The Wines of Hardwick Vineyard & Winery

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Hardwick uses no oak, fermenting all their wines, including the reds, in stainless steel.   The result is a menu of lighter-bodied, crisper wines that are clean, refreshing and quite charming.

The menu kicks off with the

Giles E. Warner White Like all the Hardwick wines the Giles E. Warner is made from locally grown grapes, in this wine Seyval Blanc.   The color is a medium-straw that has a bit of sparkle when the light hits it, which happened often that afternoon as the bar is well positioned in front of a wall of large open windows which let in a lot of natural light that afternoon.   It was one of the few tasting rooms where I felt I the light was ample enough to allow me to get a true sense of the color of the wine.   But I digress; back to the wine.   The Giles E. Warner is the driest of all the Hardwick wines.   The nose is very subtle with just a hint of citrus.   In the mouth the wine is crisp with light notes of pink grapefruit.  The finish is very smooth and doesn’t linger on the palate.   This would pair well with seafood and lighter chicken dishes, or work well as a sipping wine on its own.

Yankee Boy White The second wine is a blend of Cayuga and Niagara grapes and the result is a smooth and somewhat sweeter wine than the Giles E. Warner.  The color is pale/medium yellow.  The nose is soft but not sweet with light floral notes and as a result I was not fully prepared for the fruitiness of the wine in the mouth.   The mouth feel is very smooth and silky.  The predominant notes are pear and a hint of sweet apple, although both are subtle and hit in the middle of the tongue, rather than at the front where I expected them.  Because of this the wine comes across as more complex than it might otherwise do so; it develops through the mouth, starting out very quietly in the front and opening up as it progresses.   Described in the tasting notes as being in a “riesling-style” this wine should appeal to many people and would pair well with a wide range of foods.

Yankee Girl Blush The first thing you notice about the Yankee Girl is the color, an absolutely gorgeous golden-orange.  Not honey, not deep gold, a true orange.  I think my first reaction when it was poured was “Wow!”   A blend of Seyval Blanc, Niagara and Pink Catawba grapes, this is a departure from what I normally think of as a “blush” in more ways than the color.   The nose is soft and fruity with notes of nectarine and strawberry.  In the mouth the wine is drier and crisper than I anticipated, given the color, the sweet fruitiness of the nose, and my general expectations of blush wines.  In the mouth the wine is lightly sweet with notes of strawberry and peach, but it also has a bit of a bite, particularly on the finish, with just a hint of citrus to balance out the sweetness in the front of the wine.   A charming wine, and I wasn’t at all surprised to hear this was one of Hardwick’s more popular wines.

Massets Cranberry One could also call the Massets Cranberry a blush wine – the color certainly is more what I anticipate from a blush wine with a lovely pinky-cranberry color.   A blend of 90% Seyval Blanc and 10% locally grown cranberries from a neighboring farm, the wine is crisp and lightly tart.  I personally found myself more charmed by this wine than the Yankee Girl Blush, I think because of the tartness – as much as I have a sweet tooth (and trust me, I do), I will always gravitate toward the savory and definitely prefer tart, more acidic flavors.    The cranberry provides a nice complement to the citrus of the Seyval; the sweet-tartness of the fruit softening the citrus acidity of the grape.  Described during the tasting as a nice Fall wine, there’s no doubt this would be a very nice complement to a Thanksgiving dinner.  However, I found myself thinking it would make a really interesting sangria, chilled on a warm summer afternoon.   Definitely worth a try…

Hardwick Red I was excited to see that Hardwick’s red was a Marechal Foch, a grape which regular readers of Vino Verve know is one I’ve grown to really like since I started on the New England win(e)ding roads.  Lighter-bodied than a number of the Marechal Fochs I’ve sampled across Connecticut, no doubt a result of the stainless steel fermentation, the wine is smoother and feels more “mature” than many of the other wines I’ve tried.  Marechal Foch tends to be very sharp and the resulting wine can come across as very young – in fact the first few times I tasted Marechal Foch that was impression – these were young wines that needed more aging to “soften the bite.”

The Hardwick Red, however, doesn’t have that “in your face punch.”  It still has a very dry finish with the tart bite on the end which is a hallmark of the grape, but the wine is smoother and feels more finished.  Fruit forward – another hallmark of the grape – the predominant notes are dark berry and plum, both of which are somewhat subdued so they tease the palate rather than overwhelming it.   You can probably tell from my description that I really liked this wine, and I think it will appeal to quite a few people.   Even if you’ve tried Marechal Foch wines elsewhere and haven’t been a fan, give Hardwick’s a try.

Quabbin Native The last of the six Hardwick wines, the Quabbin native is described as a dessert wine.  100% Pink Catawba, the color is a lovely pinky/peach rose color.  The nose is lightly sweet with soft raspberry notes.  In the mouth the wine is sweet and juicy, although not as sweet or satiny as the vidal dessert wines.  The sweet fruitiness of the wine is lightly floral in the front; I picked up hints of strawberry and melon but strawberry blossom rather than full-on strawberry.  The wine finishes with a slight bite and a hint of raspberry which balances the initial sweetness of the wine.   I’m told the wine also responds well to mulling, and I’ll definitely have to give a try come the holidays.

I found myself hard-pressed to choose which wines would come home with me – I’ve pretty much run out of room to store wine, so I either need to stop buying wine or throw a party.  I’m thinking the latter…  In the meantime, I limited myself to three bottles, the Giles E. Warner white, the Yankee Boy White and the Hardwick Red.

I also made a note to return in December when the restored, historic mansion is decked out for the holidays.

Hardwick Vineyard & Winery ~ Ware, Massachusetts

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The weather for my kickoff weekend exploring the wineries of Massachusetts couldn’t have been any more perfect along with my choice for the inaugural winery.

Hardwick Vineyard and Winery is located in the central portion of the state, an easy day trip from either Hartford or Boston.   The vineyards and winery are owned by the Samek family, who are only the fourth owners of the  Federal-Era mansion built in 1775 by Giles E. Warner, a prosperous Yankee farmer .  The house had never been modernized, i.e. no electricity or modern plumbing, and over the years the house had fallen into disrepair, and by the time the Samek’s bought it in the mid-1990s, the house required extensive restoration.

In 1998, they planted their first grapes and today grow 8 varieties of grapes on 7 acres, including Seyval Blanc, Niagara, Pink Catawba and Marechal Foch, which were the central grapes in the wines I tasted on Saturday.

The Giles E. Warner mansion

Located just outside the town of Ware, the approach to Hardwick takes you along a long, gently curving country road, lined with a charming mix of older farmhouses and newer family homes.   And just when you think you’ve gone too far and have missed the winery, you come out of a long curve to find vineyards on your right and the house and winery in front of you.

For a first-timer like me, you don’t realize your initial view is of the side of the house, not the front.   When the Samek’s chose to restore the main house to it’s original condition without modernizing it, they also built an extension with electricity, modern plumbing and other amenities of 20th-century living.   Built in a style that mirrors that of the original house and featuring a barn-red “front” door that undoubtedly serves  as the home’s main entrance, it includes a full modern kitchen, living space, and additional bedrooms which the Samek’s have now opened up as a B&B.  The extension was carefully planned so that  from the exterior it flows seamlessly from the main house and feels very organic, as if it was always part of the house.  A large 5,000 square foot barn was built on the back of the extension (to the right of the house as you approach from the road) to house the winery and tasting room.   It wasn’t until much later in my visit that I realized the original house fronted the street, and I had, in fact, come up on the side.

The winery and tasting room is charming and inviting with plenty of room to accomodate large groups or events.   The three story building is built into the side of a slight incline, with the winery and barrel rooms on the “ground” floor sheltered from the sun, providing some natural temperature control.

There is ample parking out back, and a short walk up the dirt and gravel drive brings you to the main entrance which leads you into the second floor, a space set up for large parties or events.    The entrance to the newest addition to the winery, a large wooden deck which runs the entire length of the building, is off to your right, just past the stairs leading to the third floor tasting room.   The tasting room is a wonderful space, large windows along the front wall admit abundant sunshine into the open loft-style space.  A large L-shaped tasting bar occupies the space in front of the windows, and there is ample room to serve a good 15-20 people comfortably.   Across the room from the bar is a small media center with a TV/DVD set up so visitors can watch the HGTV Restoration America segment on the home’s restoration.  There’s plenty of space to spread out and mingle, and visitors are encouraged to linger and chat with their hosts or each other.

Hardwick currently produces six wines, two whites, two blushes, and two reds, one dry and one sweeter dessert wine.   All the wines feature locally grown grapes, although they do bring in grapes from the Finger Lakes region to supplement their crop.   Tours of the restored mansion, which used to be available year-round, are now limited to the December holiday period, but a corner of the Tasting Room has been set up so visitors can watch the HGTV’s Restore America’s segment on the restoration.   The video is fairly short – 8-10 minute max – and is fascinating.  Not only is the story compelling, but it’s fun to know you are sitting in a piece of history.  I strongly encourage you to make time to check out the video if and when you stop by the winery.

The winery is open from March – December, Fridays-Mondays.  Tastings are $5 and include all six wines as well as a logo glass.  Throughout the summer, the winery hosts live Jazz on the first Sunday of each month, and particularly with the new deck, the winery is a great place to just hang out, relax and enjoy a gorgeous summer afternoon.

On Father’s Day, June 19th, Hardwick will be hosting a tractor show from 10-5, with live music at 11:00 and 2:00.

Hardwick Vineyard & Winery
3305 Greenwich Road
Ware, Massachusetts 01082

Coming Thursday: The Wines of Hardwick Vineyard & Winery