Chamard Vineyards: Harvest Prep

I got to catch up with  winemaker Kristen Parsons of Chamard Vineyards. She was kind enough to give us a few minutes of her time to tell us how she prepares for her crazy busy season and their quirky harvest traditions.

Wine we make first: We make wine depending on which grape comes in first.  In the fall, the California grapes ripen first.  For our estate grapes, the Chardonnay usually is the first to ripen, and therefore the first wine made.

Traditional harvest meals: We have gardens here at Chamard Vineyards.  Our traditional harvest meal consists of salsa verde made from garden fresh tomatillos and jalapenos. Along with freshly picked tomato for salad, this accompanies grilled steak, sausage and chicken and corn tortillas.

Traditions: Everybody enters the betting pool on when and which day our Vineyard Manager, Jim, will cut his finger with the harvest pruning sheers.

Find out more about Kristin in here winemaker interview HERE.

Visiting Chamard Vineyards:

Visiting Chamard Vineyards is like taking a trip to the French country side.  Once you turn into the driveway you are surrounded by a myriad of beautiful grape vines and transported to a Chateau style winery. You can enjoy delicious wines while taking in the gorgeous views of a fountain and pristine vineyards.

A tasting includes samples of 5 wines and a Reidel glass which is your’s to keep. Each tasting is $10.00 per person. Chamard can accommodate parties of up to 10 people without a reservation. Stop in and sip on some tasty vino while you wait for your table at their Bistro.

The Bistro pairs delicious foods with the wines made on the property. Many of the vegetables and fruits that are sourced for the bistro are from Chamard’s on premise garden. Very much a farm to table atmosphere, Chamard Vineyards is a fantastic place to sip great wine and enjoy delicious food with family and friends. I hope you enjoy your visit! Cheers!

Winemaker: Kristen Parsons
Winery: Chamard Vineyards: Winery & Bistro (Visit)
Location: 115 Cow Hill Rd, Clinton, CT 06413
Tasting Hours: OPEN Monday – Saturday 11:00AM – 9:00PM, Sundays 11:00AM – 8:00PM

National Cabernet Day at Chamard Vineyards

National Cabernet Day is one of my all-time favorite days (August 31st, put it on your calendar for next year) 😉

Cabernet is one of my favorite wines because it is full of complexity. Exposing dark berry flavors such as black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, and black currants on the nose and palate.  Most producers will also introduce it to some sort of oak infusion. This usually means the wine gains notes of vanilla, coconut, smoky characteristics, spicy notes, and a silky mouth-feel. Almost a “liquid cashmere” quality.

At Chamard their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon does just that! Their 2014 Cabernet is full of flavor, body, and complex flavors. Notes of black cherry, black pepper, tobacco, and vanilla tantalize your taste buds as you sip. Pair with their Four Mile River Farm Burger and you will not be sorry.

Visiting Chamard:

Winemaker: Kristen Parsons

Location: 115 Cow Hill Rd, Clinton, CT 06413 (Visit)

Tasting Hours: OPEN Monday – Saturday 11:00AM – 9:00PM, Sundays 11:00AM – 8:00PM

Tasting Options: Enjoy a tasting & a snack!

Visiting Chamard Vineyards is like taking a trip to the French country side. Once you turn into the driveway you are surrounded by a myriad of beautiful grape vines and transported to a Chateau style winery. You can enjoy delicious wines while taking in the gorgeous views of a fountain and pristine vineyards.

A tasting includes samples of 5 wines and a Reidel glass which is your’s to keep. Each tasting is $10.00 per person. Chamard can accommodate parties of up to 10 people without a reservation. Stop in and sip on some tasty vino while you wait for your table at their Bistro.

The Bistro pairs delicious foods with the wines made on the property. Many of the vegetables and fruits that are sourced for the bistro are from Chamard’s on premise garden. Very much a farm to table atmosphere, Chamard Vineyards is a fantastic place to sip great wine and enjoy delicious food with family and friends. I hope you enjoy your visit!

Cheers!

Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery Wine & Tapas Pairing Dinner at Pacífico Restaurant in New Haven, CT

I am a BIG fan of the Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery (as you’ve probably already noticed). They are an amazing family bringing delicious wines to their community. It’s not uncommon for you to see the newest addition to the family, Marcelo Jr, running around the tasting room greeting customers. You’ll probably also spy their very own winery dog Otis greeting patrons while they take in the vineyard sites. So when I heard about their wine and food pairing dinner I knew I had to check it out.

When you walk into Pacífico restaurant you are surrounded by an instant glow of chill, beautiful, Latino vibes. From the decor to the menu you are transported to another world that encourages you to relax and enjoy the Pacífico experience.

Everyone who attended the event was greeted by winery owners Margaret and Marcelo. Margaret’s father is one of the original founders of Paradise Hills. It was great to see the next generation taking a commanding role in the winemaking and winery business. They both took the time to come over and speak to each table about the food and wine they were being served. And the pairings were amazing!

First we started off with a “Ceviche de Atun” – Yellowfin tuna ceviche, mango, pineapple, red onions, and citrus juices. This course was paired with their 2015 Washington Trail White Wine, an estate grown Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc blend. The combination of the ceviche and wine evoked bright flavors on your palate – a refreshing and tantalizing way to start off the wine and food pairing dinner.

The second course was a Pork Tenderloin with sugar cane skewers and roasted corn chimichurri paired with the Nostra Tradizione. The Nostra Tradizione is one of my all time favorites! The pork and wine worked perfectly together thanks to a little bit of extra spice on the palate with notes of strawberry and cherry. This wine can definitely handle a bold dish.

The third course was a Pan Seared Sea Bass perched atop a mound of couscous, with sweet plantains, roasted pepper, orange, and coconut jalepeno ginger mojo. This was paired with their 2016 Sauvignon Blanc –  which *Spoiler Alert* –  is a limited edition vintage released on April 25th! Make sure to get your hands on this wine before it’s too late. The Sauvignon Blanc is like summer in a glass, and paired with the sea bass was knock out of a combination. Talk about bright citrus flavors merging with a little spice and salt. Super delicious.

The forth course was a Grilled Skirt Steak with yucca fries and aji amarillo chimichurri paired with the 2015 President’s Choice – a Bordeaux Style Red Wine. My goodness was this awesome! The President’s choice is the Winemaker’s Private Blend (not even some of the family know what is in the blend!). Accompanied by the steak, the flavor explosion in your mouth was insane. Blackberry, currants, black cherry, and cedar woke up your palate. This wine was definitely worth the wait.

The fifth and final course consisted of a Passion Fruit Flan and Paradise’s 2015 Connecticut Cayuga White Wine. Another bold pairing of flavor. The passion fruit was ignited even more by the bright citrus and crisp acidity of the estate-grown Cayuga. An insanely delicious dessert pairing.

I couldn’t get over how well everything was paired and how each course pairing got better and better. It was clear that both Paradise Hills and Pacífico Restaurant took a lot of time to make sure every course and wine complimented each other perfectly. I want to give a big Thank You to Margaret and Marcelo of Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery and Pacífico Restaurant for putting on this amazing event. I can’t wait to see what next year’s event will have in store for us!

Also, I want to give a shout out to Manny Vargas Photography for providing the incredible photos. He really captured the amazing ambiance and atmosphere.

Winery: Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery (Visit)

Location: 15 Wind Swept Hill Rd, Wallingford, CT, 06492

Tasting Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11am-8pm and Sunday: 11am-6pm. Please call to set up private/group tastings (Info)

Tasting Options: Tastings are $10/person for 6 pre-selected wines or $15.00/person for 6 pre-selected wines and a logo’d glass.

Purchase Wines from the Event: HERE

Event Location: Pacífico Restaurant (Visit)

Experience Paradise Vineyards & Winery:

When you visit Paradise Vineyards you are greeted by friendly tasting room representatives and a delicious list of 6 wines to enjoy. Most of the tasting room staff either works in the vineyard or in the winery. They are very fun and knowledgeable. No matter if you are new to wine or consider yourself a connoisseur you can always learn something new while enjoying a great glass of wine at Paradise Vineyards!

The tasting room is cozy and inviting. There is a roaring fireplace in the winter time you can snuggle up to, or when the weather is warmer you can  sit out on their patio overlooking the vines.

PS- Check out more more photos from the event below and more information about Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery! Cheers! 🙂

Winemaker Interview: Gouveia Vineyards

In this week’s “Winemaker Interview,” Maryann talks about how her Grandfather’s  winemaking influence and  her love and care for the vineyard help create delicious Connecticut wines at Gouviea Vineyards. 

Winemaker: Maryann Houde

Winery: Gouveia Vineyards (Visit)

Location: 1339 Whirlwind Hill Road, Wallingford, CT 06492

Tasting Hours: OPEN Monday – Saturday from 11:00AM-8:00PM, Sundays 11:00AM- 6:00PM

Tasting Options: Enjoy your wine with a view! 

Why did you become a winemaker? What first attracted you to winemaking? 

maryann in vineyard image

I’ve been making wine for 5 years. I wanted to follow the tradition of my grandfather. As a kid, I remember crushing grapes in the backyard and making wine in the cellar. This was very intriguing to me.

I have fond memories of Sunday dinners sitting around the table at my Noni and Papa’s house eating delicious pasta and sauce. My brother, sister and I were only kids but my grandfather would let us have a little wine mixed with soda. I remember how everyone wanted to nap after dinner!

How were you introduced to winemaking in Connecticut?

view of gouveia vineyards through the trees image

We had heard about a vineyard that just opened in Wallingford back in 2004 and my husband and I wanted to check it out. Gouveia Vineyards was the first vineyard we had ever gone to. We were amazed that this beauty was in our home town. I got a job in the tasting room in 2010 and that is where it all began for me.

What are the biggest challenges for a winemaker in Connecticut?

merlot grapes at gouveia image

I would say that most winemakers in CT have a hand in growing the grapes for their wine. Maintaining the vines that you grow on your own vineyard is very challenging due to the climate and susceptibility to disease.

What makes Connecticut wine so great? What makes CT wine so different?

The great thing about CT wine is that our vineyards and wineries grow and make wine from a lot of grape varietals that are different from other regions.

Tell us about your harvest process.

gouveia harvest grapes image

Towards the end of August we start checking sugars in the vineyard. This helps us to determing an estimate for harvest. We’re busy cleaning and tuning up our equipment. When the grapes are about 22 Brix, we pick a date, and we’ll put the word out and gather our team of volunteers to help us pick.

We start crushing the same day that we harvest. The grapes are trucked in from the field, weighed and go right into the crusher. The winemaking begins.

How does your wine making approach differ from other winemakers? What is your general winemaking philosophy?

Wine makes itself. You crush the grapes and they’re going to become wine one way or another, good or bad. I want to care for the vines as best we can during the growing season so when harvest comes, I can make sure the grapes become the best version of what they’re supposed to be.
A lot of times, the circumstances are not ideal in the vineyard or the cellar so you must work with what you have and not be afraid to take a different and sometimes unorthodox approach if necessary.

How do you know you’ve got a good vintage?

sunrise at gouveia image

I know the vintage is good when I see smiles on peoples faces who come and visit the winery. When I listen to their comments about the wine, and see how much they’re enjoying it, I know the vintage is good. If it’s making people happy, It’s a good vintage.

What is one aspect of your job that might surprise people?

How messy it is. You get dirty! It’s not uncommon to take the occasional wine shower!

What do you like best about your job?

seyval blanc

I like the variety. Everyday is something different. One day I could be in the vineyard, the next in the cellar and the next giving a wine tour and talking to customers.

What is your favorite wine that you’ve made and what makes it your favorite?

My favorite wine that I made is my 2012 Petite Syrah. It was the first year I made wine at home the old fashioned way. The grapes were stomped with our feet. It’s my favorite because my family made it together. It came out really nice, too.

Who are your favorite winemakers and why? OR What is your favorite wine and why?

I read the memoir of Robert Mondovi and that was very inspirational. He really forged the way for the California wine region. He was a risk taker and a visionary and wanted to make the best wine for every level of wine consumer. Through personal account, Joe Gouveia. I connect with his philosophy because it reminds me of the old-world style of winemaking back in the days of watching my grandfather crush grapes in his backyard.
You don’t need to do a lot to make a good wine.

Is beer ever better than wine?

Jesus didn’t turn water into beer…

I want to give a big Thank You to Maryann Houde from Gouveia Vineyards for giving us a peak into the day in life of a Connecticut Winemaker. Make sure to stop by Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford, CT for some delicious wines made by a passionate Winemaker! #MyCTWineTrail #DrinkLocal

The Gouveia Vineyards Tasting Experience:

gouveia barrels

Visiting Gouveia Vineyards is like visiting your favorite mountain getaway. You enter the driveway and are immediately transported to a peaceful, beautiful, vineyard property with rolling hills and gorgeous views. The tasting room is open and airy creating a relaxing tasting experience. You can enjoy a tasting of 4 pre-selected wines and a fifth taste of your choice. Each tasting is $12.00/person and you can keep your wine glass.

Once you finish your tasting you can sit down and enjoy a bottle overlooking the vineyard or take your wine outside to the outdoor picnic area. Gouveia Vineyards is a great place for larger groups because they have a lot of space and allow you to bring food to their facility. Gouveia Vineyards is a great place to visit with family and friends. I hope you enjoy your tasting. Cheers!

 

Winemaker Interview: Sunset Meadow Vineyards

In this week’s “Winemaker Interview,” George Motel Jr. talks about his dual experiences as a viticulturist and winemaker. George is second generation in the family business and proves that hard work in the vineyard translates to delicious wines in the tasting room.

Winemaker: George Motel Jr.

Winery: Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT (Visit)

Location: 599 CT-63, Goshen, CT 06756

Tasting Hours: OPEN Sunday, Monday, and Thursday from 11:00AM-5:00PM, Friday & Saturday 11:00AM- 6:00PM

Tasting Options: Taste a selection of wines paired to your palate!

Why did you become a winemaker? 

george jr

We started growing grapes at Sunset Meadow Vineyards in 2001.  After extensive research and a degree from UC Davis, my father and I started making wine in 2005 and opened up our tasting room in 2008.

What are the biggest challenges for a winemaker in Connecticut?

barn

The biggest challenge for a winemaker in Connecticut begins in the vineyard.  Assuming you can avoid the natural threats such as spring frost or drastically low winter temperatures, the biggest challenge is ripening the fruit to achieve balance on the vine.  Ripening the fruit to the desired brix content can be a struggle depending on the growing season.  The vines require a specific number of degree growing days to meet this desired level.

What makes Connecticut wine so great? What makes CT wine so different?

dog and bottling line

While the weather conditions in CT can be somewhat harsh at times, the climate is very conducive for growing certain varietals.  The natural acidity level is typically achieved in many of our white wines due to cooler temperatures and helps make for a very crisp, fruitful refreshing product.  Many of the CT varietals are unknown to most, but stem from cold tolerant and resistant northern areas where they were developed to handle our weather “extremes”.  These varieties are unique and distinct in flavor and can compete with many world-class wines.

Tell us about your harvest process.

vineyard

Once we have achieved our desired brix level on a particular variety of grapes we pick them immediately.  At this point we remove the protective netting we use against birds, deer ect..

The grapes at SMV are then harvested by hand and brought onto our crush pad where they are crushed and de-stemmed before continuing on the winemaking process.

What is one aspect of your job that might surprise people?

dog and barrels over view

Making wine has always been romanticized but few people outside of the industry know the dirty work that goes into winemaking.  Whether it’s picking ice wine at 2am in December or trying to finish pressing whites at 2am in September, you have to be there.

What do you like best about your job? (possibly the fact that you get to work with your adorable dog Churchill everyday? 😉 )

cute with dog's head on the barrel

My job is unique because I have the flexibility of managing the viticulture process as well as the winemaking.  I’m blessed to work with my family as we continue to expand and promote our local, sustainably grown product.

What is your favorite wine that you’ve made and what makes it your favorite?

We are blessed to have had many of our wines receive very prestigious awards in competitions all over the country.  We have also received multiple medals as well as best in CT multiple times in the Connecticut Specialty Foods competition.  These wines medaling include our Cayuga White, Blustery Blend amongst others.

CayugaWhite Purchase HERE

BlusteryBlendPurchase HERE

 

I want to give a big Thank You to George Motel from Sunset Meadow Vineyards for giving us a peak into the life of a Connecticut Winemaker. Make sure to stop by Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen, CT for some delicious wines made from a 2nd Generation Connecticut Winemaker! #NextGen #MyCTWineTrail

The Sunset Meadow Tasting Experience:

When you visit Sunset Meadow Vineyards you are greeted by friendly tasting room representatives. You are given a list of over 15 Wines to choose from and the tasting room representative is happy to pair your tasting to your palate. For an extra fee you can do the extended Wine & Chocolate pairing which I highly recommend! During the summer time they even have Wine Slushies (AMAZING).

The tasting room is decorated with every type of wine related item you can think of. From wine bottle umbrellas to funny wine t-shirts you can find a gift for any wine lover and something for you too.

Once you have finished your tasting I suggest you take a glass or a bottle outside to the patio where you can sip and chill while overlooking the vineyard. Sunset Meadow is a great destination to visit with family and friends. I hope you enjoy your visit. Cheers!

chair and wine in vineyard