Four Sisters Winery ~ The Whites & Rosés

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, December 1st.

The winery is housed in a ranch-style house with the tasting room located in a large open room in the back of the house.  As we made our way back, we discovered that despite it being close to the end of the day, the tasting room was fairly busy and all the spots at the bar were taken.  So Maree and I hung out for a bit, browsing the gift shop and admiring the extensive and very creative samples of custom labels that Four Sisters offers for people who would like to order custom labels for their wine.

The folks ahead of us at the bar had seemingly settled in for the afternoon, and the staff didn’t seem inclined to move them along despite the fact that there were now another 4-6 people waiting with us for spots at the bar.  But finally after about 15-20 minutes a couple spaces cleared, and Maree and I were able to start our tasting.  We had each purchased the 10 tastings for $5 package and decided 10 wines was more than enough for each of us to get a full sampling of the Four Sisters range of wines, so we skipped our usual “let’s coordinate our selections” and just focused on our own choices.

I kicked off my tasting with the

Seyval Reserve Like most of the whites I’ve tried here in the Northeast, the Seyval Reserve is a very pale yellow color.  The nose has lovely light floral notes, and in the mouth the wine is light, crisp and fruity with soft notes of melon and almost no citrus.  The finish is light and crisp, and this wine would pair well with seafood or grilled chicken.

Vidal Blanc Next up for me was the Vidal Blanc.  As anticipated this was a little sweeter than the Seyval although it is still a pleasant, dry table wine.  The color is very pale, almost straw, and the nose is grassy with subtle notes of green pepper.  In the mouth the wine is lightly tart with citrus notes, particularly lemon.  The finish is smooth with a slight smokiness from the oaking.

Cayuga Over the past year I have become a real fan of Cayuga whites.  When I first started on the Connecticut Wine Trail in October 2008, I wasn’t really sure what I thought of the Cayuga; interesting certainly, particularly given I hadn’t really encountered Cayuga before, but not something I found overly impressive.  Over time, though, as I’ve tried more local Cayuga wines and blends, I’ve found myself really liking this grape, and the Four Sisters’ Cayuga is no exception.  Also a pale yellow, almost straw color, the nose is extremely clean – in fact there’s almost no nose.  Clean is also the best word to describe the experience in the mouth: light, crisp, smooth, the wine has light citrus notes, low acid, a pleasantly smooth finish and just a hint of sweetness.  This would make a good “lunch” wine, pairing well with salads or light pasta dishes.

Niagara The last of the whites I sampled was the Niagara, made from Niagara grapes.  The tasting notes describe it as “spark[ing] childhood memories of eating grapes off the vine.”  I don’t know why that didn’t clue me in that it was going to be a sweet wine, but I found myself surprised by the sweetness when I tasted it.  The nose is light with nice floral notes, and in the mouth the wine has notes of melon and a touch of honey.  It’s a very nice wine, but as I definitely prefer drier table wines, this was not one of my overall preferences of the afternoon.

I had also selected one of the Blushes, the

Merrill Blush I admit I tried this because I was intrigued by the tasting notes which read “enjoyed by traditional wine lovers,” and found myself wondering what on earth that meant.  Is the implication that traditional wine lovers don’t like blushes?  And what is a traditional wine lover anyway?  On tasting I discovered a fairly complex wine with an interesting spicy nose (unexpected after the predominant floral notes among the whites), notes of melon and a touch of lemon on the palate which produces a semi-sweet blush with tart notes at the end that give the wine some bite.  As someone who definitely prefers dry wines, I often don’t buy or serve blushes finding them too sweet for my tastes. But the tartness at the end gave this wine some kick and, for me, made it more interesting than other blushes I’ve tried.  Perhaps that’s what Four Sisters is getting at with their tasting notes for “traditional wine lovers” read “people who prefer drier wines.”

That concluded the first half of the tasting, next on to the Reds…

Continued on Thursday, December 10th.

Four Sisters Winery ~ Belvidere, New Jersey

Marguerite BarrettFour Sisters Winery, Belvidere, NJ / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Well, I’ve finally made it to the bottom of my notes pile – the last winery visited during my summer wine excursions.  Sitting here on a cold, dark, rainy November evening, the bright sunny July afternoon that Maree and I headed over to western New Jersey seems so long ago.

The last winery we visited that July afternoon was the Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere, New Jersey, about a 35 minute drive north of Alba Vineyards and Villa Milagro Vineyards.  Heading up County Road 519, the scenery resembled the Midwest more than the Northeast – flat and lots and lots of corn.  I don’t know why it surprised me as much as it did – maybe I’ve just become so used to traveling the back roads of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Four Sisters Winery is located in the heart of farm country, part of a 250-acre farm owned by Matty Matarazo.  Matarazo planted his first grapes in 1981, and the winery opened in 1984, and throughout 2009 Four Sisters Winery has been celebrating their 25th Anniversary.  The winery was named in honor of Matrazo’s four daughers, Robin, Serena, Melissa and Sadie, the “four sisters.”  In addition to the winery, the farm produces a range of fruits and vegetables and operates a farm market in nearby Caldwell, NJ, home of the original farm established in 1921.

The winery is located in a ranch-style farmhouse.  The front door leads into a small front room that houses a few gift items and the cash register/check-in area.  Tastings are managed through the purchase of tickets – for $5 you can purchase 10 tickets, $3 will get you 5.  Each ticket entitles you to one tasting.  Despite my initial surprise at being handed 10 tickets, I must admit the system works – it was far easier for both the Tasting Room staff and me to keep track of how far I’d made it through my list.

And keeping track is important, as Four Sisters’ wine list includes a total of 25 wines: 8 whites, 2 rosés, 7 reds, 5 fruit wines, 1 sparkling wine, and 2 ports – rivaling DeGrazia Winery in Connecticut for the most extensive wine list I’ve found in my Win(e)ding Road travels to date.  With a tasting that included up to 10 wines and a a rather crowded tasting room, I found the tickets a lot easier to manage than having to continuously review with the staff how far we’d gotten in the list.

In addition to their normal Tasting Room hours, Four Sisters hosts special events including their Murder Mystery Dinners every month May through October in which guests can enjoy great food, Four Sisters wines and participate in a murder mystery game on the winery grounds, monthly Barefoot Grape Stomping Events from May through September which are open to the public, and seasonal festivals such as the Harvest Festival and special events for both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

In celebration of the holidays, tastings are free through the end of the year, and the winery remains open seven days a week 11 am – 6 pm through December except for holidays.  The winery and gift shop have all of the Four Sisters wines available for purchase and also offer custom labels and gift baskets.   Four Sisters wines can also be found in many liquor stores in northwestern New Jersey and their recently opened outlet in the Phillipsburg Mall.

But on that hot, sunny July afternoon, Maree and I weren’t thinking about holidays or gifts, just the wine.  We each opted for the $5/10 tickets tasting, and because it was late in the day and we each had our choice of 10 wines, we didn’t bother coordinating selections.  I kicked off my tasting with the first white on the list, the Seyval Reserve…

Continued on Tuesday, December 8th.

Four Sisters Winery
783 CR 519, 10 Doe Hollow Lane
Belvidere, NJ 07823

Villa Milagro Vineyards ~ The Wines

Villa Milagro Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite BarrettMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Thursday, October 15, 2009

Villa Milagro’s wines, in addition to being organic, are all European-style wines.  The Gambinos have eschewed the American hybrid varietals that you find so often in the Northeast, and have planted 11 acres of Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.  They have no plans to expand their holdings or production, preferring to focus on artisanal wines that they sell exclusively through the winery.

Villa Milagro produces five wines: one white, one blush and three reds, and in keeping with Audrey’s California heritage, all of the wines have Spanish names.  They are currently serving the last of their 2006 vintage, with the 2007 vintage scheduled for release around Thanksgiving of this year.

While we very much enjoyed our visit to the winery and our time with Audrey Gambino, both Maree and I were underwhelmed by the wines.  They all show promise, but in general we found them on the light side.  As both the vines and the winery matures, I would anticipate the wines becoming more complex as well.

The tasting kicked off with Villa Milagro’s sole white, a Chardonnay…

Dos Luz 2006 This is a very smooth Chardonnay.  In fact, one of the hallmark characteristics of all the Villa Milagro wines is their smoothness, which I believe contributed to our disappointment with the wines we tasted.  The wines were almost too smooth, lacking the acid that would give them balance and depth.  Aged for two years in stainless steel tanks, the Dos Luz is a light-bodied Chardonnay with a very soft, subtle nose and light notes of citrus on the palate.  I would have liked to find a bit of a “kick” on the end, and without it, the wine felt a bit flat.

Roja Dulce 2006 Roja Dulce, which means “sweet red,” blends Cabernet Franc with other, sweeter grapes to produce a fruity, slightly sweet Cabernet Franc.  The nose is pleasantly fruity, with interesting notes of strawberry.  Dry, with just a touch of sweetness, the Roja has a slight tartness and touch of acid at the end which gives the wine some character.   This was my favorite of the four Villa Milagro wines.

Sombra 2006 A medium-bodied Shiraz blend, the Sombra, like all the reds, is oak-aged for 24 months.  There are light notes of cherry in both the nose and the mouth, and the oak is stronger here than in either the Roja Dulce or the Suave, contributing smokey notes, particularly in the mouth.  I found myself writing “young” in my notes, and I suspect this wine will do better if cellared for a few years and then allowed to breathe before serving.

Suave 2006 The last wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  Suave, which is Spanish for smooth, is a medium-bodied red with both berry and chocolate in the nose.  In the mouth, cherry is the predominant note with a light toastiness from the oak.  The finish is light and slightly tart, and like the Sombra, I anticipate this wine will improve with additional aging.

We stayed a bit longer to chat with Audrey before saying a fond farewell to Commander Cody and heading north to continue the adventure…

Villa Milagro Vineyards ~ Finesville, New Jersey

Villa Milagro Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite BarrettMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

This week we’re heading back to New Jersey and the second of the three wineries that Maree and I visited one Saturday in late July.  After lunch at the Riegelsville Inn, we headed back across the Delaware River to Finesville and the Villa Milagro Vineyards.

One of my favorite memories from the winery is the approach in from the main road.   Turning into a small driveway surrounded by trees and thickets, you proceed up a winding gravel road until suddenly the trees clear and the vineyards open up in front of you.   The effect is one of finding a hidden world up on the bluffs, and you forget that the main road is just a 1/4 mile back down the drive.  The drive curves along the cliffs and through the fields and vineyards, making its way back towards a lovely farmhouse and the barn which serves as the winery.

Villa Milagro is New Jersey’s only organic winery and one of only two organic wineries on the East Coast.  Owners and proprietors Steve and Audrey Gambino planted their first grapes in 2003.  They follow a two-year aging cycle, releasing their first vintage in 2005, and are currently serving their second vintage, 2006.  The 2007 wines will be available around Thanksgiving.

Audrey, who has a Ph.D. in Nutrition, was a professor at Columbia University School of Public Health for many years and is a published author and “one of the most quoted nutritionists in the country,” is the principal winemaker.  She retired from Columbia in December and now focuses her time and expertise on Villa Milagro’s wines.

Originally from California, Audrey is the daughter of farmers who lived and worked near California wine country.  Despite moving east many years ago, she retained strong memories of and ties to her California roots, and as she and her husband thought about retiring she found herself a trifle homesick.  They both prefer being outside and knew that whatever the “next thing was,” they wanted it to provide them with the opportunity to work outdoors.  Add to that both Steve’s and Audrey’s love for good food and wine as well as their enjoyment of meeting and talking with wide variety of people, and a winery seemed the obvious step.  They spent some time looking around for the right property before finally settling on their current location in Finesville.

Joining them is the winery’s official greeter, Commander Cody, a beautiful German Shepherd who enjoys the people who stop by the winery as much as Steve and Audrey do.   On Saturdays and Sundays you’ll find Commander Cody on duty near the winery’s front entrance ready to greet visitors and lead them inside for a tasting and conversation.

Villa Milagro Vineyards
33 Warren Glen Road
Finesville, NJ 08865

Villa Milagro is open Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 – 6:00 for tastings.

Alba Winery ~ The Reds & Dessert Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Thursday, September 17, 2009.

Both Maree and I prefer reds, so we carefully coordinated our selections to ensure we got to try as many of them as possible.

Under the Alba Vineyards label, the winery produces three reds: Old Mill Red, Chambourcin, and a Pinot Noir.  Unfortunately the Chambourcin was temporarily out of stock, so we each selected one of the other two.

Old Mill Red Described as a “chianti-style” wine, this is a very drinkable, pleasant red table wine.  Made from a blend of Marechal Foch and Chambourcin, with a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc thrown in, the wine is aged in american oak for 8-10 months.  The nose is rich with strong notes of dark berries and plum.  In the mouth there are also discernible notes of plum, and the oak provides a smoky finish.  I felt the wine would definitely benefit if allowed to breathe, as it was there was a sharpness in the mouth that is often found in wines with a strong percentage of Marechal Foch, and that usually mellows when allowed to breathe for 30 minutes or so.

2004 Pinot Noir The vineyard has only recently planted Pinot Noir grapes, and this is one of Alba’s first pressings.  For the 2004 vintage, the grapes came primarily from the New York Finger Lakes area and the Williamette Valley in Oregon.  The wine is a medium-bodied wine, although on the lighter side of medium.  There are lovely notes of cherry both in the nose and in the mouth, and there’s an interesting tanginess at the end.  This struck me as a young wine, and I wasn’t surprised to find that Alba has only just begun working in Pinot Noir.  For a newer wine, it is interesting, though, and I believe future vintages will grow richer and more complex.

Next we proceeded to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah of Chelsea Cellars.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon This was a lovely, very drinkable wine.  Medium-bodied with a soft dark-plum nose, the wine is rich and soft in the mouth.  On the palate the notes of plum are nicely balanced by touches of pepper and spice.  This would pair well with a wide variety of foods and should age well.  Definitely one of my favorites of the afternoon.

2005 Syrah I’ve been gravitating towards Cabernet Franc and Syrah lately, and the Chelsea Cellars Syrah didn’t disappoint.  The color is a dark red/purple – almost plum color.  The nose is smooth and light with notes of both cherry and plum.  Medium-bodied, in the mouth the wine has definite notes of plum and light notes of cherry which give it a brightness and freshness.  The finish is smooth with a nice balance of acid.  While I did like this wine, I definitely preferred the Cabernet, finding it a more interesting and complex wine.

We finished up the tasting with selections from among the Dessert wines.  Maree, who loves blueberries and had never tried blueberry wine, gave that one a whirl.  I, who have been tasting a fair amount of fruit wines lately, went with the Dolcina, an ice-wine style dessert wine.

Blueberry Wine When they say blueberry, they aren’t kidding.  The smell and taste of blueberry is predominant in both the nose and mouth.  Interestingly, though, it’s not overwhelming.  Like their Apple and Raspberry wines, Alba’s Blueberry wine is sweetened solely from the fruit and the result is a flavor that comes very close to blueberries straight from the vine.  It’s a rich, deep flavor that evokes … summer.  This will pair exceptionally well with chocolate or cheesecake as well as with fruit and cheese.  It would also be good sipped on it’s own as an aperitif.  Winner of the 2009 Governor’s Cup for Best Dessert wine.

Dolcina Described as an “ice-wine” style, the grapes are harvested late in the season (but not technically late-harvest) and cyrogenically frozen to produce that rich, velvety sweetness that one finds in ice wines.  The nose has notes of honey and apricot, and the mouth feel is soft and smooth.  In the mouth, the notes apricot and honey blend harmoniously, with neither one being predominant.  Definitely a nice dessert wine, but I found it didn’t have the depth and character of the true Ice Wines of the Niagara region or Germany.

Alba Winery ~ The Whites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alba Winery ~ Finesville (Milford), New Jersey

Marguerite BarrettAlba Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

It has become somewhat of a tradition that my summer vacation is deliberately without plans.  Four or five years ago, I found myself thinking frequently – and fondly – of the summers of my childhood: those long, long summers that seemed to last forever…  days, and their wonderful possibilties, stretching endlessly in front of me.  True, I also remember days of endless boredom when it rained, or when friends weren’t home and I was – horrors – forced to spend the entire day with my sisters!

But what I found myself nostalgic for was that sense of time stretching out in front of me.  I suppose as we headed back to school each Fall, we thought to ourselves, “where did the summer go?”  But if we did, it was more with a sense of loss, a letting go of those wonderful few months, and definitely not with the slightly hysterical “Oh My God, it’s September ALREADY?!” which is more often what you hear me saying now.

So in an attempt to slow down life and recapture that long-lost feeling of infinite time, I decided that I would take one week each summer (two, if I could manage it) and make no plans.  That’s not to say I would do nothing, just that I would make no plans other than waking up each day and doing whatever I felt like.

Alba Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite BarrettWhich brings me to New Jersey.  I knew I wanted to do a couple of day trips during my July vacation week this year, and after my visit to Ventimiglia Vineyard at the end of May, exploring more of New Jersey wine country was at the top of the list.  So Saturday morning of vacation week found me swinging through Jersey City to pick up my friend Maree and heading out to the Musconetcong Valley on the west side of the state.

Our first stop was Alba Winery, New Jersey’s 2009 Winery of the Year.  Founded in 1982, Alba produces 16 wines made from local grapes, and three wines under the label Chelsea Cellars from grapes grown on a Sagmore Valley block they own in Washington state.  The Alba wines have won numerous awards in state and regional competitions, and several wines have won awards in the San Francisco Chronicle and Pacific Rim International competitions.

Alba Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite BarrettThe winery is housed in an early 19th-century barn that has been painstakingly retrofitted to include modern winemaking facilities as well as lighting, air conditioning, and other amenities without losing the historic character of the building.  Carved into the side of a hill, with the vineyards ranging up the hillside behind the structure, the winery and tasting rooms have a long and rich history.  Built in 1801, the building at one point housed an ironworks which produced cannonballs for the Union Army during the Civil War.  In later years the property reverted to a dairy farm, and was finally converted in the late 1980s from a working dairy barn to the Alba Vineyards winery.  The result is a series of charming brick and timber rooms that meet all the functional requirements of a working winery while retaining the character and history of the original buildings.

Stop in the gift shop just inside the front door to purchase  a tasting and signature glass before proceeding down the few steps into the oldest part of the barn, the tasting room, a long rectangular-shaped room with the tasting bar stretched along the back wall, and oak barrels stacked to the sides and along the walls.  In addition to offering tastings, the winery also conducts tours and barrel tastings.

A tasting includes your choice of six or seven of the 19 wines, including the three Chelsea Cellars wines.  Guests are strongly encouraged to start with the whites and work their way down the list, but the staff will pour the wines in whatever order the guest requests.  Wines are also available by the glass, and the gift shop has a selection of cigars for those who wish to enjoy them with a glass of the Vintage Port.

The winery is open seven days a week; Sunday through Friday, 11 am – 5 pm, and Saturday 11 am – 6 pm.  They also keep a calendar of special events updated on their website.

Road Trip!

Marguerite BarrettSakonnet Vineyards, Rhode Island / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Summer 2009 has been interesting to say the least. A cold, rainy June and July followed by a hot and muggy August. Hiccups on the career front accompanied by long hours in the office. Unfortunate cancellation of a week’s vacation plans at the end of August.

By midsummer, I was feeling like Boone in Animal House, “Otter, this is ridiculous!”  So what’s a girl to do?


Mystic Connecticut / Photo: Marguerite BarrettOr to be strictly accurate, road trips.  I decided to eschew traditional stress busters such as exercise and therapy in favor of exploring the Southeastern New England and Warren Hills AVAs.  Armed only with a full tank of gas, a list of wineries, a map, and the ubiquitous debit card, I hit the open roads on random weekends with wine trail buddies Christy Sherard and Maree Prendergast, discovering new wines and new places from Newport, Rhode Island to Rieglesville, Pennsylvania.

There were good wines and great meals, as well as the occasional wrong turn, but most of all, lots of laughs and that great sense of freedom you get from impulsively saying, “let’s get out of here.”Alba Vineyards, New Jersey

I’ve also decided it’s time to mix things up here at Vino Verve – while reliving the adventure of hitting the road without a fully-defined plan.  So rather than organize my posts as I’ve done in the past (chronological order of wineries visited), I’m throwing them all in a soup; one day you might find me in Rhode Island, the next in New Jersey.   I suppose you could say it’s the Vino Verve version of Where’s Waldo?

So I hope you’ll join me here at Vino Verve on Tuesdays and Thursdays through October for the 2009 Win(e)ding Roads Summer Adventure!