Planning for the New Year

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

You might think that the winter would bring a lull in my win(e)ding road adventures, but there are quite a few wineries that remain open year-round, particularly here in Connecticut.   Some may take a short break for the month of January, but many are open again by February for Valentine’s Day if nothing else.

In addition to wineries January is the month for wine expos with both the Boston Wine Expo and the Mohegan Sun Winefest at the end of the month.   And February brings both the New York Wine Expo and Open That Bottle Night.  Given this bounty of wine activity, New Year’s day generally finds me on the computer planning my winter adventures, which for 2011 include:

Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail

For the second year, six Connecticut wineries have joined together to form the Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail.  For more information about the wine trail and participating wineries, check back here at the end of the week.

What better way to kick off the New Year than stopping by a few local wineries I haven’t visited in a while?

Completing A State

I have two wineries left in Connecticut before I can say I’ve completed the state; unfortunately, both are seasonal wineries only open in the summer, and one is only open the first weekend of each month.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be stops at local wineries between now and then sampling the newest Connecticut vintages across the state, but my goal of completing the Connecticut “wine trail” is another six months away.

In the meantime, though, I have only one winery left in Rhode Island, Diamond Hill Vineyards in Cumberland just north of Providence.  They are open year-round, so one weekend this winter will find me heading over to Rhode Island (perhaps with my fellow SOTS in tow?) to visit the fifth and final Rhode Island winery.  A sixth winery, Shelalara Vineyards & Winery doesn’t appear to be open to the public, but their wines are readily available in package stores across the state.  I’ve asked via email if they have a tasting room, but even if not, I will certainly pick up a few bottles to sample at home.   The trip to Diamond Hill will also mark a first for us here at Vino Verve – we will now be able to say we have visited and/or tasted wines from every winery in a single state!  You’ll definitely see a virtual celebration here when we hit that milestone.

Boston Wine Expo

January 22nd will find me heading north to the Boston Wine Expo to explore French wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux.  Not a big fan of the overcrowded Grand Tastings, I tend to spend my wine expo time in the seminars.  I also tend to select seminars that offer me the opportunity to taste wines that I would not normally experience – such as last year’s Boston Wine Expo seminars on the 2007 Chateauneuf-de-Papes and the two vertical flights from Maison Louis Latour and the Frescobaldi Crus seminar at the Mohegan Sun Winefest in 2009.

The seminar selection this year was particularly good, and it was a bit tough to choose.  But I ultimately settled on two:

Taste the Terroir of Burgundy with Laurent Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin.  I’m fascinated by the concept of terroir and what better way to learn more about it than through a tasting of great wines from Burgundy.  This seminar features two flights of four wines each, one white (different villages and different vineyards) and one red (different vineyards) from the same house.

2009 Bourdeaux with Jean-Christophe Calvet, President of the Aquitaline Wine Company. The Bordeaux seminar has sold out at the previous two expos, but this year I ordered tickets early enough that I snagged a seat!

Mohegan Sun Winefest

I’m still deciding about the Mohegan Sun Winefest, which is the weekend of January 29th and 30th.   There are two seminars that look interesting, Charles Krug’s Sesquicentennial and Duckhorn’s Taste of Terroir.  The Duckhorn would certainly be interesting as a counterpoint to the Burgundy seminar the weekend before, but it’s also late Sunday afternoon.  Of course I could also take a 1/2 day the following Monday…   Decisions… Decisions…

Completely up in the air is the New York Wine Expo the last weekend in February which also happens to be Open That Bottle Night.  I’ve been contemplating hosting an OTBN party, but the final seminar list hasn’t been released yet.  If there’s a “too good to pass up” seminar, I may have to bag the party, nab my friend Maree and head over to the Wine Expo.  It’s nice to have choices.

Finally, interwoven through all of this activity are, hopefully, one or two trips with my fellow SOTS members, Deb, Cheryl and Jean.  Since we first headed out last year, all three have become big wine trail fans and have converted husbands and friends to wine trail aficionados as well.  Cheryl has even ventured as far afield as Brotherhood Winery in the Hudson River Valley after sharing a bottle of their Riesling with me one lazy Sunday afternoon.

It all sounds very busy, and we’ll see how much I actually get done.  It always sounds great as I sit on my couch planning my weekends on the computer.  However, somehow by the time the weekends arrive too many other things get in the way.  At the very least, there are the two seminars in Boston to look forward to.

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.

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

Adair Winery ~ New Paltz, New York

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Well I’m finally back on the win(e)ding roads…   Once again life has a way of interfering with fun, although to be fair it is life – or more strictly work – that pays for all of these wonderful jaunts.  So I suppose I can’t complain too much.

Truth be told, though, I haven’t actually hit the wine trail in almost two months; a fact I was bemoaning to Jean, one of my fellow SOTS, just yesterday.  But we hope to rectify that soon.  In the meantime, I still have notes, pictures and wine from the last two wineries I visited this past summer.

I finished up the month of August with a second visit over to the Hudson River Valley and the Shawangunk Wine Trail.   My first, and unfortunately only, stop of the day – Adair Vineyards in New Paltz, New York.

Producing wines since 1987, Adair Vineyards is located a few minutes off the thruway just outside the small downtown area of New Paltz.  The vineyards encompass 10 acres, growing Seyval, Vignoles, Marechal Foch and Millot grapes, and the winery produces approximately 20,000 bottles a year.

The winery is housed in an historic old barn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dating back to 1800, the building is beautifully preserved both inside and out.  I fully admit I’m a sucker for red barns; there’s something about them that just calls to me.  Particularly if they feel like they’ve been there forever – a sense of connection to the past.

Outside, the barn, which sits just off the road, fits perfectly with the surrounding fields and vineyards and welcomes visitors to stop and linger at one of the several picnic tables that dot the yard.  Inside, the Adair has capitalized on both the charm and history of the barn.  Inside the main door a small foyer with whitewashed walls opens up onto a stairway leading to the converted hay loft which now serves as the winery’s Tasting Room.   3/4 of the way up the stairs a small landing houses an antique victrola, above which hangs a lovely tapestry.

As you reach the top of the stairs, the space opens up into a large open room flanked by alcoves on the left featuring wine-themed gifts and accessories and the tasting bar running along the back and right walls.  The A-line roof is supported by large exposed oak beams, likely original to the space.   Antique farm implements are positioned around the room and the back walls are lined with pictures and advertisements from the early part of the 20th century.   Centering the room, both literally and figuratively, is a lovely wagon wheel chandelier.  The overall effect is both roomy and cozy, and despite the lack of chairs, guests are made to feel comfortable, welcome and encouraged to linger.

On the afternoon I stopped by in late August, Adair’s menu included five wines, three whites, a beaujolais style rose and a dessert wine, a blackberry kir.  Tastings are $5 and include all five wines.  Adair is open from May through December, Friday-Sunday 11:00 – 6:00, with additional hours added during the harvest months of September and October.  A member of the Shawangunk Wine Trail, Adair participates in the trail’s special events, including the current Wreath Fineries Event, but restrict trail events to groups of 10 or fewer only.

Coming next Tuesday, the Wines of Adair Vineyards

Adair Vineyards
52 Allhusen Road
New Paltz, NY 12561

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…