Harvest Prep: Jim from Walker Road Vineyards

I was lucky enough to catch Jim Frey, owner of Walker Road for a few minutes before his crazy busy season started. We chatted about Harvest and what his pre-harvest traditions are over at Walker Road Vineyards.

How do you get ready for harvest? “We start by harvesting our Marquette grapes.”

The Marquette grape is the grandson of Frontenac and Pinot Noir. This grape creates a wine that is complex, ruby red in color, and very flavorful. The wine has notes of cherry, berry, black pepper, and baking spices. A delicious red wine.

Any other fun harvest traditions? Harvest snack/food of choice?

“Our friends and family always come over and help us harvest the grapes. It is a great day to share with everyone! After harvesting during the day, we crush in the evening (a little cooler) and have either pulled pork sandwiches or chili.”

Visiting Walker Road Vineyards:

Visiting Walker Road is like stepping into a “Vineyard Oasis”. Enjoy your wine tasting in their 150 year old barn overlooking their gorgeous vineyards. Owner Jim Frey just received the “Wine Person of the Year” award for CT and he truly deserved it. The vineyards are managed meticulously and the wines are exquisite. Jim and his wife are normally behind the tasting bar serving guests as they mingle and enjoy the scenery. Make sure to stop by and enjoy delicious wines, great stories, and great people!

Winemaker: Jim Frey

Location: 11 Walker Road, Woodbury, CT (Visit)

Tasting Hours: Sat-Sun 12-5, May through mid-December

 

How Winemakers Prepare for Harvest: Southern Connecticut Wine Company

I got to catch up with owner and winemaker Amanda Brackett of Southern Connecticut Wine Company. She owns Connecticut’s First Micro Winery located in Wallingford, CT. Make sure to stop by for a tasting of some delicious and exciting wine blends!

Amanda was kind enough to give us a few minutes of her time to tell us how she prepares for her crazy busy season. Check out how she gets into “harvest mode” aka “winemaker beast mode”  below.

 “I first stockpile beer. My harvest beer is usually Sam Adams, Porch Rocket. Then I head to the grocery store and buy all of the El Monte breakfast burritos that they have in stock.

I usually start my harvest off with whites. I’m still working out which red blend will kick off this season. Probably the Super T and BRDX. It really depends on which grapes are available and when they start rolling in.

Ridiculous harvest traditions include large bonfires to which the fire department responds, a whiskey fueled grape stomp and lots of beer drinking until all of the wine is crushed, fermented, pressed and then finally in vessels… then we celebrate with martinis.”

Visiting Southern Connecticut Wine Company:

When you walk into Soconn aka Southern Connecticut Wine Company you feel like you are transported to your best friend’s house. You walk in, grab a seat, and are greeted by owner Amanda and are off to tasting some delicious wines!  They also offer wine appreciation classes, craft nights and blending classes throughout the year. But my favorite event is First Fridays. The first Friday of every month they have a new artist displaying their work, live music, and a new wine release! Great wines, great vibes, and great events!

Get Ready for the 2017 CT Wine Festival

Who’s Ready for the CT Wine Festival???!!!! Personally I can’t wait.

Every year some of Connecticut’s best CT Grown wine producers come together to celebrate their community and delicious wines. Every year I go home with a new love of CT Grown wine and usually a bag full of favorites.

This year the festival has a record number of wineries participating –  16 in total!  Along with the wineries there will be delicious local food, live music, and small business vendors. You can drink, eat, and shop your way around the festival while listening to some awesome music. It is a great day to browse and see some of the local gourmet options Connecticut has to offer.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE 

What to expect:

  • Grape stomp competition – on Sunday afternoon they have a grape stomp competition. It’s super fun! The winners win free wines from one of the local vineyards. Who doesn’t want to stomp grapes like Lucy?
  • Bring your Passport to CT Farm Wineries – You won’t be able to get stamps from all 16 winery participants, but the Passport does have a Wine Festival page!
  • Live music – Always a great compliment to wine
  • You are provided with a tote bag for wine purchases! This is perfect for taking home your favorite wines.
  • You get to taste New and Special releases from all 16 Wineries!!

Tips on How to Make the Most of the Festival:

  • Buy Grape Stomp Tickets before they sell out. Seriously it’s so much fun to participate. If you don’t get tickets in time make sure to go and cheer people on. It a lot of fun to watch.
  • Map out your favorite wineries –Since there will be so many wineries in attendance this year I would pick your top three wineries to stop at and then choose another three you have never tried. Then see where the day takes you after that.  Also, snacking and drinking water in between tastings will help! 😉
  • Wear comfortable shoes – You will be walking around quite a bit. I would suggest wearing flat sandals, flip flops, or sneakers.
  • Wear light and comfortable clothing – Make sure to check the weather to see what the temperature will be on the day you attend. I wore a light sundress last year and it was perfect. I was very comfortable walking around the festival. Also, sometimes they have photo booths and photographers walking around taking pictures, so you might want to look camera ready 😉
  • Hydrate – Since you will be tasting wine and walking around in the sun, make sure to hydrate. You can purchase water from local food vendors or bring your own empty water bottle to fill at water stations.
  • Make sure to BRING YOUR ID. You will not be allowed entry if you forget your ID.
  • No pets, outside food or drink are allowed.
  • Parking – Parking is surprisingly easy. The local police will guide you to park in the field parking lots across from the festival. It’s a quick and easy walk across the street to the festival once you have parked.
  • Have fun!! It’s a great day out for you and your significant other, family, group of friends, and/or co-workers. There is something for everyone. Whether you are a wine lover, foodie, music buff, shopaholic, or just feel like stomping some grapes, you will have a great time.

Favorite things from last year:

  • Grape stomp – So much fun to cheer people on!
  • Wine selections – I brought a lot of new releases and wines I’ve never tried before home. Please see here for the list of my favorites
  • Getting to try new local food was so great. There were “boozy” popsicles I was obsessed with and some great barbecue.
  • My girlfriends and I had a great girl’s day out! Great wine, delicious food, watching the grape stomp, and girl talk made for a great day!

On your way back home I suggest stopping by Sunset Winery for a wine slushy (super refreshing) or chocolate and wine pairing and Miranda Winery for a refreshing glass of Vhino Verde. You might as well since you’ll already be in Goshen right?

CT Wine Festival Date: Saturday, July 22nd from 12-7pm & Sunday, July 23rd 2017

Time: 12-6pm (both days)

Location: The Goshen Fairgrounds – 116 Old Middle Street, Goshen, CT – located approximately 1/2 mile south of Goshen center on Route 63.

Grape Stomp Info:  CT Wine Festival is once again offering our very popular Grape Stomp contest where you will participate in a live Grape Stomp for a chance to win some spectacular wine trail prizes. Participants must be 21 years or older, sign a waiver and be willing to get grapes stuck between your toes. Space is limited to 60 participants, so sign up early! Registration is limited to 1 per person as we need all of the participant’s names. ADMISSION TO CT WINE FESTIVAL IS REQUIRED! Stomp is Sunday July 23rd from 2:00-3:00PM

Wineries Participating in 2017:

  • Bishops Orchards Winery
  • Brignole Vineyards
  • DiGrazia Vineyards
  • Holmbergs Orchard and Winery
  • Hopkins Vineyard
  • Jonathan Edwards Winery
  • Jones Winery
  • Miranda Vineyard
  • Paradise Hills Vineyards
  • Priam Vineyards
  • Savino Vineyards
  • Sharpe Hill Vineyard
  • Staehly Farm Winery
  • Sunset Meadow Vineyards
  • Taylor Brooke Winery
  • White Silo

Exhibitors Participating in 2017:

  • Accents
  • Andiamo Tours
  • Carla’s Pasta
  • Cutco Cutlery
  • Glass Act
  • Gourmet Creations
  • Keep Me Clean
  • Kelly’s Crystals
  • Lakonia Greek Products
  • LeafFilter North of Connecticut
  • Lil” Jewels
  • Liberty Insurance
  • Little Farms on Main
  • Pearl Odyssey
  • Power Home Remodeling Group
  • Pure Romance
  • Recycled Bottle Crafts
  • Renewal by Anderson
  • Rhineland Cutlery
  • Savor
  • Silpada Jewelry
  • SilverLeaf Resorts
  • Sky Property Services
  • The Olive Oil Factory
  • Thomas Jewelry
  • Traveling Vineyards
  • Waddell and Reed
  • Walk by Faith Doggie Bakery
  • Word Couture

Questions? View answers to FAQs here or call 860.216.6439 or email festival.admin@ctwine.com.

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! 🙂

SkinnyPop, Paradise Hills Vineyard, & Scandal = The Perfect Thursday Night Pairing


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{card via nocturnalpaper}

In honor of my obsession with Scandal I wanted to put together a “Netflix & Chill” kind of post Olivia might be proud of. So I decided to pair some of our local CT Wine Trail wines with SkinnyPop popcorn (because it’s my fave). Olivia is always pairing her vino and popcorn no matter if she’s happy or sad. So I thought, why not pair her two of her favorite things and watch her kick butt in DC? #Wouldn’tOliviaPopeDoThis?

Below are some of my favorite pairings from Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery in Wallingford, CT. Maragret Ruggiero Mena, the Owner & Winemaker at Paradise, was kind enough to sit down with me and test out these pairings. Needless to say it was a fun Tuesday night 😉

Jalapeño SkinnyPop & The Washington Trail White:

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The Washington Trail White is a lovely fruit forward, medium bodied wine with notes of crisp apples, bright citrus, and soft fruity flavors with a delicate off-dry finish. The bright acidity brings out the jalapeño flavor in tasty and balanced way. The low alcohol and balanced residual sugar/acidity offsets the spicy burn. This is a great pairing for someone who has a spicier palate.

Washington Trail White: $19.98/bottle

SkinnyPop Jalapeño: $13.86 for a 12 pack

Original Style SkinnyPop & Temptation Apple Wine:

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The Temptation Apple wine is a semi-sweet wine made from 100% Connecticut Grown Apples. The crisp acidity from the wine balances out the “cheesey” notes of the Original SkinnyPop flavor. A delicious pairing for a sweet little girls night in.

Temptation Apple Wine: $15.50/bottle

Original Style SkinnyPop: $16.82/ 6 pack

Sea Salt & Pepper SkinnyPop and Trio Blend: 

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Paradise’s “International Style” is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Carmenere. The elegant creamy mouthfeel stands up to the pepper and sea salt, creating a rich and flavorful compliment. Personally this is my favorite pairing because of the flavor explosion that happens between the pepper and fruit. I highlight recommend this pairing for anyone who loves a good steak with a Cabernet.

Trio Blend: $27.50/bottle

Sea Salt & Pepper Popcorn: $25.99/ 6 pack

White Cheddar SkinnyPop and Nostrada Tradizione:

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The Nostradamus Tradizione is a Chianti Style wine, so naturally matching this blend with a cheesy popcorn is a delicious combination. The acidity in the wine offsets the creamy cheese notes balancing out your palate with well rounded flavors. Hints of cherry and raspberry are complimented by the creamy white cheddar notes.

Nostradamus Tradizione: $27.50/bottle

White Cheddar: $20.45/ 6 pack

So there you have it! Lots of delicious combinations from one of my favorite CT Wineries and SkinnyPop popcorn. Thank you Olivia Pope, Kerri Washington, and the Scandal team for introducing me to this amazing food group. And Thank you to Margaret from Paradise Hills Winery for not thinking I was totally crazy for pairing her delicious wines with popcorn!

Other Wine & Popcorn Pairings Chart via SkinnyPop popcorn:

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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.

images via (1, 2)