Holmberg Orchards Winery ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

Holmberg Orchards Winery Wine Barn

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

As I’m closing in on my goal of visiting, at least once, every winery in Connecticut, I stopped recently at Holmberg Orchards in Gales Ferry to sample their fruit wines and ciders.

A fourth-generation family-owned working farm, Holmberg Orchards has been around since 1896, first as a vegetable farm, and then in the latter half of the 20th century moving to Orchards and fruit.   The winery opened in 2007 producing fruit wines and ciders.  The winery has done so well that the family planted their first grape vines in 2010 to expand their wine menu and harvested their first crop of Pinot Blanc in 2011.

In addition to the winery, Holmberg Orchards has pick-you-own fruit orchards, a bakery and a small retail shop that sits directly on the main road at the foot of a small hill leading back to the wine barn, a small small wooden cabin-like structure that sits at the front of the orchards.

The interior of the barn is cool and uncluttered – the space is dominated by a U-shaped tasting bar which occupies the middle of the room.    There’s space around the edges of the room for people to move around each other, but not much space for mingling – on busy days, I imagine the overfill simply forms a line out the door.   While there are no tables and chairs set up inside the wine barn, there’s a deck off to one side of the structure and plenty of open space on the lawns for those who want to bring a picnic lunch, grab a bottle of wine or cider, and spend a relaxing afternoon in the shade of the Orchards.

And if you didn’t bring a picnic lunch, a short drive or walk back down the gravel-lined lane brings you back to the farm store which has a great selection of vegetables, sandwiches, and other foodstuffs, much of it made or grown locally either by Holmberg Orchards or local farmers.    While I didn’t stay for the entire afternoon, I did stop at the farm store, picking up some fresh locally-grown sweet corn and a freshly made tomato-spinach-feta quiche which was melt-in-your-mouth good ~ one of the best quiches I’ve ever had in my life.

The winery is open from May 1st through the first weekend in November, Saturdays and Sundays 12-5.    Tastings are $6 and include the entire wine menu: four wines and three ciders served in a souvenir wine glass.   Gales Ferry is only minutes away from the two casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, and close to the Mystic/Stonington area and the wineries in the southeast corner of the state.

Holmberg Orchards Winery
12 Orchards Lane
Gales Ferry, CT

The Wines of Rosedale Farms & Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

It was pretty much the end of the season by the time Jean, Katie and I made our way over to Rosedale (although Katie, who lives down the street is something of a regular, I understand), and Rosedale’s Serendipity and Summer Blush were already sold out, which left us with four wines, two whites and two reds and a bonus wine, a new Sauvignon Blanc that the winemakers had been testing all summer.

The Tasting Bar is at the back of the farmstand, a two-sided bar that could hold perhaps 10-12 people comfortably.  The walls are decorated with posters of both current wine labels and labels of wines that have been retired, providing both art and a sense of history and continuity.  Being so late in the season it was fairly quiet that day, and we were able to find spots and begin our tasting right away.  We kicked off with the

Simsbury White, an estate-grown Seyval Blanc.  The nose was soft and floral with citrus blossom notes.  The mouthfeel was also soft, and in the mouth the wine is dry with light citrus notes and subtle notes of acid on the finish.  The predominant note was grapefruit, although it was light and somewhat delicate, and I appreciated the subtleness of the acid – anything stronger could have brought out the bitterness of the grapefruit.  As it was the wine has a light sweet/tart bite that was rather interesting.

Three Sisters.  Next up was Rosedale’s Three Sisters, named for the owner’s three daughters.  This is an estate-grown Cayuga and is described in the tasting notes as “a classic summer wine.”  The nose is brighter than the Simsbury White and has some spiciness to it.  In the mouth, the wine is bright and tangy with much stronger notes of grapefruit and a nicely balanced finish.  A very nice wine, and yes, a classic summer wine, but this will pair well with a wide variety of foods and should carry through nicely all year round.  I could see this working well with casseroles and heartier fall soups.

From the two whites, we moved on to the two reds; first up…

Lou’s Red, named for the late owner of Rosedale Farms; the current owners are his children and grandchildren.  Lou’s Red is a blend of four grapes: 20% Marechal Foch and 20% St. Croix, both estate-grown, and 10% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot, both brought in from California.   In previous years, the wine was a blend of just three grapes, Marechal Foch, St. Crois and Merlot; the winemaker added the Sangiovese last year and found it  really helped round out the wine.   I really liked the nose on this wine, finding it spicy with warm notes of cumin and pepper.  Undoubtedly the influence of the California grapes, as Northeastern grown reds tends to produce fruity rather than spicy noses.

The wine was lighter-bodied than I had anticipated, but I wasn’t disappointed.  Soft and spicy with notes of dark stones fruits, plum in particular, and pepper, this is a really nice table wine.  There are notes of leather on the finish giving it a somewhat soft finish that really balances the fruit and spice.  This would pair well with heartier pasta dishes as well as lamb or veal.

Farmington River Red.  The second of the reds is an ever-changing wine; each year the winemaker selects different grapes.  For 2010 the Farmington River Red is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from California grapes.  The 2011 vintage will be a Shiraz.  Also in 2011, Rosedale Farms is considering adding a Pinot Noir from Chilean grapes to their wine list.  But that’s next year.

This year, the Farmington River Red is a medium-bodied very pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon  The nose is lightly fruity with notes of pepper.  In the mouth the fruitiness continues with notes of blackberry and a smoky finish with a hint of peppery heat.  Another very nice table wine, very drinkable with a wide variety of dishes.

The tasting finished with a bonus wine, a Kiwi/Pear Sauvignon Blanc that the winemakers had been taste-testing with visitors all summer long.  The nose is soft and fruity with very strong notes of pear.  In the mouth the wine is sweet, falling somewhere between a sweet table wine and a dessert wine.  The mouth feel is soft, light and very smooth.  The lightness is actually quite refreshing, and this wine would be great as an aperitif or with a light fruit and cheese tray.  It would be heavenly with some of the softer cheeses such as brie or goat cheese, and might work paired with a blue.  It would also pair well with lighter desserts such as fruit tarts or ice cream and berries.   An interesting wine and one I hope the winemakers have on their wine list next year.

With the wine tasting concluded, Jean, Katie and I wandered through the farmstand and then headed over to a local restaurant to relax and chat over a glass of wine and a late lunch.  Little did I know at the time that that afternoon was my last win(e)ding roads adventure for 2010.  I had every intention of heading down to southeastern Connecticut to check out one of the last two remaining Connecticut wineries on my list before they closed for the season – but didn’t make it.  And planned to head back over to the Shawangunk Wine Trail to visit a few more wineries on that list – yeah, didn’t make that either.  Looking back, I can’t figure out what I was doing all those weekends, but as I get ready for 2011, one of my resolutions is to do a better job of hitting the trail this year.

The Wines of Saltwater Farm

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

There were probably a good 20-30 people already there when I arrived, hence the lack of available parking.  The wine bar was full with roughly 15 people across, and there were several groups ranged around the wine barrels serving as bar tables scattered throughout the loft area.  Rather than fight my way to the bar, I wandered out onto the deck and enjoyed the views and wait for a space to clear at the bar.   As Saltwater only produces five wines, the wait was less than ten minutes.

Saltwater Farm sits on farmland that dates back to 1653 when Walter Palmer, originally a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, established a 230-acre farm in what is now southeast Connecticut.  Portions of the original farm, including the land encompassing the vineyards, continued to be farmed into the 20th century, until the 1930s when a small airport was opened on the site.  By the early 1950s the airport had closed and the land sat unused until it was purchased in 2001 by Michael Connery, a former partner in Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.  Connery restored the airport hangar turning it into the winery and tasting room, and planted 6 varieties of grape, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, on 15 of the farm’s 108 acres.  The winery produces about 20,000 bottles or 1,600 cases a year  split between Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

On the afternoon of my visit, there were five wines available on the tasting menu:

Sauvignon Blanc This is a light, crisp, fruity wine, perfect for a warm summer evening or paired with salads or light pasta dishes.  Straw-colored with a lightly fruit, citrusy nose, the wine is very smooth in the mouth with a nice bit of acid on the finish.  Fruity, but not sweet, the predominant notes are citrus, a hint of grapefruit and lemon, but nothing overpowering.

2006 Chardonnay The tasting menu featured back-to-back tastings of both the 2006 and the 2007 Chardonnay.  The 2006 is a nice wine, more floral than fruity.   Also straw colored, although a bit deeper in color than the Sauvignon Blanc, the nose on the Chardonnay is bright and clean, with floral notes that evoked Spring.  In the mouth, the wine has notes of grass and green pepper.  The descriptor I kept coming back to as I sipped the wine was “clean.”  The earthy notes of grass and green pepper are light and bordering on the floral rather than on the stronger dusky earthiness one sometimes finds.  Also, if the wine is oaked, a question that for some reason either wasn’t answered or I didn’t jot down in my notes, the oak is extremely faint.  The finish is very smooth, with very low acid.

2007 Chardonnay Of the two Chardonnays, my preference was very definitely the 2007.  Similar in color to the 2006, the nose is brighter, earthier, and more interesting.  In the mouth, rather than the grassy, green pepper notes of the 2006, the wine is more citrusy, with bright notes of lemon, and a soft, subtle tartness of grapefruit.  The citrus is not overpowering, and there is still an element of the grass I found in the 2006.   Also “clean” with no, or very low oaking, the 2007 also has a bit more body, which I found I preferred.

Cabernet Franc 100% Cabernet Franc grapes, this is a very nice member of the Connecticut Cabernet Franc family, and my favorite wine of that visit.  A medium garnet color with a lovely, rich, jammy nose, the wine is smooth and earthy.  Despite the jamminess of the nose, the predominant notes on the palate are earthy, although I found myself struggling to identify particular notes.   Underneath the earthiness, however, are very subtle notes of soft dark berries, the presence of which gives the wine depth and richness.   The wine is medium-bodied and while it never really opens in the mouth, it does layer with each subsequent sip and should become a rather interesting wine if one takes the opportunity to drink more than the standard 1oz tasting.  This would pair well with lamb and veal.

Merlot The tasting concluded with the Merlot.  I’ve never been won over by any Northeast Merlot I’ve found.  Even when the vintner is bringing in grapes from California or Oregon, I find the Merlots to be “thinner” and less complex than their Western US or European counterparts.  Saltwater Farm’s Merlot is pretty good for a Northeastern Merlot, but it didn’t win me over either.  A medium purple color with another “jammy” nose, the wine is both earthy and fruity.  The earthiness comes through in an almost dusty way, tempered by notes of black cherry that linger on the roof of the mouth.  Medium-bodied with nice tannins, the wine feels a little sharp, or young, in the mouth.  I suspect some of that will soften with age, and perhaps with extended breathing, but even with that, my preference remains the Cabernet Franc, a much more interesting wine overall.

That concluded the tasting for the afternoon.  I spent a few minutes enjoying the peace of the Zen garden before calling it a day and heading home.

Saltwater Farm Vineyard ~ Stonington, Connecticut

The winery is a restored WWII-vintage airplane hangar

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I left Langworthy Farm Winery around 12:30 and decided to stop for lunch in Westerly before heading back across the border to Stonington and Saltwater Farm Vineyard.  In hindsight that probably wasn’t the best decision.  I made the mistake of sitting in the sun on the deck at Langworthy, and while not a really hot day, the sun was stronger than I had counted on.  Combine that with a not-so-great sandwich for lunch and the end result is I was feeling a bit off by the time I headed into Stonington.

Stonington is as far southeast as you can get in Connecticut, sitting pretty much right on the border of Rhode Island.  There are 6 Connecticut wineries all within 20 minutes of Stonington, and as I mentioned last week, Westerley and Langworthy Farms is just 10-15 minutes down the road.  Last summer I made it to what I thought were all the wineries in the area, including the newest winery, Dalice Elizabeth, but somehow had missed Saltwater Farms.  For those looking for a great day-long itinerary, you can’t beat this area.  You can easily stop at between 3 and 5 wineries in a single afternoon depending on how early you start and how long you stay at each winery, and finish the day with dinner in either Mystic or Stonington.

But this is about my itinerary that day, which originally was designed to start at Langworthy Farm and then pick up Saltwater Farm Vineyard and then Holmberg Orchards on my way back to central Connecticut.  Unfortunately, by the time I left Saltwater, I was really feeling off, and so left Holmberg Orchards for another day.

The best advice I can given anyone heading out to Saltwater Farms is believe your directions (or your GPS).  When the directions say “take a sharp right onto Elm Street, and you will arrive at your destination,” they aren’t kidding.   The entrance is immediately, and I mean immediately, on your left after you make that turn.  It doesn’t help that the winery’s sign is set back from the road among trees and brush and faces away from the direction most people will be coming.  Needless to say I drove right past it, and even when I turned around and drove slowly back, almost missed it again.

Once you find the entrance, you’ll proceed down a narrow, gravel lane about 1/3 of a mile.  As you travel down the road, the area opens up into a large open area of farmland replete with grapevines and a long rectangular aluminum structure dominating the vista.  Park in front, and if there are no open spots, don’t make the mistake I did and drive around back.  Despite the signage and landscaping which makes it seem like there might be parking available in the back, the back is reserved for winery and catering equipment.  As soon as I pulled into the back area, someone came out and told me to move my car and go back and park up front.    I’m still not sure where they put their overflow parking, but I did luck out and didn’t have to wait too long for someone to leave so I could take their spot.  That being said, there is quite a bit of parking, and if you are visiting early in the day or on a weekday, you shouldn’t have any problems parking.  I, however, arrived about 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon.  I was also starting to feel the effects of too much sun and lunch, and so wasn’t in the best of humors when the guy told me to turn around and go back to the front.

My general irritation was quickly eased by the the zen garden Saltwater has set up immediately outside the winery’s main entrance.  It’s lovely, and completely unexpected.  But it’s also a perfect counterpoint to the very spare, industrial look of the winery itself.  The building is really intriguing – aluminum, rather than wood or wood-clad as is typical of New England barns, with a low curved room, rather than the normal pointed roofs, and much larger than a typical barn. I found myself wondering if Saltwater Farms owners had built it expressly for the winery, as I just couldn’t imagine anyone would build a barn this way.  It wasn’t until I was well into my tasting that I learned originally it was an airplane hangar.  Taking a look again as I was leaving, and looking at the pictures I took that afternoon, I can’t imagine how I didn’t see it when I first drove up, or at the very least why I struggled so hard to figure out what kind of a barn it might have been.  Personally, I’m putting it down to the effects of the sun and just going with “I was off my game” that afternoon.

A few benches line the perimeter of the garden, giving visitors a place to rela

Inside the space is airy and has a loft-like feel.   The interior is pretty much all wood and very modern in design.  The dark wood provides a cozy, yet cool feel, and as most of the space has been left open with little ornamentation or clutter, the result is a serene, almost meditative space.  Wine racks flank either side of the entrance way displaying Saltwater Farm’s wines, and a rectangular bar housing gifts and t-shirts, sits just underneath the stairs.  The stairs are a perfect example of the overall aesthetic of the space – made of the same dark wood that lines the walls and is used in the wine racks and the bars, they are designed as open and floating, curving around and up, leading to the upper deck which houses the Tasting Room.   Throughout the space, the wood provides a rustic feeling while the clean lines and open airy  floorplans give the space a modern, almost Zen feel.  And suddenly the garden seems much less anachronistic.

The Tasting Room loft area is laid out very nicely.  A long bar made of wood sits at one end of the space facing a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.  Wine barrels are used as tables throughout the room, and doors lead out onto an outside deck which is a seamless extension of the inside space.  The views from the deck, and the windows, is gorgeous, overlooking a large flat expanse full of rows upon rows of grapevines.  As the day was not too hot, many people had taken their wine out to the deck to enjoy the views and the breeze, however inside was still hopping, and I had a 5-10 minute wait before a space at the bar opened up.

Despite the level of activity that afternoon, the staff behind the bar was more than willing to stop briefly from time-to-time to give all of us a bit of the history of the winery.   Beginning with the building itself which, it turns out, is not a renovated barn at all but a WWII-vintage airplane hangar.  The vineyards, which encompass about 15 acres, are planted on the original air strip – explaining the almost perfect flat-ness of the space, something which, when I first saw it, felt more Midwestern than New England to me.   As you stand on the outside terrace overlooking the vineyards, you can see faint echoes of the original airstrip running left to right parallel to the building.  The building has been beautifully restored and the original wood trusses and features have not only been preserved, but were obviously used as inspiration for the overall interior.  The result is one of the most striking wineries I’ve visited to date, whether here in Connecticut or elsewhere.

Saltwater Farms has been operating as a winery only for a few years.  All of their wines are estate-grown, and they produce about 20,000 bottles a year.  They currently produce five wines: 3 whites and 2 reds, and all five are included on the tasting menu.  In addition to wine tastings, the winery also hosts events, including “Sunday Music in the Tasting Room” featuring live music from 3:00 – 5:00 on most Sundays in July and August.

The winery is also available for private events, and they’ve adjusted their Tasting Room hours to accomodate that, closing at 3:00 on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer.

Saltwater Farm Vineyard
349 Elm Street
Stonington, CT 06378
Open April – December: Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday 11:00 – 5:00; Friday & Saturday 11:00 – 3:00.
Times may vary depending on holidays or private events, so check the website or call ahead to confirm tasting room hours.

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.

Taylor Brooke Winery ~ The Whites

Winery Co-Owner, Linda Augur in the Tasting Room

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

One of the great things about writing for Vino Verve, other than hitting the road and exploring new wineries, is that I find I’m inspiring others to do the same.  Often it starts with friends joining me on the wine trail and enjoying it so much that they then take others.  Less often, I’ll hear from someone who read one of the posts and said, “you know, I thought I’d give it a try.”  One of my SOTS (Sisters of the Connecticut Wine Trail) buddies, Jean Levesque, dragged her husband out on Memorial Day weekend as well, spending the afternoon at Sharpe Hill.  Tom, her husband, enjoyed himself so much that Jean should have no trouble dragging him out again – in between SOTS excursions, of course.

Taylor Brooke was first discovered by another wine trail buddy, Christy Mangle (formerly Christy Sherard), who with her husband, Jeff, headed over there late last Fall. Their reviews were so glowing that I immediately moved Taylor Brooke to the top of the list of remaining wineries.  Unfortunately, by the time I was able to get there (New Year’s weekend), they were closing down for the season and were really open only for wine sales.  Upon hearing that I had driven over from Hartford, in the snow no less, Linda Augur kindly offered to pour an abbreviated tasting menu for me that afternoon, and I promised to come back for the full experience once they opened again in the Spring.

Which is where I found myself on that beautiful Sunday afternoon over Memorial Day weekend.   Taylor Brooke produces 10 table and dessert wines and five seasonal wines.    The table wines include 4 whites, including one of their fruit-infused Rieslings; 3 reds, and 3 dessert wines.  Guests are invited to taste two wines on the house, and then can select either another six wines (for a total of 8 ) for $4 or the entire menu, including any of the available seasonal wines, for $6.  A logo glass may be purchased for an additional $3.  Never one to pass up an opportunity to sample new wines, I immediately opted for the full tasting menu for $6.

Woodstock Hill White The tasting kicks off with a lovely blend of estate grown Vignoles and Riesling and Connecticut-grown Cayuga White.  Although the Augurs have recently planted Cayuga White themselves, it will be another few years before those grapes are ready for production.  In the meantime, they partner with a nearby vineyard to obtain their Cayuga White grapes.  A pale straw color, the wine has a delicate floral nose with notes of orange blossom.  In the mouth, the wine is crisp but delicate, lightly sweet with floral notes, and just a touch of acid on the finish to provide balance.    This would pair nicely with seafood and summer pasta dishes.

Riesling Next up was the Riesling.  One of Taylor Brooke’s specialties is their Rieslings, producing a number that are infused with fruit essences.  This is a dry Riesling, and one of my favorites among the Taylor Brooke whites, second only to the Green Apple Riesling.  The color is a very light yellow. The nose is light and delicate with notes of grass, in particular that light, fresh early spring grassy smell when the grass is really starting to come up again after the winter.  In the mouth, the wine is soft and smooth with light notes of grass and maybe green pepper.  There’s a slight buttery finish, nothing overwhelming just enough to provide a touch of sweetness and a soft lingering finish.  Overall a very nice wine, and a nice change from the fruitier wines found elsewhere throughout Connecticut.

Traminette Taylor Brooke led by owner and winemaker Richard Augur were among the first to grow Traminette in Connecticut.  The grape is a hybrid of Gewurztraminer and Seyval Blanc, created by Cornell University in 1996.  While it has many of the characteristics of a Gewurztraminer, the Traminette is particularly suited for the shorter growing seasons and colder climates of the northeast and upper Midwest, and you’ll find Traminette grown in New York, Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, as well as New England.   Taylor Brooke’s Traminette is 100% estate grown.  A pale straw color, with a lovely, slightly earthy nose, the wine is very similar to a Gewurztraminer.  Sweeter than the previous two wines, with floral notes on the palate as well as light touches of peach and honey.  The peach notes really come through at the end and the wine finishes beautifully.  This would pair well with spicier, but not overly heavy food: Thai, for example, or even sushi.

Green Apple Riesling My favorite of the Taylor Brooke whites, this is one of their fruit-infused Rieslings.   Not a blend, the fruit-infused Rieslings are the result of incorporating natural fruit essence (similar in concept to vanilla extract) into 100% Riesling.  The results are very impressive producing wines with deeper, more distinctive fruit notes without creating overly sweet fruit wines.   The notes of Green Apple are distinct in the nose, but gentle – I expected the green apple to be much stronger than it actually was.  The earthy, slightly grassy notes of the Riesling were still present and blended beautifully with the slightly floral tart smell of green apple blossoms.  In the mouth, the wine has many of the hallmarks of the Riesling, drier with lightly grassy notes.  As with the nose, the green apple is distinct but not overwhelming, providing both a light sweetness and a crisp tartness reminiscent of that first bite into a crisp green apple.  The mouth feel is soft and silky and the wine has just enough acid on the finish to provide a nice balance and contrast.  Overall, a very nice wine.

Summer Peach The whites concluded with the first of Taylor Brooke’s seasonal wines, the Summer Peach.  Available May 1st each year, the Summer Peach is one of their more popular wines.  Like all the Rieslings, the color is a pale straw.  The nose is stronger than either the Riesling or the Green Apple Riesling, with very distinct notes of peach.  In the mouth the peach notes are strong, but not too sweet.  Like the Green Apple Riesling, the mouth feel is soft and silky, with a satisfying finish.  The acid provides a very slightly bitter finish which I found to be a bit off-putting; it’s almost as if the strength of the peach notes were leading me to expect more of a dessert wine with a smoother, richer finish.   Still, overall a very nice wine and one that will pair well with a wide variety of late spring/summer dishes, particularly grilled food, seafood and summer pastas.

As that finished the whites, I took a short break, rinsed my glass and prepared for the Reds…

Taylor Brooke Winery ~ Woodstock, Connecticut

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

For those of you following in my footsteps, or more accurately my tire treads, the best advice I can give you is to turn off the GPS when you start heading north.  The GPS directions will inevitably lead you to I-395 as the fastest route to the northeast corner of the state.  And while a lovely tree-lined drive that will save you approximately 12 minutes of travel time, as with all interstates you’ll bypass the most interesting parts of the journey.  Instead, head north on Route 169, one of the first designated National Scenic Byways in the United States.

32 miles long, running from Lisbon, Connecticut (just north of Maugle Sierra) to Woodstock, Route 169 dates back to the early 19th century, when it was established as the Norwich/Woodstock turnpike.  The whole area is teeming with history.  One of the things I love best is the historic architecture – there are almost 200 pre-1855 houses throughout the area, many of them colonial/early Republic farmhouses set behind stone fences.  Historic churches stand at the center of the various small towns you’ll pass through, and many of the towns have historic homes-cum-museums open to the public.   Even without stopping, it’s a gorgeous drive that rivals those of the Litchfield Hills on the western side of the state.

So, after a very pleasant hour at Maugle Sierra, I headed north to Woodstock and Taylor Brooke Winery, passing Heritage Trail in Lisbon, Connecticut which I’ve already visited twice and therefore decided to skip that afternoon.  For those newer to this part of the wine trail, Heritage Trail is a great mid-point stop along Route 169.  In addition to the winery they have a small restaurant serving both lunch and dinner and featuring dishes made from local produce and cheeses.  A perfect day’s itinerary could include kicking off the day at Maugle Sierra, a stop at Heritage Trail for wine and lunch, a mid-afternoon stop at Taylor Brooke and then wine and dinner at Sharpe Hill.  I’m trying to talk Kevin and Gretchen into leaving the kids in Sag Harbor with Kevin’s father later this summer and come to Connecticut for a long weekend.  If it works out, this will definitely be one of our itineraries.

Owner and Winemaker, Richard Augur

I arrived at Taylor Brooke just after 1:00 that afternoon.  The winery sits atop a small but steep hill overlooking the main road, and a very sharply curved driveway leads you up the incline.  The drive only accommodates one car at a time, so check carefully before starting up – or down.  Backing up on that drive is not for the faint of heart.

Once you reach the top though, it’s all worth it.  The tasting room, a one-and-a-half-story gray-clapboard building awaits you at the top of the drive.  Outside, the building is reminiscent of a small country store or cottage; inside, the space is open and inviting, and the staff welcome you in warmly.  The main room is a long rectangular space, probably a good 25-30 feet end-to-end, and the tasting bar runs along much of the back wall.  Shelves with t-shirts, coaster, wine corks, and other gift items as well as local area brochures line the walls opposite the bar.  The rest of the space is left open, and as a result, even when busy, the room doesn’t feel claustrophobic.  An archway on the right leads to a smaller room with bar height tables and chairs for those who may want to relax and linger.

Taylor Brooke is owned by Richard and Linda Auger, who have been making wines for about 15 years.  They have 2.5 acres under cultivation, growing Vignoles, Riesling, Cayuga White, Corot Noir, Traminette, and St. Croix.  The Cayuga White is new this year, replacing St. Pepin, as is the Corot Noir, which is replacing their underperforming Cabernet Franc vines.  While it will be another 2-3 years before the Cayuga and Corot Noir grapes are ready for pressing, these hybrids should do better in the colder winters and shorter growing seasons of New England.  The Augers and Taylor Brooke were also the first in the state of Connecticut to plant Traminette, which continues to do well for them.  Other grapes used in their wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, are brought in from Massachusetts or Long Island.

In 2008, the Augurs established the Taylor Brooke Scholarship Program, an annual $500 scholarship awarded to a graduating senior of the Woodstock Academy who plans to focus on a career in Agriculture.  They have also established an Adopt-A-Vine program.  For $55, program participants receive a certificate of “adoption” for one of the grape vines grown in Taylor Brooke’s vineyards, are eligible to participate in the Fall Harvest and will receive one complimentary bottle of wine each year for three years.  This is the first program of it’s kind that I’ve seen in Connecticut, and it’s quite interesting. I didn’t have a chance to ask Linda Augur how many vines they have available for adoption, but I do know they sell out quickly.  I’d love to see the idea catch on at other vineyards as a great way to get people more involved in and aware of local wine production.

Taylor Brooke is open from May 1st through December, Friday’s 11-6 and Saturday & Sunday 11-5.  They are also open select holidays; check their website for details.

Taylor Brooke Winery
848 Route 171
Woodstock, CT 06281
Phone: (860) 974-1263
Twitter:  woodstockctwine
Facebook: Taylor Brooke Winery

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.

Maugle Sierra Vineyards ~ Ledyard, Connecticut

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Memorial Day weekend couldn’t have been more perfect here in New England: gorgeously sunny, warm and almost no clouds to mar the picture-postcard-perfect blue skies.  I woke up Sunday morning to a fresh breeze, birds singing and a siren’s call beckoning me to hit the open road.   However, I also knew from past experience that the siren’s call goes out far and wide, particularly on a lovely holiday weekend, and if I didn’t plan well, I’d be stuck in the middle of large jostling crowds of people; not the way I like to experience new wineries.

I’m nearing the end of my quest to visit all of Connecticut’s wineries, having only 8 of the state’s 30 wineries left to go.   As I looked over the list of remaining wineries, I decided to combine win(e)ding roads with winding roads and selected wineries at either end of Route 169, one of the longest designated scenic roads in the state, meandering through farmlands, forests and some of the most quintessentially New England small towns you will find anywhere.

First stop: Maugle Sierra Vineyards in Ledyard, Connecticut, located in the Southeast New England AVA.  Established in 2002 by Paul and Betty Maugle, Maugle Sierra has 11 acres under cultivation growing St. Croix, Traminette and Cayuga grapes.  They also bring in Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Vidal from Long Island and Massachusetts, and produce a total of 7 wines: 2 whites, a rosé, 3 reds and a dessert wine.

Maugle Sierra’s signature grape is the St. Croix, a grape grown extensively throughout Connecticut and New England, but one that’s often used as a blending grape, usually in combination with Cab Franc or Merlot.   Maugle Sierra was the first vineyard I found with a 100% St. Croix wine, which they produce both as a table wine and a dessert wine.  St. Croix also serves as the base for their rosé.  Since then, I’ve found a couple other St. Croix wines, including one at my second stop of the day, Taylor Brooke Winery, but it’s still unusual enough of a find that I take special notice when I come across them.

The initial impression is more that of a Maine cabin in the woods, but circle around the back to the winery entrance and you'll see the vineyards and farmlands open up in front of you.

The winery is located in the southeast corner of the state, very close to both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun Casinos and not far from Mystic, making it an easy side trip for anyone who may be coming in to spend the weekend.  Meandering down the hilly and heavily tree and brush-lined Route 117 and into the gravel-lined yard shaded by tall oak trees, it’s hard to imagine there’s enough open land for vineyards.   However,  park your car, head back along the path leading to the winery entrance and you’ll see the vineyards and farmlands open up in front of you, cascading down gently sloping hills.

The entrance to the winery is around back set into the basement of the larger house and winery buildings. The approach takes you through a large grassy patio area with patio tables and chairs scattered across the lawn.  Once you finish your tasting inside the tasting room, Paul and Betty will actively encourage you to bring a picnic and settle in for a few hours – or an afternoon.   The tasting room itself is small with an old-world European charm, and a very different feel than any other Connecticut winery I’d visited.  Overall, Connecticut wineries and tasting rooms reflect Connecticut – often housed in large barns or old farmhouses, the tasting rooms are usually light and airy with nods to New England history and/or farm life.

It was still early on the day I stopped by, but on sunny summer afternoons, the patio will be full.

Maugle Sierra is like stepping into another world – a heavy dark wooden door opens into a small, but charming room that has a bit of an italian flair.  Low ceilings and dim lighting contribute to the intimate feel of the space.  The tasting bar runs the length of the back wall and could hold 6-8 comfortably and 10-12 closely.  Four wrought iron bar tables are arranged in center of the room, seating an additional 16.  On busy days, I imagine the tasting room gets pretty crowded with people lined up several deep at the bar.  This day, however, there were only 7 of us – myself, a young couple in from New York, and a family of four from Pennsylvania.  Several other couples came in as we were finishing, but for most of the hour I was there, it was just the seven of us with host Paul Maugle, making for a very relaxing way to start the day.

This coming weekend, June 19th and 20th 11-5, Maugle Sierra will be hosting their Summer Wine Festival on the winery grounds.  Maugle Sierra is also a sponsor of The Tasting Room with Bruce Newbury, a weekly talk show on 104.7 WXLM radio which features local wines and wineries.  On Sunday the 20th, Newbury will be broadcasting live from the Maugle Sierra Tasting Room.

Coming Thursday, June 17th: The Wines of Maugle Sierra

Maugle Sierra Vineyards
825 Colonel Ledyard Highway (on CT Route 117)
Ledyard, CT 06339
The Tasting Room is open year-round.  Summer hours: Thursday and Friday, 12-6; Saturday and Sunday, 11-5.  Check the website for winter hours.

The Wines of Cassidy Hill Vineyards

Marguerite BarrettCassidy HIll Vineyards (2) / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

As we pulled into Cassidy Hill Vineyards that September afternoon, we passed a couple of women who were walking up the road, presumably from nearby homes.  Comfortably ensconced on the porch was a group that also appeared to be local and knew the owners and staff well.  Cassidy Hill is obviously a local favorite, and the mix of “wine trailers” like us and “locals” hanging out for a bit on a Sunday afternoon helped create a very relaxed atmosphere despite the number of people in the Tasting Room that afternoon.  It was a nice contrast to the jostling crowds we had found at the larger wineries in the southeast corner of the state.

We were warmly welcomed as we walked through the door, and the staff immediately presented us with the option of standing at the bar or taking a table.  After opting for a table, the staff came over immediately with glasses, the tasting menu and the first wine of the afternoon…

2008 Riesling Overall a nice Riesling and, surprisingly given how many Connecticut Rieslings have been tending towards the drier range, with the familiar sweetness that I’ve come to expect from Rieslings.  I can best describe the nose as “pretty”: bright, floral with soft notes of melon.  In the mouth the wine is sweet with notes of honeysuckle and a nice balance of acid at the end.  While I’m not generally a big Riesling fan and found some of the drier Connecticut Rieslings more interesting, this is a pleasant wine and would pair well with a wide variety of food.

2007 Chardonnay Cassidy Hill Vineyards produces two Chardonnays; the Reserve Chardonnay (see below) which is oaked, and the Chardonnay which is unoaked.  Described by our host as fruity but dry, this wine had more complexity than I originally anticipated.  Crisp and refreshing, the nose is soft and light with hints of pear and in the mouth has grassy notes with touches of green pepper and pear.  The mouth feel is soft and silky with just a light tartness on the finish which provides a bit of depth.  Overall not a bad wine, and people who prefer “clean” (i.e. unoaked) wines should definitely like this one.  As for me, while I found it interesting, I definitely preferred the Reserve.

Cassidy Hill Vineyards Tasting Room / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

2007 Reserve Chardonnay Like the 2007 Chardonnay, the Reserve Chardonnay has soft notes of pear and a light tartness on the finish, but the oaking provides the additional depth of a buttery richness that balances the fruit nicely.  No one note is overpowering in either the nose or the mouth.  The nose is soft and light with just hints of apple and pear.  In the mouth, the wine is lush with nicely balanced notes of both apple and pear.   The oak is not strong and provides some depth that I felt may have been lacking in the unoaked Chardonnay.

Summer Breeze A blush wine, this is a blend of Cayuga, Vignoles, Trement, Sevyal Blanc and Strawberries – an interesting combination.  Upon hearing the list I was anticipating an overly sweet wine with strong notes of strawberry.  The result, however, was quite surprising.  If you didn’t know the blend included strawberries, you would from the nose, but while the strawberry aroma is distinct, it is not overpowering.  In fact the softness of the nose was one of the first surprises – the strawberry notes are delightful and almost floral in their delicacy.  The next surprise came with the first sip – while sweet the wine isn’t nearly as sweet as I had anticipated.  As with the nose, the strawberries are definitely present, but not overpowering, and there’s a pleasant tartness that balances out the sweetness.   This would be a great picnic or porch wine for a lazy summer afternoon.

Grandview This is the first of the two reds on the tasting menu that afternoon.  Made from estate-grown Chambourcin grapes, this was another wine that took me slightly by surprise.  I haven’t encountered many primarily Chambourcin wines, usually finding Chambourcin as part of a blend.  A medium-bodied wine, the nose is soft and subtle with notes of black currant.  In the mouth the wine is smooth and fruity with notes of black cherries, black currants and a touch of licorice from the oaking.  The finish is soft but there’s a brightness that I’m finding is very common in reds grown from cold-climate varietals and is a bit of the hallmark of northeastern US reds.   It’s difficult, if not impossible, to get the true character of wine from a 1oz tasting, and I was intrigued enough by this one to say that it’s definitely a wine I will be coming back to try again.

Christy Sherard getting a picture of the vineyards; the views from the Tasting Room porch looking out over the vineyards are lovely.

Christy Sherard getting a picture of the vineyards; the views from the Tasting Room porch looking out over the vineyards are lovely.

2008 Merlot In all honesty, I’m always a bit trepidatious about Connecticut Merlots.  Merlot is not a grape that does well in our climate, and even with importing grapes, the results are usually are lighter-bodied and not as complex as the Merlots you’ll find from other, warmer, regions.   Still, for Connecticut Merlots this wasn’t bad.  The nose is dominated by strong notes of pepper.  In the mouth the wine is earthy and spicy, a nice change from the fruitiness that predominates in Connecticut reds.  The tasting notes indicate notes of dark plum and blackberry, and while present, they were very very subtle and balanced by the notes of spice and pepper.  The oak provided notes of smoke and licorice which provided some additional depth.  It’s still a lighter-bodied wine than you’ll find in a west coast Merlot, but it’s an interesting wine, particularly if given time to breathe.