By Maria McKinley   |   Sunday, July 19, 2015 at 11:54 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

I like to check out local grocery stores and independent wine shops when I’m away from home. Lucy Burningham of Epicurious online magazine writes there is at least one wine producer or one vineyard in every state in the U.S. Many areas of the country advertise wine trails as a destination or as an addition to vacation plans. The term “trail” refers to a group of wineries that are supposedly in close proximity to each other in a specific geographical region.

The Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association has an office in West Hartford, CT and helps spread the word about the state’s diverse wines. The cool climate in the north and warmer temperatures in the coastal south work with the diverse geography and soil from Litchfield Hills, along the river valleys, and the southern coastline to grow a wide variety of grapes. One example is the Seyval Blanc grape which does well in Connecticut as it does in north/eastern regions of the U.S. and Canada because, according to WineMaker magazine, the grape holds up well in cold climates, has a short growing season, and can stand alone or be used in a blend, making it extremely versatile.

While there are 25 wineries listed on the Connecticut Wine Trail, two vineyards in particular have received notable recognition from visitors and from their award-winning wines.

Wallingford, Connecticut was settled in 1670 and is nestled between New Haven and Hartford. Joe Gouveia established the Gouveia Winery in 1999, bringing Old World wine making traditions with him from Portugal. On a hill, a pastoral setting with a post and beam Stone House tasting center, they bottle approximately 90,000 bottles a year, selling only to customers on site.

The Ruggiero family began their vineyard on 65 acres back in 1997 in this same region. After selling grapes to other Connecticut wineries, they eventually began making their own wines and opened a tasting room in 2011. Paradise Hills Vineyards is a handcrafted, boutique winery producing around 1200 cases a year. As one local reviewer noted, “nice wines, nice people, nice afternoon.”

More wineries than you could see in one afternoon are usually found on a wine trail. Just as you would research an upcoming hiking trip for length and skill level, check out the wineries along the trail before you go to match up with your preferences. Wine, food, entertainment, picturesque setting… yes!

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 3:20 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Robin Garr reminded us the other day that this is the 45th year the Perrin Family has produced its Au Vieux Ferme wines — red, white, and rose. I had visited the Perrin’s winery in the southern Rhone Valley several times without paying any attention to this little wine. I was seeking the grand Chateauneuf-des-Pape of their Chateau Beaucastel.

In recent years, as the prices of fine European wines  soared, I began looking for quality daily-use wines at reasonable cost. Au Vieux Ferme was among those I found, selected at first because of the Perrin name. Possibly because of an inner snobbishness, I didn’t talk much about these wines, though I continued to bring them home and use them often. My daughter, as she grew into daily wine usage, referred to them as the “chicken” wine because of the muscular rooster on the label.

Robin’s description of them this week is just as I have found them: reliable, drinkable, and never disappointing. On one of my first visits to his then new Farm Restaurant in Bloomington, I asked Daniel Orr for a glass of “house ” wine. He brought out a bottle of Au Vieux Ferme, which to me, gave credence to its quality, because here was a man of the world, of many great kitchens without apology presenting a wine that retails for right around $10.00.

My daughter is still a regular consumer of Au Vieux Ferme Blanc, though I don’t use it as much as I used to, but its quality was once again made known to me on my spring flight to and from Paris. I wasn’t privileged to sit way up front where there was a real wine list on Air France, but my “elite” seat allowed me a generous amount of wine with my menu choices. The list only indicated red and white so I ordered a bit of each, and, you guessed it: both bore the chicken label. That husky rooster has proved his mettle and remains, as Robin so eloquently wrote, one of the best wine values available.

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By Maria McKinley   |   Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 12:12 am   |   Leave a Comment »

How much do you usually spend on a bottle of wine from a retail store? There are outstanding wines available for purchase in the $12 to $16 range but the selection can be overwhelming without some guidance.

Price should never be the only consideration when purchasing wine. Taste is obviously the focus. When you’re looking to upgrade from a $7 bottle or bring it down a notch from a $30+ bottle, first identify the grapes used to produce a wine you already prefer. Read the label as the winemaker may have assembled a blend of grapes for the finished product.

Next, check out the location of the vineyard. Again, the label should tell you about the country, the region, and the name of the vineyard. Do a quick internet search to gather information about the winemaker, if possible. Too much trouble, you say? How involved are you in choosing coffee beans? Roasting, grinding, brewing, sniffing, tasting …

Competition often helps to control pricing, especially if a grape varietal is grown in several different countries. Take the pinot noir grape from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in the Burgundy region of France and considered by many to be the finest vineyard in the world. currently lists their 2011 pinot noir for, on average, $11,350 per bottle. I have not tasted wine from this vineyard but I did sit on their stone wall once, for a brief moment.

Now let’s look at pinot noir produced in Oregon’s Williamette Valley. Some of the best U.S. pinot noirs come from this area because the region is very similar to the soil and climate of Burgundy. Check out Domaine Drouhin and you’ll find this vineyard nestled in the hills of the Williamette Valley where a third generation family of French winemakers from Burgundy bought land and began to make wine in 1988 (think Joseph Drouhin). The pinot noir is aged in barrels, custom made in Burgundy from French oak trees. A 2013 bottle of Domaine Drouhin Williamette Valley pinot noir sells for $30.

You just saved $11,320.

Talking about wines is a lot like talking politics. In the end, it’s just your opinion, especially when it comes to taste. You aren’t always going to agree with each other, but rather than come to fisticuffs, maybe you should just sit down and share a bottle of wine.

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