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

 

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!

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! 🙂

Winemaker Interview: Southern Connecticut Wine Company (#SoConnWineCo)

In this week’s “Winemaker Interview,” Amanda talks about how she created Connecticut’s 1st Micro Winery and her love of winemaking.

Winemaker: Amanda Brackett of Southern Connecticut Wine Company (Visit)

Location: 65 S. Colony Street in Wallingford, Connecticut 06492

Tasting Hours: Thursday – Sunday, Thursday – Friday from 3:00-8:00PM, Saturday Noon-6:00PM,  Sunday – Noon-4:00PM

Tasting Options: Enjoy the Casual Elegance of SoConn

Why did you become a winemaker?

amanda of southern connecticut wine company topping off wine barrels

I had no idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up and never thought that someone would actually pay me to make wine. I’ve always had a love for the art behind wine, but my background is in business. When my husband and I moved to Connecticut, he encouraged me to find a job that was going to make me happy. I knew I didn’t want to suit up and punch a clock. Wine made me happy. It sounds simple, but I enjoy every aspect of wine. Making it keeps me creative, correcting faults keeps me learning and innovative, drinking it keeps me social and selling it keeps my husband happy.

How long have you been making wine for?

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Professionally, five years. I’ve been playing around with fermentation for as long as I can remember. I remember being little in my grandmother’s kitchen. Her sister’s had come to visit from Canada and they pulled all of the grapes off of the vines that my grandmother had growing in the yard. They crushed them and then used cheese cloth to separate the juice from the skins. Not a huge yield, but they made a rose with Concord grapes. I remember lining up the 7-Up bottles and holding the funnel while they filled each ¾ of the way. Then, tightening the caps and moving them to the pantry. A couple days later all of the bottles exploded. The caps had been tightened too much and the gasses had no way of escaping… Fermentation lesson #1.

How were you introduced to winemaking in Connecticut?

I actually answered a Craigslist ad when I moved to CT for a bookkeeper position for a construction company. The owner said that he was going to start a small winery and I didn’t give him a choice in hiring me. I’m a terrible bookkeeper so thank God I could make wine.

What are the biggest challenges for a winemaker in Connecticut?

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For me, it was the law. Connecticut currently only has a license for Farm Wineries. Since I don’t grow grapes, they had a difficult time classifying what I do. It took a while to get to this point, but The Southern Connecticut Wine Company is Connecticut’s first and only micro-winery.

Tell us about your harvest process..

amand-checking-brix-on-white-grapes

It starts with a trip to the grocery store where I purchase all of the El Monte microwave breakfast burritos in the freezer section. I stock up on coffee, waffles, hot sauce and vodka. I don’t grow so my pre harvest prep is making sure that I’ve ordered grapes (Christina, I’ll get that to you today, I promise), make sure I have all of the yeasts, nutrients and other products that I need for each blend on hand. Then I start power washing EVERYTHING. Harvest is a magical time where I become a maniac who has zero interest in anything else unless it’s fermenting. It’s a systematic, controlled chaos. This harvest I’m gearing up to make 23 different types of wines in the 2000 square feet of wine production space. Red’s ferment in the main production area while whites and roses are moved into a back office so the temperature can be dropped. Fermentation tubs, barrels, tanks, finished wine.. Everything is constantly being moved around. Harvest is a by any means necessary attitude with all hands on deck.

How does your wine making approach differ from other winemakers?

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I love blending. Creating big red blends has become my niche. Throughout the year I’ll experiment with new combinations and use friends and family as guinea pigs. By the time harvest rolls around, I’ll have a game plan for at least one new blend. I’m not limited by region or growing my own product, so really, the sky is the limit as far as sourcing. I enjoy creating something crazy and different. If someone says “you shouldn’t do that”, I’m going to at least try it.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

Make good wine and make wine that I would want to drink.

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

Repeat customers are a sure sign of a good vintage.

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

I would really like to try barrel fermentation. I’ve never been able to do that because of space constraints. I would also like to make an orange wine, but my husband won’t let me bury clay fermentation vessels in our backyard. I really have a laundry list of things that I want to try… carbonic maceration, sparkling, kegging wine.. just to list a few. It would also be pretty awesome to learn how to recoop barrels. We all need an activity in the down months.

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

I’m partial to the Central Coast (California). I grew up on the Monterey Peninsula and that’s where I was first exposed to the wine industry. I grew up tagging along with my mom to all of the local vineyards in the Carmel Valley AVA.

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

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I love it when someone asks what I do when I’m not crushing. The amount of time that goes into nurturing and working the wine surprises people. It’s not just a “set it and forget it” product. It’s very easy to make bad wine if you’re not paying attention. But, by that token, most faulted wine is able to be corrected…and if it’s too far gone, just throw some fruit in and make sangria.

Another aspect that surprises people is the comradely that the winemakers in the state have. Making good wine is easy if you have a network of people with different expertise. It’s more of a cooperative effort rather than a competitive environment. We support each other.

What do you like best about your job?

amanda-and-baby-jp-in-front-of-barrels

I love creating something so unique and personal to share. I love getting messy. I love learning. There is always a new product, a new technique. I especially love being able to share this with my family. My son has been coming to the winery with me since he’s been a week old. One day I hope that he and I will be making wine, side by side.

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

amanda-brackett

My favorite wine is the wine that I made for my husband. We call it the Bawstin Blend, on account of his thick Boston accent. When he and I first started dating, he pretended that he was really into wine.. Low and behold, he used every wine app available on his phone and googled while we were at restaurants so that he could keep the conversation going about whatever he ordered, and he was ordering some fantastic wines!

He “confessed” that he didn’t like wine like five or six years after we started dating. He said he just couldn’t keep up the charade anymore. It was pretty awesome that he went through so much trouble to impress me in the early years, so we deconstructed a bunch of wines and figured out what characteristics he didn’t like in a wine. Then we constructed a crazy California red blend for him that isn’t too tannic or heavily oaked.

Who are your favorite winemakers and why?

There are so many! I think Isabelle Simi was positively badass. She took over her father’s vineyard and winery when she was 18, found prohibition loopholes and navigated the success of Simi through the Great Depression. Brandon Allen of SLO Down Wines is amazing. His wine, Sexual Chocolate, is one of my go-tos. Brandon was one of my favorite beer pong partners in college when we all use to drink Natty Ice and hang out in my garage. John Saunders of Boëté in Carmel Valley, CA produces one of my favorite Cab Francs, hands down. It’s a family owned and operated vineyard that produces small batch Cab and Cab Franc. He’s a super detail oriented winemaker and it definitely shows in the product.

Is beer ever better than wine?

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There comes a point in the season when anything is better than wine… even water. Usually during harvest you’ll find me drinking beer.. Unless something has broken. In that case, I drink vodka. Lot’s of vodka.

 

Also, check out Cru Podcast’s most recent interview of Amanda – Finding Your Happy with Amanda Brackett. In this episode Amanda and Chappy of Cru converse about her passion for winemaking and how she became a winemaker in Connecticut to how she is working to teach more and more people about wine. She also shares the challenges she has had to overcome not only with government regulation, but the simple fact of her being a female business owner and winemaker. A great listen!

Until next time. Cheers Wine Lovers!