Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Anniversary travels

We recently celebrated our 3rd anniversary
Unlike previous anniversaries, when we had frozen wedding cake to gnaw on, I remade our wedding cake in cupcake form. My cousin Rich made our original wedding cake using my great-grandmother's vanilla cake recipe, my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe, and lemon curd, so it's very easy for me to recreate it- although I'm unlikely to make 140 gum paste roses each year.

To celebrate 3 years of wedded bliss, we decided to take a trip.

It was not as exciting as our trip 3 years ago
having a cold drink at the ice bar in Stockholm

visiting the ruins in Sigtuna

 but it was a fun little day trip. In past years, we've celebrated our anniversary at Nashoba, but now that I work there, and especially since I worked Labor Day Saturday and Labor Day Monday, it seemed silly to go there on Labor Day Sunday, our observed anniversary (our actual anniversary was the following Thursday). But I also realized I had only been to one other MA winery besides Nashoba, and  it seemed like that now I work in the wine industry, I should learn more about the wineries in my state!

Now, CT has a CT Wine Trail Passport program thing, which is super fun: 32 of the CT wineries are participating this year, and you go around and visit them, and get your passport book stamped. Once you've gotten 16 or more stamps, you can enter to win, and the grand prize is a trip to Spain for a week! Even the little prizes are good, two bottles of wine. I would be perfectly happy with 2 bottles of wine! To get a stamp, you just need to visit the winery, not even buy anything... although really, if you've gone all that way, why not do a tasting? My parents and I have this down to a science: we can hit 6 wineries in Litchfield in one day, or 5 wineries in eastern CT. There is also a cluster in southeastern CT and in the New Haven area.

When planning our anniversary day trip, I was not aware of a MA passport program (there is one, but you have to visit all 29 or so wineries and you have to buy the passport. I have no chance of visiting all the MA wineries before the deadline so maybe I'll do it next year), or even a MA winery map, so I googled "MA wineries" and found the MA tourism page. Word of warning: this page isn't very well updated.

The original idea was to visit the Cape Ann Brewery in Gloucester, since I'd fallen so madly in love with their Sunrise Saison beer (strawberry rhubarb beer) at the VT beer festival. I was pleased to find 3 other wineries in towns surrounding Gloucester, so I planned our little route and we left after breakfast on Sunday.

Our first stop was the Mill River Winery in Rowley. This was a small winery with a small but very comfortable tasting room. The bar was a huge piece of natural-looking wood, which you can see part of below.

MRW's wine tasting gives you a choice between 2 flights: option 1 is the dry option, with chardonnay, riesling, zinfandel and Plantation Red, which is a dry red. Option 2 is a semi-sweet flight, with rose (dry rose, so not sure how that's a sweet option), riesling, Plum River White and Plum River Red (both sweet and dry at the same time). The last wine of each flight was a choice of any of their wines, from either flight.

Clint had the dry flight and I had the sweet flight. We liked the wines reasonably well, I think my favorite was the Zinfandel, which was flavorful but not strong or super dry. The chardonnay was good. We also had an impromptu tour of the winery, which was very small but the owner seemed very nice.

Our next stop was Alfalfa Farm Winery, which had my favorite wines of the day. 

These were fruitier wines, more similar to Nashoba. The tasting here was the same set up as Nashoba, where you get a free wineglass and tickets that let you choose which wines you'd like to try, not a pre-planned list. AFW had a tart strawberry wine, a sweet blueberry wine, 3 red wines, a chardonnay and a gewurztraminer. Between the two of us, we tried everything. My favorites were the gewurztraminer and the blueberry and one of the reds (but I can't remember which!). The strawberry was really different, in that it was tart and not sweet. They also had sangria, which we had as our last tasting.

AFW has a pretty little patio, and since it was such a lovely day, we took the last few tickets' worth onto the patio for a picnic lunch.

Wine, maple smoked cheddar, crackers and mushroom pate... a perfect anniversary lunch!

The 3rd winery was Russell Orchards, which had a very wide variety of fruit wines, including dandelion wine and jostaberry wine (what's a jostaberry?!?). I was very excited to try these unheard of wines, but when we arrived, we found their tasting of 4 different wines are a pre-selected group of wines. We tried the sweet cider (good), the Baldwin apple (meh, but I generally don't really love Baldwin wines), the blackberry (good) and the rhubarb (ok, just not what I was expecting- it didn't taste like rhubarb at all, sadly). 

Russell Orchards is just that: orchards. They have PYO fruit, a store where you can buy pre-picked fruit, as well as other goodies like local honey, penny store candy, and there was a bakery section...

So we got apple cider donuts. Look at that happy husband!
These were really good donuts. Later on I wished they'd had cinnamon sugar though, but when they're fresh and hot you don't need it.

They had turkeys there.

Our last stop was Cape Ann Brewery in Gloucester, the main reason for putting this trip together. (side note: Gloucester is very scenic. I will be back)

We had to wait for a table. Sunday night of a holiday weekend, at 6:30, not surprising. The restaurant isn't huge, but they had an outdoor bar so we headed over there after putting our name in, since it was the perfect day to have a beer at an outdoor bar on the docks. I was very pleased to find Sunrise Saison on tap out there (along with Not Your Ordinary Bitter and Fisherman's Brew). Sunrise Saison was just as good as I remembered!
Salt and pepper shakers at Cape Ann Brewpub.

I ordered fish tacos, which were basically fish and chips with guacamole, corn salsa and tortillas. Pretty good! Something about that salty sea air makes fried food taste amaaazing.

Clint had jambalaya.

Then it came the time when we finished our blue soho cups of beer and had to decide what else to drink.

choices, choices! Fortunately, we saw someone with a beer flight at the next table, so we asked about that.

Fisherman's ale, Rockporter, Pumpkin Stout, Fig and Date Imperial Pumpkin Stout, Honey Pilsner and Pineapple Express.
I really wanted the pineapple, but it was too hoppy for me, and it hid the pineapple flavor. I liked Fisherman's Ale as a nice light summery beer. Honey Pilsner wasn't very honey-y (Clint could taste the honey though) but the Fig & Date stout was amazing, unlike anything I'd ever had before. It was definitely a sipping beer, though, so we decided against getting a growler, since it would take us forever to finish it.

The evening ended on a sad note: they didn't sell bottled beer at the brewpub, so we decided on a growler of sunrise saison. But when we asked for it, the waitress said they had an unexpectedly busy weekend and were completely out of growlers! ugh! so disappointing. She gave us directions to a liquor store that sold their beers, but when we got there, they were closed (Sunday night! totally forgot).

Fortunately, that story has a happy ending, and I can buy the Sunrise Saison by the bottle (not 6-pack) just down the street.

I love their labels! Very Gloucester-y.

Part 2 of our anniversary was dinner on the 6th at our favorite tapas restaurant, Bocado in Worcester. Cheers!
House sangria, Idiazabal cheese, bread and house-cured pork loin

seared scallops with pimenton cream sauce and potato and corn pancake

Trio of grilled sausage: chorizo, sweet Italian sausage and pheasant sausage (the pheasant sausage was ridiculously good)

pork albondigas with figs and bleu cheese, and venizon with rice and eggplant in rioja gravy

vanilla-brined chicken with blackberry sauce and pureed cauliflower

for dessert, we had churros with chocolate sauce.

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