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

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… 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.

Start a New Locapour Holiday Tradition

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Shortly after I heard about the New Jersey Thanksgiving Wine Trail weekend, I received an email from Haight-Brown Winery in Connecticut announcing their participation in the

1st Annual Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail

The winter wine trail is comprised of six participating wineries all clustered around Litchfield, Connecticut.  Visit any of the wineries between December 1st and March 15th and pick up a Winter Wine Trail registration card.  Get your card stamped at all six wineries by March 15th, and you’ll be eligible for the grand prize drawing of an overnight stay at a Litchfield County Bed & Breakfast with second and third prizes being a a family 4-pack of passes for Ski Sundown and dinner at a Litchfield County Restaurant.

The participating wineries include:

CT Valley Winery ~ New Hartford, CT
Jerram Winery ~ New Hartford, CT       **Vino Verve Visited**
Haight-Brown Vineyard ~ Litchfield, CT     **Vino Verve Visited**
Hopkins Vineyard ~ New Preston, CT     **Vino Verve Visited**
Miranda Vineyard ~ Goshen, CT       **Vino Verve Visited**
Sunset Meadow Vineyards ~ Goshen, CT      **Vino Verve Visited**

The Litchfield Hills are lovely any time of the year and the towns scattered throughout the region often feature charming 18th and 19th century farmhouses and Queen Annes (or newer houses styled like more historic buildings), local farms and vineyards with a wide area of fresh produce and wines  and picturesque town squares (particularly in the town of Litchfied).  Decked out for Christmas, especially if there’s snow on the ground, the area is practically a Currier & Ives lithograph come to life.

Combine all that with the chance to win some great prizes, and you’ve got a new Locapour Holiday Tradition.

I’ll be hitting the trail on Saturday December 5th with three of my newest wine-trail buddies, Cheryl Grayson and sisters Deb Shaw-Esteves and Melissa Shaw.   It will also give me the chance to check off one more winery in my quest to complete the entire Connecticut Wine Trail.   Hope to see you there!

Win(e)ding Roads: Continuing Adventures on the Connecticut Wine Trail

Jerram Winery

The Reds
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
After finishing with the Whites, the tasting moved on to the Reds.  On the menu were three Reds, including Jerram’s first wine, the Marechal Foch, and one of their newest wines, the Nor’Easter.  But first up:
Highland Reserve  A medium-bodied red, this wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Marechal Foch grapes.  The nose is rich with notes of both fruit and earthiness.  The wine is mellow, with a really nice finish.  The two grapes blend nicely together, with the Cab Franc smoothing out some of the tartness that one often finds with Marechal Foch.  A very interesting wine.
Marechal Foch Made from 100% Marechal Foch grapes, this wine was both a surprise and a delight.  Jerram’s first wine, produced since 1982, the Marechal Foch wine is a deep plum color, with a dry, earthy nose.  Slightly tart on the tongue, it has an interesting depth, and a surprisingly smooth finish.  My previous, albeit limited, experience with Marechal Foch wines led me to expect a much tarter wine with a “bite” to the finish.  This is a subtler wine, and the slight tartness that is the hallmark of the grape added an interesting complexity to the wine. This was one of my overall favorites.
Nor’Easter A blend, primarily Chambourcin, this is a semi-sweet red.  A relatively new wine, it was first introduced in December 2004.  The color is a rich dark red, and the nose has a rich fruitiness.  The sweetness adds a light touch without being overpowering; mellow and silky, there’s a slightly fruity finish (the tasting notes indicate Raspberry).  It’s a very nice wine that would pair well with a wide variety of food.
After the Nor’Easter, Jim pulled out a tasting of their dessert wine:
Vespers This is a very sweet dessert wine “made in the style of a late-harvest wine” according to the tasting notes.  Smooth, with a rich fruity nose, Vespers is made from Vignole grapes, which contribute both the sweetness and a touch of acidity which help balance the wine.  While not as rich as an ice wine, this would pair very nicely with cheeses, fruit, or sweet desserts.  I think it would be particularly good paired with an apple pie or a rich cheesecake.
Overall, I was so impressed with Jerram’s wines, that I went home with a bottle of everything I tasted that day – a rare occurrence for me.  But it was hard to choose between them.  Unfortunately, Jerram doesn’t ship wine, so I wasn’t able to share the experience with Gretchen and Kevin.  But for those of you local to Connecticut or Southern New England, the wines can be found in about 2 dozen package stores across Connecticut.  And if you do get a chance to stop by the winery itself, you won’t be disappointed.

Win(e)ding Roads: Continuing Adventures on the Connecticut Wine Trail

Jerram Winery

The Whites
Margueite Barrett
Contributing Writer
The Jerram Winery tasting menu consists of six wines: three whites and three reds.  Tastings are $5.00, which includes the tasting glass to take home with you at the end of your visit.
Prior to Summer 2008, the menu included all 10 of the Jerram wines.  However, according to Jim Jerram, people protested that this was too many.  Turns out, most people aren’t comfortable spitting; they drink the wines rather than tasting and then spitting.   And if you’re spending a day on the wine trail visiting several wineries, those 1 oz samples add up quickly.  
So, as a result of comments received, Jerram revised the tasting menu to feature just six wines.  And as with all tasting menus, first up were the Whites:
White Frost Made from Chardonnay grapes, this is a light wine with a delicate bouquet and taste.  The color is a pale yellow; the nose rich with hints of fruit, and the taste dry and slightly fruity.  The wine is aged in oak, but the oak is very faint; you get only a hint of the nuttiness  that often comes from oak barrels.  The tasting notes indicate it should be served slightly chilled, and would make a good aperitif.  
Gentle Shepherd A blend of Cayuga, Chardonnay and Aurore grapes, this is a richer and slightly sweeter wine than the White Frost.  The color is a lovely medium yellow, and the nose crisp with faint notes of fruit and berries.  The wine itself is crisp and smooth, with a beautiful finish.  The sweetness is nicely balanced, and the wine is quite refreshing.  The tasting notes suggest pairings with light cheeses, salads or spicy foods.  Personally I am looking forward to trying this wine with a spicy Thai curry; I suspect it will be wonderful.
Aurora  Named for the Roman Goddess of the morning, and not the Aurore grape, this is a semi-sweet white that is crisp and refreshing.  I know I’ve mentioned in other posts that I generally prefer dry wines; in fact, as Gretchen will attest, I’ve often steered away from whites, going straight for the Reds because they are drier and fuller-bodied.  But I really liked this wine.  Made from Villard Blanc grapes, the Aurora is a lovely wine, with notes of citrus both in the nose and on the palate.  The tasting notes indicate there is a hint of oak as well, but I didn’t pick that up; the oak is very subdued.  The sweetness is well-balanced, and the Aurora will pair well with spicy foods.
I really liked all three of the Whites and took home a bottle of each.
In addition to the White Frost, Gentle Shepherd, and Aurora, Jerram produces two other whites, which while I wasn’t able to taste, I was able to learn quite a bit about: the Seyval Blanc and the Seyval BC.
Seyval Blanc grapes are a French-American hybrid that grow well in the cooler climates of the northern and northeastern United States and Canada.   According to Jim Jerram, the Jerram Seyval Blanc is a crisp, dry white wine that would pair well with chicken or fish.  Seyval Blanc were one of the first grapes Jerram planted when he began the winery in the last 1970s.  However, Seyval Blanc grapes tend to produce drier wines, and Jerram was finding that increasing numbers of people were expressing preferences for the sweeter wines.  So Jim decided to experiment and back-sweetened a barrel of the Seyval Blanc creating the Seyval BC in 2008.
This is their newest wine, and is not yet on the tasting menu.  Because the first barrel was an experiment, Jerram didn’t have a name or new label ready when the first bottles were produced.  And since, due to federal and state licensing regulations, labels have to be distinct, they modified the existing Seyval Blanc label to accomodate the new wine, including changing the cap color from green to Black – hence the name Sevyal BC (“Black Cap”).  While the modifications satisfied labeling regulations, they are only temporary measures, and Jim and the team hope to have the new label ready later this year.  The design of the new label features an etching by a local artist, and the winery is currently sponsoring a contest to name the new wine.
I’m looking forward to going back and trying both the Seyval Blanc and the Seyval BC.  Based on the quality of the other whites I sampled during this first trip, I expect to enjoy both.  But I think it will also be fascinating to taste them back-to-back – the same wine, dry vs. sweet.
But that’s for another trip – and I still had the Reds to taste…

Win(e)ding Roads: Continuing Adventures on the Connecticut Wine Trail

Jerram Winery

New Hartford, CT
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
After a several-week hiatus for holidays, visits with friends and family, and then getting back into the swing of work, it was time to resume my wine trail adventures.  So on a bright, sunny (but cold) morning last week, I hopped in the car and headed over to New Hartford, CT and the Jerram Winery.

New Hartford, founded in 1733, is approximately 20 miles northwest of Hartford, and is an easy drive up Routes 44 or 202.   Heading west from Hartford, the drive takes you through the towns of Avon and Canton with their shopping and restaurants, and then up into the hills of Litchfield County and the Western Connecticut Highlands Viticultural Area.
The Jerram Winery was founded in the late 1970s by Jim Jerram as a hobby.  He began growing Marechal Foch and Seyval Blanc grapes after his research into other local wineries indicated that these grapes had been successful in the CT climate.  As Jim put it, “why not start with something you know is going to work?”After retiring in the 1990s, he and his wife decided to expand their hobby into a commercial winery, and today are a thriving member of the CT Wine Trail.
When I first pulled up to the winery, I was afraid they weren’t open, but Jim quickly came out from the main house and welcomed me into the Tasting Room, a converted butter factory dating back to 1903. The room is charming – an inviting, open space with lots of light.  The yellow and green walls are cheery and help create a casual relaxed atmosphere.

At the center of the room is a large, granite-topped tasting bar that could hold 10-12 people comfortably.  There’s space in the back of the room to add additional tables and chairs, and a small patio behind the building for outdoor seating in the summer.  
In the “off-season” the walls are decorated with items from the Jerram’s collection of movie posters, many of which come from the Bantam Movie House, Connecticut’s oldest art house theatre, and a short drive down the road from New Hartford.  In the summer, the movie posters make way for the work of local artists, as the winery also functions as an art gallery.   In fact, the label for their newest wine, a sweet Seyval Blanc, will feature an etching by Carol Taylor, whose work was displayed at Jerram in the Summer of ’08.
Jim is a terrific host, and the tasting was accompanied by stories and histories of the wines and the winery.  The tasting menu that day consisted of six wines: three whites and three reds, and at the end, Jim treated me to a tasting of their sweet wine, Vespers.   Check back here at Vino Verve beginning 1/21/09 for my impressions of the wines themselves.
All in all, it was one of the most enjoyable hours I’ve spent on the wine trail to date, and I’ve already alerted by wine-trail-partner-in-crime, Christy, (who was out of town that day) that we’re heading back there soon.