About 2 weeks ago, we found ourselves with a gorgeous Saturday and no plans. So we decided to head south to the Connecticut Wine Trail. Friends had been telling us about it for months, but we'd yet to find the time. For our first trip, I had 3 vineyards mapped out. We made it to 2 before deciding that was enough wine tasting for one day if we were going to make it safely back home. That's the only problem with wine tasting -driving afterward. Don't worry, we played it safe.
Our first stop was the Connecticut Valley Winery in New Hartford. We sidled up to the bar with several other visitors to enjoy a tasting of 11 of their wines, all presented by one of the owners, Judy Ferraro. For each wine, she explained where the grapes come from (some are grown in CT, others are shipped in), what awards the wines have one, what notes people say they taste and what people use the wine for (other than drinking). I really enjoyed learning all about the wines - and of course, tasting them. Overall, I really liked the majority of the wines. They ranged from dry and crisp whites to rich, deep reds to fruity dessert-like wines.
My favorites were the Midnight (a red wine made from Frontenac hybrid grapes), Orange Vidal (a white wine with notes of honey and apricot), Just Peachy (a sweet white wine infused with peaches) and Raspberry Delight (white wine infused with raspberries). In fact, we bought a bottle of each of these! Tonight, I'm enjoying the Midnight again:
The one downside to the Connecticut Valley Winery is that there isn't a great outdoor space for lingering after your tasting. The winery building itself is a big barn set in the middle of a working farm. It was a gorgeous day and we wanted to be outside, but sitting next to a broken down tractor wasn't really appealing. So, we moved on to our next destination...
Up next was the Haight-Brown Vineyard in Litchfield. This is actually the oldest winery in CT and it definitely had the scenery we were looking for. The main building reminded me of something from the English countryside:
Photo copyright 2010, Haight-Brown Vineyard
Out front was a huge wine barrel and all around were rows and rows grape vines. Out back, there was a deck overlooking the vineyard, which was perfect for lingering on. We did another tasting here and enjoyed 8 wines paired with 3 chocolates. Like the Connecticut Valley Winery, some of the grapes used are grown onsite and some are brought in.
There were some good wines on the menu, but we weren't quite as wowed as we had been with the Connecticut Valley Winery. Here, we had just 2 main contenders that we'd happily drink again: the Covertside White (a refreshing, unoaked white blend) and the Picnic Red (a fruity, medium red). Both are made with grapes grown in CT... perhaps that's the secret to their success over some of the others.
We bought a bottle of the Picnic Red and headed out to the deck to enjoy a glass before heading home. It was absolutely wonderful to sit back and enjoy the sunshine and the views of the vineyard (sadly, I forgot my camera and Mr. ValleyWriter's Blackberry photos just don't do it justice, so I'm not bothering to post them). Haight-Brown may not have had as big of a selection that appealed to me, but their ambiance was top notch, to say the least.
There are 19 more wineries on the trail to try. We now have a "passport" we can fill out with stamps from 15 more by the end of October and then be entered to win a trip to Spain. Wouldn't that be fabulous? I don't know that we'll make it to that many - but we're sure going to enjoy trying!