The Wines of Paradise Hills Vineyard

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

When I first arrived at Paradise Hills Saturday afternoon, the place was hopping – the bar was full of people at various stages of their tasting and a few others were milling around admiring the building and the grounds while waiting for a spot at the bar.   Being in no rush, I just hung back watching the action and listening to the stories being told by the members of the Ruggerio family as they poured the tastings.

But this also gave me the chance to spend a few minutes with Paradise Hills’ winemaker, Margaret Ruggerio, something which I don’t often get a chance to do because I so often visit wineries on the weekend, and the traffic levels usually preclude a leisurely conversation.  But whether I called attention to myself by taking pictures or furiously scribbling notes or whether if not pouring, the family just mingles through the room greeting guests, the end result was a very pleasant 10 minutes chatting with Margaret Ruggerio while waiting for space to open up at the bar.

In addition to talking about the history of the vineyards and the winery as well as her own background, Margaret also talked about her approach to winemaking – in particular her focus on making each of the wines distinct.   I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of this claim; I’ve heard this from other wineries and winemakers, and while wines each have their own character, so often you’ll find a winery producing several wines using the same base grape, and so while there are distinctions, I wouldn’t have said they were distinct.   But with Paradise Hills’ wines, Margaret Ruggerio was not exaggerating.  Each of the wines was quite distinct, beginning with the

Vino Blanco del Paradiso – a crisp, refreshing white table wine that is a blend of Trebbiana grapes imported from Italy and estate-grown Cayuga White.   The nose is very delicate with lightly floral notes of apple blossom and a hint of crisp green apples.   In the mouth the wine is very light on the palate with a subtle grassiness on the front developing into stronger, but not overpowering, notes of grapefruit at the back, and a touch of green apple tart-sweetness on the finish.   The balance is really interesting – the grassy earthiness offset by the fruitiness were a pleasant combination.   This wine definitely benefits from being served chilled, and while I enjoyed the tasting, I think this would be even more interesting when paired with food – say grilled shrimp with just a splash of lemon…

Washington Trail White – named for the “Washington Trail” a historic area of the state through which General Washington and the Continental Army traveled to pick up supplies – and gunpowder – from nearby Durham during the Revolution.  Parts of the trail run directly through the Ruggerio’s property, and they’ve found a number of late Colonial/Revolutionary War-era artifacts which they are will be displaying in the winery.

The wine is a blend of Chardonnay brought in from California and estate-grown Seyval Blanc grapes.   The result is a very smooth, fruit-forward wine with soft notes of pear on the front and brighter notes of citrus on the finish.   The citrus builds as the wine moves to the back of the mouth and then softens on the finish.   Not surprisingly, it was suggested that the wine would pair very well with spicy foods.  Overall a really nice wine, but my favorite among the whites was the estate-grown

Chardonnay – 100% estate grown Chardonnay from the vineyards right outside the winery’s front door, this is a really lovely wine.   Like all of Paradise Hills other wines, the Chardonnay is fermented and aged in stainless steel with any oaking being introduced through chips or staves.    The nose on this wine is gorgeous, rich, soft and fruity with lovely notes of sweet pineapple.   In the mouth the wine is rich and soft with notes of melon on the front and butterscotch on the finish.   One of the things that I found particularly charming was how the butterscotch builds and develops as the warm wines in your mouth – it pulls the wine through palate.    This wine would be great for sipping on its own or paired with a wide variety of food.   As soon as I tasted it, I knew I was going home with a bottle, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it more fully sometime soon.

The last of the four whites, the Cayuga White, is currently sold out, so not available tasting.   So we switched glasses before moving to the Reds.   Yep, you read that right, we switched glasses…  Paradise Hills serves their tastings in “real” wine glasses, not their souvenir glass (which they do have available for purchase for anyone who wants one).  The whites are served in a Bordeaux style glass and the reds in a Pinot Noir style glass – by using these glasses rather than the much smaller-bowled glasses of the typical souvenir wine glass, it’s better for the wine and only enhances the tasting.

The Chardonnay vineyards

Washington Trail Red – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Merlot from Washington and estate-grown Chambourcin, this is an interesting example of the influence of terroir.   While there are few places here in New England that successfully grow Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, when they are grown locally I’ve found the result to be very fruity.   But the California and Washington grapes bring more earthy elements – still fruity with notes of cherry and blackberry, particularly from the Chambourcin, the wine is not as fruit-forward as the more typical New England red.   The nose is subdued with slightly floral notes of cherry blossom.  Medium-bodied, in the mouth the wine has, as mentioned above, discernible notes of cherry and blackberry tempered by a subtle earthiness and a smooth richness that softens the “bite” of the Chambourcin.   A very interesting wine; one I think a lot of people will like.

The last wine of the tasting is the President’s Choice.  Using a recipe that has been passed down for several generations in the Ruggerio family, this was the star of the show for me as well as the couple next to me.   The Chardonnay is described as the winery’s “signature wine” – but the President’s Choice is the family wine.   A full-bodied red, the wine is smooth, rich and very satisfying.   The nose has lovely notes of dark berries and a light earthiness.  Well-balanced, the wine has notes of blackberry at the front developing to notes of mocha on the finish.   One of the most interesting characteristics of the wine is that I found it to linger in the middle of the palate, rather than the back – as if the wine gravitates to that intersection point where the fruit begins to give way to the chocolate…

Unfortunately this wine is not currently available for sale – the Ruggerios kept their first vintages small, producing only 1200 cases of all their wines combined, waiting to see how the wines would be received before committing to larger production.   President’s Choice, not surprisingly, has been exceptionally well-received and they’ve already sold out – and they’ve only been open two months.  They have enough bottles to continue to include the wine in the tasting menu, and they anticipate having the second vintage available in September, at which time they’ll resume sales.   There were several of us at the bar that afternoon who were making notes in our calendars to come back in September!

Jean & Cheryl take note – we definitely need to include this on our next SOTS outing!


Keeping with their philosophy of promoting local agriculture and husbandry, the Ruggerios help foster the next generation by providing a scholoarship to a graduating senior from the Lyman Hall Agricultural program who is going on to study agriculture or wildlife conservation.   To help fund the scholarship, the family agreed that all tips received from winery guests will be added to the scholarship fund – so if you get a chance to stop by help develop the next generation by leaving a generous tip in the jar!


Congratulations to the Ruggerio family – Paradise Hills is a great addition to the Connecticut Wine scene, and I look forward to many return visits, as well as enjoying the bottles of Washington Trail White, the Washington Trail Red and the Chardonnay I brought home with me that afternoon.

Connecticut’s Newest Winery

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Saturday found me heading south to Wallingford and Connecticut’s newest winery, Paradise Hills Vineyard.  Owned and operated by the Ruggerio family, the winery opened to the public on May 1st and has been doing a brisk business all season.

The Ruggerios have been in the wine business for more than 15 years, having started growing grapes in nearby Hamden, CT and purchasing the current property in Wallingford and planting the vineyards in 1997.    They grow Chardonnay, Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Cayuga and because of the age of the vineyards, the vines are well established and produce high quality grapes.    For years, Paradise Hill sold their grapes to Jerram Winery in New Hartford, CT, and only recently decided to open their own winery.

Like many Connecticut wineries, Paradise Hills is truly a family affair, with multiple generations and branches of the family playing key roles in the winery and vineyards, including construction of the winery building itself.    I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Paradise Hill’s winemaker, Margaret Ruggerio, who in addition to giving me a bit of the history of the vineyards also discussed the construction of the winery building, which took three years to complete and was constructed primarily by family, friends, and employees of the winery.

A graduate of local Lyman Hall high school’s Vocational Agricultural program, Margaret Ruggerio, who also has college degrees in botany and wildlife conservation, is the winery’s principal winemaker, currently producing six wines, four white and two red, each of which, she is proud to point out, are distinct.  (More on the wines themselves when we get to the tasting on Thursday).   She and the family are committed to sustainable agricultural practices and even constructed the winery building to be as “green” as possible.

Which brings us to the winery itself – as mentioned above, construction began about three years ago and with the exception of the foundation, most of the construction was completed by family, friends and vineyard employees.   The building is Tuscan-inspired, a nod to the Ruggerio’s Italian heritage, but the clean lines and fresh non-fussily decorated interior provide a touch of New England charm.   The building is entirely geo-thermal, the air conditioning and heat are generated from the groundwater below the building.  The only traditional electricity that is used in the heating and cooling systems is that needed to run the air handlers to provide air circulation.   The family carried through this approach throughout the building, using natural materials as much as possible, and even using hand-harvested cedar trees from the property for the fence posts and rails that line the entrance and walkway.

The Tasting Room is a bright, airy, welcoming space, with light green walls, a lovely slate tile floor, and a charming copper-topped bar.    The Ruggerios put a lot of thought into the space planning and have incorporated not only space for 16-20 people to stand comfortably at the bar, but enough room behind the bar for the family to move easily as they welcome guests and pour tastings.    It’s one of the best planned spaces I’ve seen yet in any winery, with plenty of counter space, a large wine cooler, and depth of room behind the bar so four or five people can move easily around each other.   The result is a much more relaxed experience for the customer (at least in my experience), because they appeared less cramped and harried behind the bar, I felt more relaxed in front of it.  In addition to the bar, there are also about a dozen bar-height tables and chairs in the main room, and a long covered porch overlooking the Chardonnay vineyard with additional seating.   Quite a few people ordered a bottle of wine after their tasting and settled in to enjoy the gorgeous weather – and gorgeous views – from the porch.

While no one gets into (or stays in) this business without loving it, it’s obvious after spending even a few minutes with them that winemaking is a real passion and joy for the Ruggerios.    Each tasting is accompanied by lots details of the wine, local history, and family stories.   I overheard several people comment that it was one of the more detailed and fun tastings they had experienced – and I concur.

Coming Thursday – the wines of Paradise Hills and how the Ruggerios are helping to support the next generation.

Paradise Hills Vineyard
15 Windswept Hill Road
Wallingford, CT 06492

Mulling Things Over at Sunset Meadow Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Also on my New Year’s Day excursion was a stop at Sunset Meadow Vineyards, a fairly regular stop for me throughout the year, and with Connecticut Valley Winery, a particular favorite of the Sisters of the Wine Trail (SOTS).

Also a particpating winery of the Litchfield Winter Wine Trail, I headed over to Goshen after leaving Jerram Winery in the New Hartford.  Proprietors George and Judy Venice Motel have created a very comfortable and cozy space with the Tasting Room with the look and feel of a rustic, but well-appointed cabin.  When I arrived mid-afternoon, several small groups of people were already settled in enjoying both the wine and the roaring fire.  Judy Venice Motel was circulating through the room, and with the surrounding snow-covered hills and vineyards visible through the windows lining one wall of the tasting room, I felt like I had stepped into a ski lodge.

I grabbed a place at the bar and a tasting of five of my favorite of Sunset Meadow’s wines – the Riesling, the Vidal Blanc, Blustery Blend (a Cayuga, Seyval Blanc blend), New Dawn (a Malbec, Merlot, Frontenac and Landot Noir blend) and the St. Croix, all of which have been featured here at Vino Verve.

At the end of the tasting, rather than ordering a glass of wine, I was offered a small steaming mug of a mulled Merlot.  I’ve had mulled wine before – I mull wine myself several times each winter –  but this was the richest and most delicious mulled wine I’ve had in many an age.

The base for Sunset Meadow’s mulled wine is their Merlot, a 2010 Finger Lakes Wine Competition silver medal winner and a 2010 Grand Harvest International Wine Competition Bronze Medal winner.  To this they add cranberry juice and Crown Mulling Spices, a blend of spices that includes cranberry, cinnamon, and nutmeg among others.  The result was a rich, silky, fruity, robust mulled wine that was absolutely perfect for a cold, snowy afternoon.  I could have stayed there all afternoon drinking mugs of mulled wine; instead I contented myself with a sample and a mental note to order some Crown Mulling Spices and invite my fellow SOTS over for a Sunday afternoon in front of the home fires.

Note to the Motels ~ if you ever decide to bottle your mulled wine, drop me a line.  I’ll definitely be coming by to pick up a case!

Jerram Winery 1.1.11 ~ The Reds

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

My New Year’s Resolution should have been “don’t procrastinate on filing your Vino Verve posts!”   Although given that it’s not even the end of January and I’m already behind, at least I don’t now feel the guilt of having resoundingly failed at my resolution before the year truly got underway.

So, to catch us up ~ I kicked off the New Year on the Litchfield Winter Wine Trail; first stop Jerram Winery in New Hartford, Connecticut.  Having sampled the available whites, next up were the reds, which I was particularly looking forward to.  My first visit to Jerram was fairly early into my Connecticut Wine Trail adventures.  Jerram was one of the first wineries at which I tried a Marechal Foch wine (as opposed to encountering Marechal Foch as a blending grape), and the Highland Reserve, a Cabernet Franc/Marechal Foch blend was one of my favorites of that visit.  Not having been back in almost two years, I was looking forward to the new vintages.

Before either the Highland Reserve or the Marechal Foch, however, the first red presented was Sil Vous Plait, a 100% Cabernet Franc.  The nose has bright notes of cherry and that flinty, salt-tanginess of the Northeastern Reds.  Medium-bodied, the wine is slightly tart with cherry notes on the front and a lightly smoky finish.  The mouth-feel is soft, and there’s a slight bite towards the back of the tongue that makes the wine feel a bit young.  With Connecticut Cabernet Francs, I’ve found cellaring them for six to nine months and then letting them breathe a bit really mellows them and makes for a much richer wine.

Next up was the Highland Reserve, the Marechal Foch/Cabernet Franc blend.   The nose is softer and more subtle than the Sil Vous Plait, although the cherry notes are still the predominant note.  In the mouth the wine is lightly sweet and fruit forward with bright notes of cherry, which carry through from the front to the back of the tongue.  There are light notes of smoke and leather on the finish, enough to provide a nice balance but not so much that they overwhelm the wine.  Overall a lovely wine.

And last, and certainly not least, my favorite the Marechal Foch. The nose is earthy with notes of grass; a definite surprise after the more strongly cherry noses of the first two wines.  Medium-bodied, in the mouth the wine, like the Highland Reserve, is fruit-forward with notes of cherry, but there are earthy notes as well which keep the wine from the sweeter notes found in the Highland Reserve.  The tanginess and “bite” that is a characteristic of the Marechal Foch grape (or to be more precise the Marechal Foch wines I’ve encountered) is present but not distracting.  The wine is quite smooth and feels more robust and mature than other Marechal Foch wines I’ve tasted.

If anything could be considered Jerram’s “signature” wine, it would be the Marechal Foch.  These are the first vines Jim Jerram planted when he established the vineyards in 1982, and the first wine he produced in 1986.  Over the years he’s expanded to other grapes and wines, but the Marechal Foch maintains a place of prominence in the Jerram Winery lineup.

Jerram Winery 1.1.11 ~ The Whites

Jerram Winery, New Hartford, Connecticut

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I managed to start the New Year as planned, spending New Year’s Day re-visiting a couple wineries that I hadn’t visited in almost a year.  The weather certainly helped; after a Boxing Day snowstorm dumped 12″ of snow on most of Connecticut, New Year’s Day dawned bright and sunny and hit the 50s by early afternoon.  The sun glistening off the snow in the hills was beautiful as I made my way over to my first stop of the day, Jerram Winery in New Hartford, Connecticut.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been to Jerram, despite my liking their wines enough to have brought home one of everything the last time I was there.  So I was looking forward to tasting the latest vintages of some of my favorites and seeing if they had any new wines on the menu.

It was pretty quiet when I arrived; owner and winemaker Jim Jerram was at the Tasting Bar engaged in a lively conversation with a gentleman who, it appears, has recently bought a place – or is considering buying a place in New Hartford.   The interior is bright and cheery – just as I remembered it – and both the ambience and the company welcomed me warmly.

There are 11 wines on Jerram’s current wine list, six of which are available for tasting, three whites and three reds.  First up was the

White Frost, a 100% Chardonnay lightly oaked.  This is a very dry Chardonnay, and those who dislike the fruity, buttery, sweeter Chardonnays should really like this wine.  In some respects it reminded me more of a Sauvignon Blanc than a Chardonnay – crisp, with light notes of lemon and a nice bite of acid on the finish.

After the Chardonnay, I had my choice of Seyval Blanc.  Jerram produces two Seyval Blancs each year, one sweeter and one drier.  I opted for the drier, but in hindsight I realized not only had I sampled the dry Seyval before but had a bottle at home.  I would have done better to choose the sweeter Seyval Blanc BC for the contrast.  Live and learn… and an excuse to return soon.  Despite the oversight I very much enjoyed the Seyval Blanc.  Crisp with light notes of lemon and grapefruit, particularly on the finish, this is my favorite of the Jerram whites.

When I returned home, I looked back over my notes from my first visit to Jerram Winery – almost two years ago.  I had no idea it had been that long!  Turns out the Seyval Blanc BC is one of Jerram’s newest wines, having bottled the first vintage not long before my visit.  Man, I definitely should have opted for the BC!

The whites concluded with the sweetest of Jerram’s whites, the Aurora, a Villard Blanc/Aurore blend.  This is a really nice wine, and one of Jerram’s most popular.  The wine has a soft, sweet nose with notes of apricot and honey both of which blend nicely in the mouth.  Semi-dry, the Aurora is fruit forward with lovely notes of apricot immediately apparent.  The honey is more subtle and really comes through with subsequent sips, providing the wine with a nice depth and complexity over time.

Not on the tasting menu that day, but a wine which I recently enjoyed at home is Jerram’s Gentle Shepherd, a blend of Cayuga, Chardonnay and Aurore grapes.  This was the bottle I opened two weeks ago to launch my vacation – and the holidays.  Nice point/counterpoint to the holidays.

Having finished the whites, it’s time to clear the palate and rinse the glass before proceeding to the reds…

Jerram Winery
535 Town Hill Road
New Hartford, CT 06047

Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

For the second year in a row, Litchfield area wineries have joined together to sponsor the Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail.  Hosted by six local wineries, the Winter Wine Trail kicked off on January 1st and runs through the end of February.   Pick up a Wine Trail Card at any of the six wineries, get it signed at each winery, and drop it off at the last winery you visit to be entered in the drawing.

This year’s Grand Prize is a package of 2 free wine tastings at each participating winery.  Second Place Prize is an overnight stay at a historic New England Inn, the Toll Gate Hill Inn in the heart of Litchfield County wine country, and Third Place Prize is dinner at a Litchfield County restaurant.

The 2011 Winter Wine Trail wineries include:

DiGrazia Vineyards, 131 Tower Road, Brookfield, CT
Haight-Brown Vineyard, 29 Chestnut Hill Road, Litchfield, CT
Hopkins Vineyard, 25 Hopkins Road, New Preston, CT
Jerram Winery, 535 Town Hill Road Rt. 219, New Hartford, CT
Miranda Vineyard, 42 Ives Road, Goshen, CT
Sunset Meadow Vineyards, 599 Old Middle Street Rt. 63, Goshen, CT
You can find a list of our posts about each winery on the Connecticut page under “Win(e)ding Roads”

If you’re new to win(e)ding roads adventures, winter wine trails are one of the best ways to start.  With the exception, perhaps, of the Valentine’s Day weekend, the wineries are much quieter in the winter, the setting more relaxed.  You’re in little danger of being overwhelmed by the crowds one can often find on busy summer weekends.  And because these are local farm wineries, the winemakers themselves are often on hand and more than willing to kick back and chat about their wines, winemaking, and pretty much anything else you want to discuss.   All six participating wineries also have very welcoming and comfortable Tasting Rooms where you can sit, often by a fire, with a glass (or bottle) of wine after you finish your tasting.

Hopefully I’ll see you on the trail one weekend soon.

Rosedale Farms & Vineyards ~ Simsbury, Connecticut

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I’m finishing out 2011 with my last win(e)ding road adventure of 2011 – Rosedale Farms.  When I stopped there with fellow SOTS member, Jean Levesque and a mutual friend, Katie O’Flaherty in mid-September, I certainly didn’t think it would be my last winery visit of the year.  But somehow I just never made it back to the trails.

About 30 minutes from home, Rosedale Farms is a full working farm in addition to growing grapes and producing wine.  A 5th-generation family farm, Rosedale has been in operation since the 1920s.  They grow a wide variety of produce which are available through their farmstand or through a farm membership.

Their most recent venture has been an expansion into winemaking and currently have three acres of grapes under cultivation growing Seyval Blanc, Vignoles, Cayuga, Marechal Foch and St. Croix.   The first vintage was released in 2005, and Rosedale has been producing award winning wines ever since.   They currently produce six wines: three whites, one blush and two reds, although the 2010 whites are currently sold out.

While Rosedale Farms is open pretty much all year for sales of seasonal produce and bottles of wine, their Tasting Room is only open July through October on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 – 5 pm.   Tastings are $6 and the menu includes all six wines.  If you visit towards the end of the season, as we did, some of the wines may be sold out and the tasting menu will be adjusted to reflect that.  In October 2010, Rosedale introduced a seventh wine, a pinot noir, Winter’s Red.  I’ll have to stop by one of these days to pick up a bottle to sample.

Rosedale also offers a Wine Membership – members receive four bottles of Rosedale Farms wines in July, August and September and a 13th bottle in October.  In addition to the wine, members also receive two complimentary wine tastings and two tickets to Farm Fest, Rosedale’s fall festival which runs on select Sundays in September and October.  For full details, check the website.

Rosedale Farms & Vineyards
25 East Weatogue Street
Simsbury, CT 06070

Spending Time With… Jerram Winery’s Gentle Shepherd

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I have the luxury of being on holiday for the next two weeks – heaven!  Of course achieving that was a direct result of not using more of my PTO during the year.  I’m also forgoing the stress of holiday travel this year – the thought of NOT worrying about dealing with busy airports full of people who travel infrequently, overbooked flights and the expense – double heaven!  Not that I won’t miss spending the holiday with family and friends, but I am looking forward to a quiet, relaxing holiday at home.

So after spending Saturday and a good portion of Sunday finishing the decorating, wrapping and Christmas Cards, I headed down to the basement to select a bottle of wine I could kick back and relax with, something light which would be a good sipping wine.  As I scanned through the whites, my eye it upon Jerram’s Gentle Shepherd, a bottle I picked up about 18 months ago.

A blend of Cayuga, Chardonnay and Aurore grapes, Gentle Shepherd was an inspired choice.  The wine is made for sipping and relaxing.  The nose was more subdued than I originally remembered, but that my be a result of my leaving the wine so long before drinking.  In the mouth, the fruity sweetness of the Cayuga and Aurore grapes is balanced by the buttery smoothness of the Chardonnay.  Light citrus notes combine with the softer sweetness of apricot.   It’s a deceptively simple combination with a silky mouth feel that makes the wine stand well on its own.

Generally I’d have said this was a great summer wine – served chilled on a hot summer afternoon – but turns out it is also the perfect accompaniment to a cozy afternoon in front of the fire.   The wine holds up well on the second day – although I recommend sealing it well.

Spending Time With… McLaughlin Vineyard’s Coyote Blue

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Hats off to Gretchen for covering for me this week.  I usually try to stay ahead of my posting – writing at least one or two posts a weekend.  If I’m really good, I can often be 3 or 4 weeks ahead, taking the pressure off if I don’t have time to sit down on a particular weekend.

Unfortunately, I skipped too many weekends recently, and the posts caught up with me.  And of course it would happen on a week when I was scheduled to be out of town at a conference.  Oh well…  I’ll get back on track for next week.

So if I wasn’t writing posts – what was I doing last weekend you ask?  Well, as it was Halloween and quite chilly here in New England, I built a fire in the fireplace, roasted a pork loin, opened a bottle of McLaughlin’s Coyote Blue wine and waited for the trick-or-treaters.

McLaughlin Vineyards was one of the first wineries I visited when I began my Connecticut Win(e)ding Road adventures just about 2 years ago.  I like their wines, the coziness of the winery and tasting room, and most importantly love hanging out with Dee, the winery host.  I find myself returning fairly regularly and often dragging friends and relatives along with me.  I’ve been back a number of times since that first trip, including attending one of their Blind Tasting events at which great fun was had by all.

On one of my earliest jaunts, I picked up a bottle of McLaughin’s most popular white, the Coyote Blue, a blend of Aurore (add another grape to the wine century list!) and Vidal Blanc grapes.  At the time of the tasting I found myself really drawn to the hint of  green apple in this semi-sweet wine.  The balance of the green apple tartness of the Aurore with the sweet Vidal grapes made for a rather appealing wine; certainly one I wanted to get to know a bit better.

I recently pulled that bottle out of the cellar where it had been for probably a good 18 months.  I’m not sure why I waited so long to open it, but now am glad I did.  The additional bottle aging softened the wine a bit; it’s lost some of the tart crispness I noted during my initial tasting, but the apple feels more integrated with the wine overall.   Keeping to my “spending time with…” protocols, the first glass was drunk on its own, not paired with food.  The nose was a bit musty with earthy notes, making me worry that perhaps I had left the wine too long before drinking.  But my fears were for naught.   The wine retains much of the sweet richness of the vidal blanc grapes which provide a nice context for the apple notes.  There’s still a touch of tartness on the finish which balances the sweetness and results in a more satisfying wine.

My second glass I paired a roast pork loin with rosemary potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts.  I deliberately chose the wine because of the apple notes which, as to be expected, paired well with the pork.  Together the two were a really nice complement.  The pork and rosemary softened some of the green apple tartness of the wine, while the apple, not surprisingly, really brought out the richness of the pork.  I’ve often paired hard cider with pork, but found myself really liking the softer, yet still crisp, notes of the apple in the wine.  It’s a more delicate balance and worked well with this meal.

As that was the only bottle of Coyote Blue in the cellar, I expect next weekend will find me back on the road heading west to Newtown for yet another stop at McLaughlin.

Spending Time With… Jerram Winery’s Marechal Foch

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Whenever I hit the wine trail, I head out armed with my trusty GPS, a list of wineries, and a cooler with ice packs for the wine I know I’ll be bringing home.   I try to be judicious, don’t want to bankrupt my retirement after all, but there’s only so much you can tell about a wine from a 1oz sip – particularly when it’s tasted in the midst of a number of other 1oz sips that day.  So whenver I find a wine that catches my attention – sometimes it wows me, sometimes I can see potential, and sometimes it’s just different enough from anything else I’ve ever tried – I take a bottle home.  This provides the opportunity to sample the wine in larger portions, pair it with food, and see how it stands up after a day (unless I have guests, it’s usually 2-3 days per bottle of wine).

And though this has been my practice since I started on the wine trail, I’ve never bothered to put my new impressions to paper.  Hence the launch of a new occasional series, “Spending Time With…”, follow-up posts on my impressions of a wine after spending some time with it.  Keeping with the theme and focus of Vino Verve, these will primarily be “local” wines, wines I’ve picked up on my various travels.  That’s not to say that there might not be the occasional post about a wine I picked up in a package store, but here at Vino Verve we like to focus on celebrating local wines, rather than just a running commentary of “what I drank last night.”

I launch the series with Jerram Winery’s Marechal Foch.

I’ve had this bottle about 18 months, having picked it up during my first visit to Jerram just after Christmas 2008.  At the time I was still a newcomer to the  Marechal Foch grape and  wasn’t really sure I was a fan, finding the grape often tart and the wines “young.”  My prior encounters had not left me with an overall great impression of the grape.  However, Jerram’s Marechal Foch caught my attention; it felt more complex than some of the other wines I’d tried, and the cherry notes, while still bright and slightly sour, seemed to make more sense in Jerram’s wine than they had in previous Marechal Foch wines I had tried.  I remember liking all of Jerram’s wines and actually going home with a bottle of each, but the Marechal Foch was one that stood out for me that day.

18 months later, I continue to be impressed.  The wine held up well, smoothing out just a bit.  The fruit notes are a bit stronger than I had noted during my original tasting, but they’re richer as well.  The nose is dusky and earthy and there’s very little hint of the tangy cherry I found in the mouth.  The wine starts out dry and slightly earthy, dusty almost, and then opens up into the bright notes of slightly sour cherries that are so characteristic of Marechal Foch.  The finish is definitely smoother than my first tasting, mellower – the cherry tartness hits the roof of your mouth towards the front, and then the wine mellows as it moves back through the mouth.

I let the wine breathe for about 15 minutes before pouring the first glass, which I had on it’s own.  I then paired a second glass with a grilled steak and beefsteak tomato salad.  The wine held it’s own against the steak, but I don’t know that it was the right pairing, neither seemed to add anything to the other.

I finished the bottle on the second evening, when I paired it with a Greek casserole dish made of beef sauteed in onions, garlic, tomatoes, oregeno and basil pasta, and feta cheese.  The heartier, spicier food was a much better pairing – the cherry notes in the wine became more juicy, and while there’s still that sour tart “bite” that is one of the grape’s hallmarks, it worked really well against the salty brine of the feta cheese.

Overall, a strong Marechal Foch, one I’ll definitely be adding back to my “cellar.”

Jerram Winery is located in New Hartford, Connecticut.  They are open Thursdays through Sundays, 11:00 – 5:00 from May 1st to December 31st.  Their website has a list of locations that sell Jerram’s wines, all local to Central Connecticut.  You may also want to contact the winery to see if they will ship directly.