Thursday, November 10, 2011

Traipsing down the CT Wine Trail

Last weekend we had a freak snow storm. In our town, we got about 5 inches of very heavy, wet snow. Schools all over were canceled the next day, and many people were without power. We were lucky, we only lost our phone/dsl. The biggest problem with this storm was that fall had come kind of late, so most of the tree still had their leaves, which are excellent for collecting the heavy snow and weighing the poor tree down.

My parents, on the other hand, lost power for 9 days. So by day 7, they'd had it, and came to visit. And we decided to try a little section of the CT wine trail.

I'm going to give you my frank and honest opinions about these places. I would be happy visiting each one again. All of these were in the northeast section of the state, along I-395.

Holmberg Orchards, in Gales Ferry
Their tasting room is this adorable tiny little shed. If you need to use the restroom, I'd wait til your next stop. Sorry, but I just have to say that- you know if you're hitting several wineries in one day, you WILL have to make a pitstop at some point. Don't do it here. Anyway, the wines.
We tasted four wines: a pear, a peach, and 2 styles of ciders. The pear was good, the peach was actually very peachy yet not overly sweet like many peach wines are. But they both paled in comparison to their ciders. If you like a light, sweet cider, these are for you. The Russet Cider is similar to Magner's (an Irish cider that can be a little tricky to find, at least in New England), and the Cortland was a little sweeter, a little heavier. I looooved the Russet. Best part? $7.99 a bottle (750mL, wine bottle size)! Tastings were $6 each you get to keep the very cute glass (which we left in my parents' car... oh well)

Maugle Sierra, in Ledyard.
Oooh, add this one to my favorites list. Their wines aren't cheap ($18-24), and the tasting is $10 for 6 wines (you get to keep the glass), but the tasting room is open, airy and relaxing, their wines are good, the guy behind the tasting bar was so full of information about the wines, and! they serve fancy pizzas. I liked their white wines (House White - chardonnay with a splash of vidal; Sunset White, a very crisp vidal that I'd enjoy in the summer), their rose (St Croix) was very interesting (in a good way! the kind of wine you sip, make that posh wine connoisseur face and say "hmm" before you take another sip), but I really loved their reds. The House Red is a St Croix blended with Merlot. Of course I've forgotten what it really tastes like now, but when I tasted it I decided I'd buy a bottle. Then we got to the Sunset Red, a blend of St Croix and Cabernet Franc. Now, Cab Franc is currently my favorite red, and I'm also newly fond of St Croix, so then I changed my mind to decide I'd get a bottle of this. So finally we tried the St Croix, which is just as good as the previous, but without the Cab Franc flavor mixed in. Clint wanted to buy this one, but we ended up with the St Croix/Cab Franc, partly because it was cheaper, and party because he also really enjoyed it.

I'm definitely returning to Maugle Sierra, just to do a tasting and hang out.

Dalice Elizabeth, in Preston.
This was a cute little place, situated on a lovely lake. I'd love to come here in the summer and sit out on their patio. For $10 we tried the Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Sangiovese. I think by this time I was a little crocked, so I don't remember anything in particular about these wines, aside from really enjoying the Cab Franc and Sangiovese. I felt the Merlot was a little thin, not much body to it. Mostly I remembered encountering a group of women celebrating one of their birthdays, who all worked at a pub that's just opened a new location about 2 blocks from our house- this is exciting, we love walking to dinner. One nice touch is that the grandmother of the young guy manning the tasting room made all sorts of relishes, pickles and apple butter that are sold in the shop. Love that!

Heritage Trail, in Lisbon.
This was another cute place I'd like to return to. Their tasting room is a cafe, and they offer a cheese and wine pairing for 2 for $25. The wine-only tastings were $7, and we didn't buy any wine because on the tasting list they were outrageously expensive- $24-42 a bottle! That's insane. I'm hoping they were priced like that because it's a cafe, and those were the prices to order a bottle of wine for the table or something. Honestly, I didn't really care for any of their wines, they all tasted slightly thin and metallic, but the atmosphere was great. We were unfortunately in a hurry at this point so couldn't stay and enjoy- I'd especially loved to have done that wine and cheese pairing!

Sharpe Hill, in Pomfret.
We didn't get to a tasting, but I promise you, I will be back there. Their tasting room is a smallish room with a super high ceiling so it just has a great effect when you enter. They've decorated with all sorts of farmy old-timey things- I especially loved the 7 gurgling cod pitchers. The bathroom is kind of fascinating (the line is super long because everyone has to look around- the room is all shelves, with interesting knick knacks on the shelves), and the sink is made out of a solid piece of carved soapstone.
We didn't get to a tasting here because we had dinner reservations, and the tasting bar was closed by the time we finished eating. However! This was one of the best meals I've had in at least a month. I had lamb chops with mint jelly, sauteed brussels sprouts and some kind of boring-looking yet fabulous-tasting rice. I had the Red Seraph, a Chianti-style blend of St Croix and Cab Franc (no, I can't get away from that blend!), which was recommended for the lamb... and I can't really say if I ordered the wine for the lamb, or the lamb for the wine. They were both excellent.
Clint had the jerk chicken with some sort of delicious bbq sauce and mango salsa. He gave me his grilled bananas (:-D). Dad has steak delmonico which he practically inhaled, so I can only assume it was good. Mom had scallops that were prepared simply but perfectly. And we all had Princess Louise Birthday cake for dessert- a simple white cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry puree- the perfect ending.

And we have one more!

The following day, we visited Taylor Brook in Woodstock. Hands down, best wine tasting deal of the weekend- possibly in all the 20 wineries I've been to in CT thus far. For $6 you can taste all 13 wines. You can't keep the glass, but honestly I don't mind that- we have such a big wine glass collection from all our tastings that it's kind of a hindrance.
I won't go through all their wines- 13 is a lot (bring a DD or a picnic. Seriously. Clint and I shared a single tasting, and it was still quite a lot for me). I enjoyed them all, but particularly:
the Traminette, a sweet, light Gewurztraminer
the Cranberry Riesling, a Riseling base with fermented cranberries added. A dangerous drink, since it tastes so much like juice.
Autumn raspberry, a riesling with raspberry essence added
Raspberry Rendezvous, a raspberry dessert wine that's not overly sweet
the Merlot, which isn't listed on their website but is a nice, light, 100% CT grown Merlot grape wine (we bought a bottle).

it's nice there are so many wineries clumped together in some sections of the state, a winery tour is a lovely way to spend a sunny weekend day.

Another good clump you can knock off in a day is over in Litchfield County, the northwest section of CT. We visited CT Valley, Jerram, Land of Nod, Miranda, Sunset Meadow, and just barely missed Haight-Brown, all on one Saturday afternoon. It's too bad they all close at 5pm!

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