Saturday, May 24, 2008

I'm NOT drinking any fucking merlot!

OK, so the title of this post is a lie. I will drink Merlot, though it's generally not the first wine varietal I would gravitate toward. The title comes from the fact that I watched Sideways the other night, because I have been on a vineyard kick lately. Unfortunately, since I don't see any trips to California (or France like Julie and Matt) in the near future, I've made do with Connecticut vineyards.

My interest in local wine is as equally rooted in my new-found interest in local farming as it is my interest in the beverage itself.

Since moving to Connecticut, I've found some great farmer's markets and even places like Meadow Stone Farm where I can buy my "luxury items" (i.e. artisan cheese) while supporting the local farmers/economy/etc. My interest in buying local started getting serious when I began reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, along with a number of recent news articles (no doubt influenced by the outlandish gas prices and Al Gore making environmental issues hip) concerning how far food travels and how much fuel it takes to ship it.

(FYI - while I am trying to buy local and am growing some vegetables and herbs, I haven't managed to hardcore convert like Barbara does in the book. Unfortunately, I eat a lot of fruit that is not native to Connecticut, amongst other things. But I have gotten pretty good about buying my in-season produce from the farmer's markets, along with things like eggs, the aforementioned artisan cheeses, and even the occasional pieces of meat. I am a work in progress.)

I digress.

So the combined curiosity about wine and local farming has inspired me to check out some of Connecticut's home-grown offerings. I started sort of by accident when we visited Sharpe Hill Vineyard the day we went to Meadow Stone. However, when Jessica was here I took the opportunity of having another non-local wine drinker to try out the vineyards closer to my house.

Unfortunately it was rainy and disgusting the day we went to Stonington Vineyards, so we didn't get to walk around the vineyard itself. We spent the majority of the time in the tasting room. The reds produced at this winery were not currently available, so we worked our way through the whites.

Josh, Jess and I taste at Stonington

We started with the 2006 Sheer Chardonnay, an un-oaked chardonnay aged in stainless steel rather than oak barrels. The result is a crisp, fruitier chard (definitely picked up on some apple flavors) not entirely unlike some American Sauvignon Blancs. This was an easy drinker I could pour for people who don't particularly like wine and that I could enjoy myself.

The 2006 Stonington Chardonnay was more what one would expect from the name - oaky and buttery, sort of heavy on the tongue. There was something at the very end of the taste that kind of put me off, but then again, I have never really loved oaky chardonnays so maybe it was just my own prejudices. The 2004 Vidal Blanc was almost harshly citrus-y on the first sip, but that could be because it followed such an oaky, buttery predecessor. The second sip was better, but this isn't one for people who don't do dry.

I didn't expect to like the Seaport White (Stonington Vineyard's proprietary blend) very much and really, I didn't - too sweet for my personal tastes. The Triad Rose (a blend of Cab Franc, Chard, and Vidal) was spicier than I anticipated but pleasant enough.

The next day - after the Jibboom Club Parade - we tried out Jonathan Edwards Winery. Now, to be fair, although JE does grow grapes and produce wines in Connecticut, they also have a vineyard in Napa and all the wines we were able to try were from the Napa line (the Connecticut wines were not yet available).

One good thing about Jonathan Edwards is they put a lot of thought into the experience of wine tasting. They've modeled their tasting room in the style of Napa Valley - unlike the generic, carpeted room at Stonington with a small counter, this room has gleaming wood floors and shelves, a stone fireplace, and a nice-sized standing bar which two staffers can comfortably stand behind to pour. They take visitors on an extensive and informative tour of the grounds and facilities, which are absolutely beautiful. You can also order a glass of any of their available wines and drink it on a deck overlooking the grounds.

Jess and I enjoy a glass of Chardonnay on the deck

I was disapointed that they were out of the Napa Valley Petite Syrah, as I've heard good things about it. However, we were able to try five wines ( one white, four red) and a Petite Sirah Port, which was a pleasant treat.

As for those wines (and remember, these are all Napa Valley - not Connecticut - wines) - the 2006 Chardonnay was oaky but not as heavy and buttery as the Stonington Chard. The 2005 Merlot was extremely dry with light fruit flavors - it smelled a little bigger than it tasted. The Zin was dry (all the JE wines were bone dry, actually) and spicy with some fruit on the finish. The Cabernet Sauvignon was not quite as dry as the other varietals and had a definite earthy flavor. The 2004 Syrah was my favorite - extremely peppery with yummy berry flavors. I took a bottle of this home and may let it age a bit.

The 2005 Petite Sirah Port was actually delicious, although I never have been much of a port drinker so I didn't have a lot to go on as far as comparison (note to Michiganders: as much as I make fun of St. Julian's, they make a pretty decent tawny port - pick it up if you can find it). You definitely got some of that caramely oaky taste at the end.

In front of the grapevines at Jonathan Edwards

So I have now tried out three Connecticut wineries (although I drank California wines at one of them) and have been in some cases pleasantly surprised. I am looking forward to summer when I can (hopefully) get out to Long Island and see what it has to offer in the wine tasting arena. Until then, CT will have to do.

2 comments:

Stonington Greg said...

Good post… I found you blog because I look for people who post about Stonington so here I am. I have lived here all my life and have not made it up to the vineyards yet. Mostly because I just started to get into tasting and drinking wine. I will have to take a trip up there. There is a new vineyard being built in Stonington called Salty…..shoot, I cant remember the name now. Salty something. Its down off of 1a and it is actually an old airport.

I am also a real estate agent in Stonington. If I can ever help you in that area let me know.

Take care

Amy W. said...

Thanks Greg - I am glad you enjoyed it!