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: Chamard Vineyards

In this week’s “Winemaker Interview,” Kristen Parsons talks about how family tradition set her on her winemaking path. Through hard work, perseverance, and her passion for wine, Kristen was able to position herself to achieve her winemaking goals. 

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

Tasting Options: Enjoy a tasting & a snack!

Why did you become a winemaker? 

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I grew up in an Italian family where wine was part of our celebrations. No one in my immediate family made homemade wine, but distant relatives and family friends did. I developed a palate for wine at a young age and fell in love with it. During my time at Babson, where I was focusing on the entrepreneurial studies of opening a vineyard and winery, I decided that I wanted to learn every aspect of the business. I took several internships during the summer and winter where I first studied the business end, marketing and finance, then hospitality, viticulture and enology.

After this, I found that I had a passion for working in the fields and in the cellar and crafting wine. I then went out and studied in Italy for a semester at Lorenzo de Medici and learned about Italian wines, just furthering my desire to make wine. Upon returning and graduating I decided to continue my education and went to school for Enology and Viticulture at Washington State University to realize my dream of making wine. Professionally, I have been making wine for close to seven years.

How were you introduced to winemaking in Connecticut?

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I was introduced to CT winemaking at Chamard Vineyards when I held an internship during my years at Babson College. Funny and wonderful how I ended up making wine here after all these years. I felt like I was coming home, and the crew that was here made it even better.

What are the biggest challenges for a winemaker in Connecticut?

The greatest challenge for a winemaker in CT is growing the grapes. It is a short growing season with a very humid climate. Wine is not just made in the cellar but is grown in the fields. The cost of growing grapes in CT is high and the yields are low. Grapes must be brought in to make enough wine to support the vineyard.

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

Bringing added agricultural production to the state. Making wine from CT grapes is difficult due to the terroir and crafting a quality wine from such grapes is more challenging. This forces CT grape-growers and winemakers to really study their craft and be extremely dedicated and resourceful.

Tell us about your harvest process

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When harvest is nearing we begin testing the grapes for sugar and acid levels and then begin placing lugs in the rows of grape varietals that will be ready for harvest first. The grapes are hand picked into the lugs and collected into the back of the trailer pulled by a tractor. They are brought to the wine cellar where we have the destemmer -crusher and press cleaned, sterilized and ready to go. The white grapes are crushed and pressed into a pre-chilled tank. The red grapes are crushed and pumped into a vessel for fermentation on their skins.

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

I cannot say how my wine making approach differs from others. I do make sure that any juice adjustments of acids, sugars or tannins are made prefermentation. I do not like adding any acids or tannins to the wine post fermentation because I feel that it negatively affects the flavors of the wine. I test, taste, and document the juice everyday through fermentation. I like to take my time and taste and test the wine the whole way through its life. My general winemaking philosophy is to try and make wine that is as much as posssible vin de terroir, that is to make the wine to express a sense of place rather than the stylistic efforts of the winemaker. I like to be as natural as possible and bring out the best of the grape. I learned this from a very inspirational winemaker, Randall Graham.

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

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A good vintage comes from a good growing season. On the east coast that is a long, warm and dry season with no rain around harvest.

Are there any new winemaking techniques or tools you’d like to experiment with?

A simple technique that I have always wanted to try is to ferment grapes on their indigenous yeast. I would like to try this wild, spontaneous fermentation to add a greater and diverse range of flavors and increase the aromatic complexity to the wine.

Which wine-growing region has had the most influence on you?

This is so hard to say! In Italy I experienced how grape growing and wine making was a way of life and how wine was a part of the culture. This began my romance with wine. I worked viticultural research positions throughout central Washington State during my time in college. This is where I fell in love with viticulture, the beautiful vineyards, the terroir and the resulting wines.

Upon moving back to the East coast, in VA and then CT I had to learn a whole new growing region and how to care for grapes in a new climate. This would be my first time growing grapes that I myself would be making wine from. Here I learned first hand that you grow the wine in the vineyard, that the viticulture is as important as the oenology.

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

Wow, that is a hard question. Perhaps all the manual labor involved. Maybe the amount of time spent cleaning and sterilizing. Perchance the length of time (sometimes years) that it takes to complete a vintage.

What do you like best about your job?

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Everything! Especially guiding the wine through the whole process from start to finish, watching it evolve and mature, the changing tastes and aromas. To see how each growing season can affect the resulting wine.

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

I guess that would be the first wine I ever vinted, not because of the varietal, but because of the memories and intricacy of the process, which produced a very complex and layered wine. It was an oak Chardonnay that I barrel fermented in French oak barrels ranging from brand new to 5 years old from several different forests. I used five different yeasts and surlies aged it over a year. It was vinted in 2007 and I have but one bottle remaining.

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

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One of my first inspirational winemakers was Randall Gram. He is the proprietor of Bonny Doon Winery in Santa Cruz, CA. From the beginning Randall was a leader in innovation in the wine industry from cyro-extraction to microbullage. He has always thought way outside the box. He embraced Biodynamic viticulture and producing wines of place.

Another of my inspirations is Charles Smith, the proprietor of K Winery in Walla Walla Washington, among many others to date. I studied near his winery in Washington when he was just beginning his venture into wine. He was a rock and roll manager and now a self-taught wine maker. He began with a love of Syrah, one of the great Rhone varietals, and he brought new and bold ideas and attitudes to the wine community. He worked on a label “The Modernist Project” with intent to create wines true to both the varietal and the vineyard that could be imbibed right away, which is the way wine is consumed today.

I will name but one more inspirational wine maker, Jef Stebbin (pictured above), a California winemaker, whose first harvest was with Opus One, with a UC Davis degree in fermentation management. He came to the east coast with his profound knowledge of chemistry where I got the chance to meet him and learn from him. He embodies the patience and passion of winemaker and teacher and has passed on to me some great information that I share with my fellow winemakers. Visit Jeff at his new winery, Maple Springs Winery in Bechtelsville, PA!

Is beer ever better than wine?

I have to say, after a hot, long day of harvest a cold beer is  what many winemakers reach for. I would have in the past, but have since discovered gluten allergies. I myself would enjoy a nice stout with roasted barley.

I want to give a big Thank You to Kristen Parsons from Chamard Vineyards for giving us a peak into the life of a Connecticut Winemaker. Make sure to stop by Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, CT for some delicious wines made from a very passionate Connecticut Winemaker! #GirlsMakeWineToo #MyCTWineTrail

The Chamard Vineyard & Bistro Experience:

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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!

 

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CT Wine Festival Review

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The CT Wine Festival was a lot of fun. I highly suggest attending. The CT Wine Trail rolls out a great spread for you to enjoy. The day is filled with delicious wine, tasty food, fun events, and interesting artisan booths. You can try many different wines from all over the state, enjoy some delicious local eats, and even take care of some shopping along the way. There really is something for every 21+ attendee to enjoy. Even the designated drivers were having a blast – apparently lots of Pokemons attended the event! 😉 Also, the grape stomp competition is always super entertaining – so why not enter next year and see what it takes to win it.

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My favorite food booth was the Pop-Centric Boozy Popsicles.  They were incredible. Not only were they a life saver from the heat but the Peach Mango Vino Blanc pop was particularly delicious. I’m hoping their truck makes it out to the Hartford area soon or I might have to make a special trip to their shop in North Haven, CT.

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Another exciting thing about the CT WineFest was meeting up with new instagram friends. @Connecticut_Uncorked and I had been chatting back and forth via the social media app and were finally able to meet in real life! Super fun to meet the awesome people behind the account. I love their perspective on wine and their enthusiasm for Connecticut wine in particular. Looking forward new collaborations with them and other Connecticut wine bloggers. Make sure to check them out on Instagram and Facebook.

Now because there was a lot of wine and socializing, unfortunately I forgot to write down all of the wines I tasted. So instead of giving tasting notes on the wines, I’ve outlined my favorites from the wineries who were at the event. I hope you get to try their wines and enjoy them with friends and family!

Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope the information is fun and helpful. Looking forward to releasing more wine tasting and winemaking content for you to view.

Cheers! 🙂

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Winemaking & Wine Evaluation Classes in Connecticut

Hey Guys!

I’ve decided to participate in a Winemaking Boot Camp Class at M&M Wine Grape Company in Hartford, CT. I’m super excited because we will be making wine from grapes imported from Chile! Hopefully we will make some Malbec 🙂 I’m looking forward to learning new winemaking tricks and making new friends. I’ll make sure to share the experience here. And since I’m super excited about this venture I wanted to share their winemaking and wine evaluation class schedule. You never know, there might be something that sparks your interest!

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The only hands-on winemaking bootcamp in the area. No need to spend thousands. M&M Wine Grape Company is pleased to announce the start of a ten week class for beginner winemakers in the art and science of making wines. This course offers each student the opportunity of experiencing hands-on winemaking and producing their own five gallons of wine by the end of the semester. In addition to actually making wines, the course will cover the science behind modern wine making and fermentation techniques including additives commonly used by commercial wineries throughout the wine making world. Classes will be about 3 hours each Monday evening, starting at 5:30 pm, in the offices and winemaking showrooms of M&M Winegrape Co, 101 Reserve Road, Hartford, Ct, 06118.

 The cost is $300/student plus the cost of grapes for the 5 gallon batch.

The next class will start April 29th 2015

Click here for more information about the course.

winemaking 101

This program primarily covers the basics necessary to understand the art and science of making wine.  Students should leave the class with an overview of the winemaking process and prepared for a hands-on experience.

The entire spectrum of the process is addressed including cleaning, sanitizing, and preparing equipment, understanding and performing appropriate metrics, detailed steps needed to produce finished wine from fresh grapes, grape juice, frozen musts, and kits, bottling and storing wines. Discussions include equipment choices from manual to electric units, wooden barrels for storage, stabilizing and preserving wines for extended time, and other pertinent tops. The class consists on one three plus hour slide presentation/lecture with open Q&A, and tasting examples of home made wines. Students must be at least 21 years of age to participate in wine tasting/evaluation exercises.

COURSE OBJECTIVES:

  1. Introduce the basic practices of wine making.
  2. Provide an understanding and feel for the skills required to successfully make high quality wines.
  3. Introduce the student to the sanitary requirements necessary to consistently produce world-class wines.

 The cost is $49.95/student.

The next class is April 20th 2015

Click here for more information about the course.

basic lab skills

This program primarily covers laboratory skills needed in the art and science of making wine.  This course compliments and should be taken after having taken the Intro to Wine Making (EDUIWM101) course.

In order to consistently make high quality wines the winemaker must perform a number of tests and functions  to monitor and adjust the progress of the fermentation and aging process. This class discusses and demonstrates a number of such functions including acid titration, pH, sugar content, fining, etc., including alternate methodologies for sugar and acid titrations. Students must be at least 21 years of age to participate in wine tasting/evaluation exercises.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

  1. Introduce the basic laboratory practices of wine making.
  2. Provide an understanding and feel for the skills required to successfully measure fermentation progress.

The cost is $49.95/student.

The next class is April 21st 2015

Click here for more information about the course.

wine eval

This program covers the basics necessary to understand the art of wine tasting and evaluation.  Students should leave the class with an overview of the winemaking process and how to evaluate wines with confidence.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

  1. Introduce the basics of sensory analysis pertaining to wine
  2. Provide an understanding and feel for the skills required to be a wine judge and/or sommelier.

Students must be at least 21 years of age to participate in wine tasting/evaluation exercises.

 The cost is $39.95/student.

The next class is TBD

Click here for more information about the course.

Winter at Cassidy Hill Vineyards

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Winter time in the vineyard is very important. What happens at the beginning of the year sets the tone for the vintage to come. Cassidy Hill Vineyards in Coventry, CT was kind enough to send me some photos of what is going on in their vineyard this winter. As you can see there is a lot of snow but once the snow melts they will get back to pruning. It looks like it’s their vineyard dog’s favorite activity, don’t you think? 🙂 Notice the close up pictures of the vines below. There is an example of a non-pruned vine and what the vine looks like after they went through and pruned.

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before pruning

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after pruning

Pruning can be a very tedious task. The grapes are only harvested off of 2nd year wood. Therefore, off of each spur you prune down to one cane. Off of each cane you prune down to two buds and each bud will grow into a new cane. Each cane will then have 2 clusters. It sounds simple enough but many vineyard managers will tell you it can be difficult and time consuming. The next time you drive by your local vineyard take a look at what stage of  life the grapes are in. Are they dormant? Have the vines been pruned? Do you see bud break? Just because it isn’t harvest, doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done in the vineyard.

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