Happy Memorial Day Weekend! While there is much that needs to be done around the house, particularly tending to the yard and gardens, we took Saturday and devoted it to a day-long drive along part of the Connecticut Wine Trail, a fun daytime date. We packed a picnic lunch of cheeses, meats, bread, fruit and crackers, and set out to Wallingford for our first two stops. A little excitement on the way - Chris helped move a snapping turtle out of the middle of the road! He's an old one!
New to the wine trail is Paradise Hill Vineyard. Owned by the Ruggiero family, it has been a working vineyard for 15 years, but just opened to the public in 2011. They place bird nets over all of their vines so they can allow the grapes to ripen to their potential and result in a fruit-forward, flavorful wine. While they import many of their grapes from Chile, all of their wines are made in CT. We puchased a tasting and a very informative and friendly server walked us through four of their wines. First, the Washington Trail White, a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvingnon Blanc that is a tribute to George Washington who crossed the farm on his quest for gunpowder. It was tart, sharp, tasted of green apple and would be a great cheese wine. Next, we tasted their estate-grown Chardonnay, entirely made in Connecticut. It was a big white, with pear on the nose and hints of straw and citrus, and a lingering finish. The Cayuga White smelled of honeysuckle and was sweet, bright and tasted of tropical fruit; it would be a great by-the-pool wine served chilled. Finally, Trio, a tasty red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Carmaniere, which was spicy with plum and berry flavors and a chocolate oak finish. There were plenty of tables inside as well as outside, and people are encouraged to bring their own food and enjoy it while lingering with a glass or a bottle of their wine.
Paradise Hill Vineyard
Less than a mile away is Gouveia Vineyards. It was much busier here, and what they lacked in friendliness, they made up for in location; the views are amazing. We did a tasting here as well and tried 5 wines. The Seyval Blanc was semi-dry, smooth, had a nice aroma of honey and tasted of crisp apples. The Chardonnay Oak, aged for 12 months, was buttery, nutty, smoky, toasty and dry. The Cayuga White was a citrusy, sugary summer white that tasted of peaches and apricots. The Stone House Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel ,was full bodied and had a rich bouquet and smoky berry flavor. The Cabernet Franc was also full bodied but had more of a tart, woodsy taste. We also had a small taste of the Merlot, a smoky, spicy, cherry-berry-plum red that was delightfully dry. We stopped here and enjoyed some snacks and the view on one of their picnic tables.
Next we headed to Arrigoni Winery in Portland, also very new - the tasting room opened this spring. They have six acres currently planted but not yet producing, so they are getting their grapes from other Connecticut vineyards as well as from the Finger Lakes. They are making five different wines and we tasted a couple of them. The Orchard Valley was a white blend made with local apples that would be great with roast pork. The Drift Wood was a smooth, go-with-anything red with berry notes. They also have a nice patio overlooking their vines. We are interested to see where they take this venture.
We ended our day in Colchester at Priam Vineyards, and it seems we saved the best (and definitely most well-established) for last. Our incredibly hospitable and knowledgable server, Bob, walked us through what seemed like countless wines while telling us all about the vineyard itself. Priam is a completely sustainable vineyard with a solar-powered winery. They use no pesticides and grow clover between the grapes as a natural fertilizer. All their wines are estate-grown, and many are award-winning. Several of their wines are made from the St. Croix grape, and according to Bob, there are only 500 acres of this grape in the world; seven of them are at Priam. On to the wines. The Chardonnay is not oaked, and tasted of lemon and peach. The Gewurztraminer was spicy, complex, and dry, with honey and peach flavors and a mineral finish. The Riesling would be great with lemon chicken - it was fruity, clean and crispy and smelled like lychee or lotus flowers. Made to assist in the Backus Hospital Breast Cancer Survivors' Fund (15% of the purchase is donated to them), the Blackledge Rose is 100% St. Croix grapes, and was hardly sweet, but instead was semi-dry and fruit forward. The Late Harvest Riesling is a dessert wine tha we found tasted of lavender and honeysuckle and would be great with creme brulee. The Westchester Red is a barrel-aged blend that was spicy and smoky and slightly sweet, although not as sweet when it is chilled. The Salmon River Red was Amy's favorite wine of the day - a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it was heavily tannic, berry forward, smoky and went really well with dark chocolate. The St. Croix was oaky, smoky and reminiscent of chocolate-covered cherries. The Salmon River Red PV was their 2007 Bordeaux blend, aged for 36 months, and we found it to have lots of rich fruit flavors along with chocolate, fig, smoke and even leather.
By the time we left Priam, it was raining. Hard. The kind of rain that makes your windshield look like a peacock, with the drops on the glass as round as the eyes on its feathers. So we are lacking photos of Priam, but we have a feeling we'll be back. We met some nice folks, even running into a couple of them more than once on our journey, and tasted some fabulous locally made wines. Come back soon to check out the wine-inspired dish we made when we got home!