By Renee B. Allen
Although driving rain may have discouraged some visitors from coming out to the 5th Annual Shoreline Wine Festival last Sunday, the Festival started off on Saturday, August 13, with blue skies and just a hint of autumn in the air. Upon entering the field at Bishop’s Orchards, host of the Festival, I was given a wine glass, a bracelet and a tasting ticket. The ticket listed the participating wineries and I was instructed to present it to each one I visited so that they could punch a hole next to their name. Guests were supposed to be limited to one visit per winery however, due to the absence of Jerram Winery, attendees were allowed two bonus visits to wineries of their choosing. Wineries were limited to serving five wines, with some opting to pour only four.
The wineries, vendors, and events were thoughtfully organized for easy traffic flow and accessibility. Two tents housed the wineries and most of the vendors, which included retailers, food vendors and charitable organizations. In honor of the day’s host, I began my tasting tour at Bishop’s Orchards Winery where a friendly staff member happily engaged in conversation about the wines being poured. Feeling comfortable and unhurried, a couple of fellow guests and I chatted amicably as we sipped through the samples. Bishop’s was pouring 5 wines, including one of my favorites, their Hard Cider. Made from their own apple cider, this wine has a delightful mild effervescence to it that just tickles my tongue. Mike and Mimi Leone of Branford, Connecticut, my companions at the booth, were visiting the Festival for the second time since its inception. I convinced a skeptical Mike to try the Sachem’s Twilight, a sparkling wine made from Bishop’s own peaches. In addition to the misconception that fruit wines must be cloyingly sweet, I find that men are particularly resistant to trying wines that they perceive as just too pretty. My persistence was rewarded, somewhat. Mike agreed he enjoyed the bubbly beauty more than he had anticipated. Mimi and I, on the other hand, delighted in every last sip. (For more on Bishop’s Orchards Winery, visit http://wineinstituteofnewengland.com/bishops-orchards/)
It is no secret that I enjoy the wines of Sunset Meadow Vineyards (SMV) and my experience at the Festival was no exception. Their Cayuga White has been one of my favorite “go to” wines this summer with just the right balance of fruit and acid. Crisp, thirst-quenching and citrusy with a hint of stone fruits, it pairs well with light summer fare, seafood and poultry, or can be enjoyed on its own. The SMV Merlot was tasting very well with notes of cherries, a hint of anise on the midpalate and a soft, elegant finish. I was happy to see that SMV had brought out one of their big boys, Twisted Red, an award-winning blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, lemberger and chambourcin. White Silo Farm & Winery presented a nice selection of wines made from their organically grown fruits such as rhubarb and blackberry. The Upland Pastures White, which is currently made with Cayuga grapes from the Finger Lakes, will be made with White Silo’s own Cayuga grapes next year as they become ready to harvest. Jones Winery had several favorites on hand including Strawberry Serenade and Woodlands White, but I was especially excited to try their limited production Rosé of Cabernet Franc made with 100% estate grown grapes. I experienced a delicate and dry wine with the essence of cherries. A young woman behind the table dispensed pairing advice while I enjoyed a taste of Ripton Red. Her advice for this wine? “Anything with tomatoes.” (For more on Jones Winery, visit http://wineinstituteofnewengland.com/jones-winery
Chamard Vineyards was on site serving chardonnays and merlots, contrasting their estate wines with those made from grapes from Long Island and Suisun Valley, California. And although I enjoyed all four wines, what caught my attention was an offering on their full wine list that was not at the Festival – a 2002 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir. My interest was further piqued upon hearing about another new offering – a pinot noir and chardonnay sparkling wine produced in the traditional champagne method. It looks like I will be taking a trip to Chamard in the very near future. Whereas Chamard was pouring grapes from both coasts, Jonathan Edwards Winery was showcasing California. Sauvignon blance from Napa, merlot from Calistoga, pinot grigio from the Russian River Valley. The Stone Table Red had a wonderful nose of dark red fruits and the wonderful spicy notes expected from petite syrah, which accounts for 25% of this cabernet sauvignon blend. The wines from DiGrazia Vineyards offered up tastes of honey, apples, raspberries and pumpkin pie. Yankee Frost, a white wine made with vignoles, was complexly layered with honey, apples, cider spices and floral notes. Hopkins Vineyard made a strong showing with the very popular Westwind, a semi-sweet wine made from Cayuga white grapes, as well as a very earthy cabernet franc with a distinct ashiness. Sachem’s Picnic, a blend of French hybrid grapes perfect for cold weather climates, provided a lovely low tannin semi-sweet red perfect for summer meals.
Having successfully completed the entire wine circuit, it was time to find something for lunch. There were several food vendors at the ready, including a barbeque truck and Guilford’s own Naples Pizza. Off to one side of the field, I was pleased to spot Little Sister’s Grilled Cheese truck. I had seen them for the first time at The Connecticut Wine Festival in Goshen last month (The Connecticut Wine Festival), but the throngs of people kept me from getting a taste. Seizing an opportunity to approach, I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich made with honey and goat cheese dubbed the “Honey Bear.” It was delicious. As I made my way back to the parking lot, I came upon a tent set up with several rows of chairs facing a table in anticipation of an introductory wine tasting class. In the barn, Bishop’s employees were selling bottles of the wines being offered at the Festival. As I approached my car, I spied a group of people following another Bishop’s employee into a building for a tour of the winery. All in all, the 5th Annual Shoreline Festival provided an excellent opportunity for wine drinkers to experience some of what Connecticut has to offer in a very enjoyable atmosphere.
Renee B. Allen, Founder and Director of the Wine Institute of New England (WINE) and a Certified Specialist of Wine, is a regular monthly contributor on the topic of local and sustainable wines. “Connecticut Corkers” features wineries, winemakers, and wine events throughout the state, with an emphasis on wine education and appreciation.