Congratulations Connecticut Valley Winery!

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Congratulations to Connecticut Valley Winery

winner of 17 medals in the 2010 Big E Wine Competition!

Logo from Connecticut Valley Winery website

Connecticut Valley Winery and winemakers Anthony and Jason Ferraro won 17 medals: 1 gold, 9 silver and 7 bronze in the 2010 Big E Wine competition, giving them the distinction of being the most awarded Connecticut winery for the second straight year.  They also matched or surpassed the results of the Finger Lakes wineries.

The gold medal was awarded to the Orange Delight, a 50/50 blend of Orange Muscat and Vidal Blanc grapes that is absolutely delicious!  After the 2009 competition, one judge even called the Ferraros to tell them personally how much he loved the wine.

For more information about Connecticut Valley and their wines, check out their website:  Connecticut Valley Winery and my impressions here at VinoVerve.

Connecticut Valley Winery ~ The Reds

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Connecticut Valley leads off the Reds with their Chianti, the only wine produced in the Northeast that’s allowed to be called a Chianti.  In 2004, the United States and the European Union reached an agreement prohibiting the use of wine labels, such as Chianti, that had become “semi-generic” to only those wines produced in specific regions within the European Union.  Also included in the agreement are “Champagne,” “Madeira,” “Port,” among others.   Certain US wines, such as Connecticut Valley’s Chianti, were grandfathered in, thus allowing this to be one of the few non-European wines allowed to be called a Chianti.

Chianti Connecticut Valley’s Chianti is a blend of 7 different grapes, 4 grown locally, including Grenache, Sangiovese, Chianti and Chardonel grapes.  The result is delightful: rich, medium garnet color with a lovely, fruity nose with rich plum notes.  In the mouth, the wine is very smooth and fruity with notes of both cherries and summer berries.  The wine is dry and lighter-bodied, with very low tannins, producing a nice smooth finish.  This is a great summer sipping wine and would pair well with grilled meats and fish.

2010 Ruby Light A rosé style wine, the Ruby Light is a 50/50 blend of Frontenac and Chardonel. Deeper and richer than the Chianti, the wine has lovely notes of plum on the palate and a touch of pepper on the finish which provides some complexity.  The nose is bright and fruity with a slightly floral citrus note.  Like all the Connecticut Valley wines, the Ruby Light is smooth with low acidity.  I found I would have liked a bit more acid on the finish to open up the wine.

2010 Deep Purple An estate-bottled Chambourcin, the 2009 vintage was completely sold out on my previous visits, so I looked forward to this with great anticipation.  The nose is quite strong with lovely notes of cherry.  On the palate, the notes of cherry predominate, bordering on overwhelming the wine.  The cherry notes add a strong sweetness, and despite being a dry wine, it borders on the semi-sweet due to the strength of the cherry.  The couple next to me at the tasting really liked this, and those who prefer sweeter wines should really like this.  The Deep Purple should hold up well when paired with meats such as beef and pork.  Overall an interesting wine, but not one of my favorites.

2010 Midnight An estate-bottled Frontenac, this is one of my favorites among Connecticut Valley’s wines.   The nose is soft and rich, with lush cherry notes, although thankfully not as strong as those in the Deep Purple.  Like the Deep Purple, the cherry notes are very strong in the mouth, but the Midnight has a slight finish of chocolate/mocha, which likely comes from the dark french oak barrels in which the wine is aged, that smooths out the wine and balances the cherry.  The result is less sweet and more interesting than the Deep Purple.  This would pair well with drier, richer foods.  Judith Ferraro also uses the Midnight as the base for a mulled wine, combining it with cranberries and mulling spices.  She always keeps a batch going during the winter and offers it at the end of a tasting.  The result is absolutely divine – and the perfect wine for those cold northeastern winter evenings in front of the fire.

2009 Black Tie Cabernet Franc This is Connecticut Valley’s most awarded red wine.  75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Geneva 7 (GR7), a hybrid grape produced by Cornell University and first released in 2003.  A hardier grape designed for colder-weather climates, the GR7 is used primarily as a blending component.  Connecticut Valley’s Cab Franc is a smooth, dry wine, the driest of Connecticut Valley’s wines.   In the mouth, the wine is soft and silky with notes of cherry and a peppery finish that doesn’t linger overlong.   This should age very nicely, and I imagine it will really open up if allowed to cellar for a couple of years.   Each time I taste the wine, I find myself more and more intrigued, and after the third tasting have added it to my list of favorite Connecticut Cabernet Francs with Gouveia‘s and Chamard‘s.

The tasting finishes with Connecticut Valley’s one dessert wine, the

Black Bear A port-style wine, the Black Bear has a strong, rich deep nose with notes of both cherry and chocolate.  As with the Black Tie and the Deep Purple, the strongest notes present on the palate are those of cherry, although there are slight notes of raspberry and dark chocolate both of which provide a slightly tart bitterness to balance the cherry and keep the wine from being overly sweet and cloying.  The finish is smooth with light, lingering notes of chocolate.

That concluded the tasting, and as I didn’t have another winery on my list for that afternoon, I indulged, ordering a glass of the Chardonel a plate of crackers and cheese and settled into a comfortable chair on the patio for an hour in the sun.

In addition to the wines, Connecticut Valley also hosts wine-pairing dinners featuring the cuisine of local chefs paired with Connecticut Valley wines.  Their most recent dinner was Valentine’s Day.  If interested in future dinner, check out their website and/or send them an email and Judith will put you on her watch list and contact you once they’ve scheduled the next dinner.

The winery is open all year round Saturdays and Sundays 12-5 or by appointment.  They also have extended hours during the summer wine season, call 860-489.WINE for details.

Connecticut Valley Winery ~ Whites and Specialty Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

In addition to being voted Best Connecticut Small Winery at the Big E competition, Connecticut Valley also won the distinction of being the Sisters of the Connecticut Wine Trail’s favorite winery.  The whole group loved both the winery and the wines – and trust me, they are not an easy group to please!

The tasting menu starts off with the

Chardonnel A hybrid grape, the result of grafting Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc grapes together, the result is a lovely, crisp, refreshing white wine – one of my favorites across the Connecticut wine trail.  Like all of the Connecticut Valley wines, the Chardonnel has only a light touch of oak.  A pale yellow color with a soft, lightly fruity nose with notes of apricot and peach, the wine is soft and silky in the mouth with light notes of peach and bright citrus and a soft buttery finish.  The Chardonnel would pair well with a wide variety of foods, but I prefer it on it’s own – lightly chilled, it’s a perfect wine to relax with at the end of the day.

Dolce Vita An estate-grown Cayuga White, Dolce Vita is proprietor Tony Ferraro’s favorite wine, according to his son, Jason, who was my host for my third and most recent tasting.   The color is an extremely pale straw.  The nose is soft and both fruity and floral with lovely notes of orange blossom.  In the mouth the wine has subtle notes of pineapple and touches of melon.  On my most recent visit, the gentleman next to me during the tasting said he was picking up watermelon.  I took another sip and thought about it and could get just the barest hint of the watermelon he was experiencing, but for me the overall impression was that of pineapple.  Regardless, it is a lovely wine.

The next three wines, the Specialty Wines, are all fruit-infused wines, and as Jason Ferraro described them “the dangerous wines.”  First up is the

Just Peachy 75% Chardonnay and 25% Seyval Blanc infused with a peach essence, the result is a delightful, soft, eminently drinkable table wine.  The color is a soft gold.  The nose is soft and peachy, but not overpoweringly so.  In the mouth, you realize at once this is not a fruit wine – the Chardonnay/Seyval base produces a dry, lightly oaked table wine and the peach essence provides a depth of fruit that blends beautifully with the notes already present in the grapes.  The result is a delightful, not-sticky-sweet, wine that would pair well with spicy dishes, chinese and even pork.

Raspberry Delight Like the Just Peachy, the Raspberry Delight is a white table wine infused with raspberry essence.  The result produces a very pink wine.  The nose is soft raspberry; a more subtle nose than I had anticipated.  In the mouth, the wine is also more subtle than I anticipated.  There are strong raspberry notes, but rather than overpowering the wine, they produce a bright, crisp, tanginess at the start that smooths out to a lightly sweet finish.   I definitely preferred the Just Peachy to the Raspberry Delight, but the Raspberry Delight has it’s charms.

Orange Delight This is vintner Jason Ferraro’s favorite wine, as well as one of my favorites, to my great surprise.  I did not anticipate liking this as much as I did.  As it was being poured and described, I expected the orange to be too strong a flavor, overpowering the wine altogether.  I have never been so pleased to be proved wrong.  A 50/50 combination of Orange Muscat and Vidal Blanc grapes, this is a semi-dry wine.  Like the Dolce Vita, the color is a very pale straw.  The nose is soft with strong notes of orange floral.  In the mouth the orange, rather than being too sweet, has a slightly bitter/tart edge that balances the fruity sweetness and creates some depth and complexity in the wine that is really interesting.  Overall it’s a very different wine, and not the kind of wine people will be on the fence about – you’ll either like or you won’t.  Regional wine judges and critics do like it, and it’s won multiple medals in competitions, including a perfect score at the Fingerlakes Wine Competition.  One judge liked it so much that after the competition, he called the Ferraros directly to tell them how much he loved the wine – now that’s a fan!

Connecticut Valley also produces two sparkling whites:  the first a blend of chardonnel and cayuga and the second a spumanti produced from the orange muscat grapes.  Like all sparkling wines, neither is included on the tasting menu, but I’ve promised myself I’d stop back and pick up a bottle of each.

Next up: The Reds, including the only wine in the Northeast allowed to bill itself as a Chianti.

Connecticut Valley Winery ~ New Hartford, Connecticut

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Spring has been a bit “off” this year in New England with sharp weather mood swings from cold and rainy to hot-more-like-summer weather.  I’m not sure yet how or even if that will affect this year’s grape harvest, but it’s kept me off the wine trail for much of the last couple months.  As much as I like exploring new regions and discovering new wineries, contemplating a long drive through dreary, drizzly countryside has been somewhat demotivating.

Despite all that, the hallmarks of late spring/early summer have finally arrived ~ the days are warm and the nights pleasant, the grass, trees and hills are awash in rich, vibrant shades of green; the birds are driving the cat mad, taunting her from the trees and bushes right outside the kitchen window, and my neighbors have the air conditioner on.  Go figure…

With the improvement in weather also comes an improvement in my mood – and my motivation to hit the open road in search of new wine experiences – which led me to New Hartford and the Connecticut Valley Winery on a recent gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon.

This was actually my third visit to Connecticut Valley Winery.  I had stopped there shortly after Christmas, and returned a few weeks later with my Sisters of the Connecticut Wine Trail, Cheryl, Deb, Jean and Melissa.   My notes, however, stayed in a pile on my desk, waiting patiently for me to sit down and write them up.  By the time I finally unearthed them, I decided it was probably better that I make a third trip – just to refresh my memory, of course.  The fact that I had finished the last of the bottles that I had picked up on the previous trip did not play into my decision at all…

Connecticut Valley Winery is owned and operated by Anthony and Judith Ferraro with the full-time assistance of their son, Jason.   The winery was named Best Small Winery at the 2009 Big E Northeast Gold Wine Competition, at which they also won a record 10 medals for their wines, making it the most awarded Connecticut winery in Big E history.   In addition to the Big E competition, Connecticut Valley wines have won medals at the Finger Lakes and Grand Harvest wine competitions.

The Ferraros turned to winemaking upon their retirement, a story heard often from the region’s winemakers.  Their wines are produced from 15 varieties of grapes including Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Seyval and Cayuga, many of which are grown locally.  They use very few sulfites and chemicals in their wines, relying primarily on what’s found naturally in the grapes and the yeast.  As a result their wines are smoother, with less acidity than in many other wines.  They specialize in dry wines, although they do have some lovely specialty fruit-infused wines which are far more interesting than I expected.

From the outside the winery is unprepossessing; a large barn painted in primer gray sits on a slight rise a few hundred yards back from the road.  Grape vines line either side of the dirt and gravel drive and the vines are planted right up to the main road and continue around and behind the winery.  The front of the winery features a slight wrap-around deck with room to sit perhaps 10 people comfortably.     However, don’t let the barn’s exterior simplicity put you off – inside the tasting room is a charming, cozy and eminently comfortable space.

As with most tasting rooms the room’s centerpiece is the bar – a cornered-U-shape bar in the center of the room.  As you enter, you will likely be greeted by Judith, a permanent fixture behind the bar.  Judith is one of the highlights of a visit to Connecticut Valley – friendly, always willing to stop for a chat, she makes it easy to relax into your surroundings.  She keeps her tasting notes to a minimum for those who aren’t interested in more than basic details, but will answer any and all questions you may have about the wine and winery.

While there are no bar stools around the tasting bar, there are a few tables surrounding the fireplace, and guests who wish to linger are encouraged to do so.  On my second visit with my SOTS buddies, we brought a light lunch of cheese and crackers, tapenade (handmade by Cheryl) and a few other nibblers and settled in next to a roaring fire for a lovely hour  of wine, food and company.

The tasting room itself is not large, but the Ferraros use space in the fermentation and barrel rooms which are located just off the tasting room for large groups.  On my most recent trip, I had brought a book and was settled on the patio with a glass of wine when a large tour bus showed up.  This was actually the first bus I’ve seen during all my Connecticut Wine Trail travels, and I wasn’t sure how they were going to manage the tastings – until I saw them head into the barrel room.

In addition to the normal tasting room offerings, Connecticut Valley also hosts periodic wine/food dinners, inviting a local chef to prepare a sumptuous 5-course meal that they pair with their wines.  Costs are quite reasonable at about $125 per person, and they can accommodate 25-30 people at a dinner.

The tasting room is open year round on Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5.  The tasting menu includes all 11 wines, although on my first two visits in December and January, they were sold out of a couple of wines.  A tasting will run you $6, and you can purchase glasses of wine for $6 or include cheese and crackers for an additional $2.

Connecticut Valley Winery
1480 Litchfield Turnpike
New Hartford, CT 06057
860-480-WINE (9463)