are not much bigger than those pre-fabricated shops you find at a gas station. Yes, it is depressing. Surprisingly, the better wine stores in Maryland are those run by the county itself. I have walked out of many wine stores in Maryland after opening the front door and becoming overwhelmed by the smell of old crabs. This is Maryland after all, and crabs are considered mandatory. I have discovered the county-run beer and wine stores stick to beer and wine, smell much better, and are more reasonably priced.

I was recently referred to a county-run wine store in Sliver Spring, simply known as, the “Montgomery County Liquor” store on International Drive. At this point, I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to follow-up on this referral. It is a small wine store with a limited selection (and did not reek of decaying crabs). I did note this store was the first I have found that offers more than a few types of beers. I was also happy to find there is a small section with Maryland wines. Since moving to Maryland, if I happen to find Maryland wines, I will try one every now and then. As you know, one of my favorite wines is “Trilogy” by Flora Springs winery in California, which I have not been able to find anywhere in this state. So, I was excited to find a meritage from a Maryland winery, Solomons Island. Since this is Maryland, it is appropriately labeled as a “Marytage.” This “Marytage” is blended and bottled by the Solomons Island winery in Lusby, Maryland, which is located in the southern part of the state near the Chesapeake Bay.

I opened the bottle and poured myself a glass to let it breathe. It was disconcerting when a white foam formed on the top of the poured wine, which can be seen in the attached photo. The first sip was difficult, but I find that is true for most wines. I brought out some cheese, took a bite, and then tried the wine again. The difference was remarkable. The wine tasted much lighter and drier. I found the wine dry (which I like) and the taste “quick” while eating something. Later, while drinking the wine alone, there was a longer aftertaste which was borderline sharp, but I believe typical for a red table wine such as this. It was not an unpleasant aftertaste. I finished the wine the next day and enjoyed it. The taste remained dry and quick, which (again) I like. I will buy this wine again (unless the FDA posts a warning about foaming wines from near the Chesapeake Bay).