A Tour of the Connecticut Vineyards


326700974_5a9436de81_m.jpgRecently, on a beautiful early summer Saturday, it was way too nice to stay home and it really felt like a vacation day. In order to roll with that holiday-like feeling, I thought, what could be better than hanging out at a vineyard and drinking wine all day? So my friends and I decided to visit  a couple of local wineries to see what they have to offer. Miranda Vineyard is in Goshen, CT.

First of all, I must say, what a beautiful part of Connecticut!! I live in the city, so it is easy to forget what a lovely state we live in… the drive up was about an hour and a half and it was refreshingly scenic the entire way. Lots of quaint little inns and antique shops and interesting restaurants.

We even saw some farms with live animals!! (Did I mention that I live in the city?? Yes, this is exciting to me, to see an animal other than the local rabid skunk!) We arrived at Miranda and immediately we are struck by this gorgeous piece of property. The owners are newly retired couple in their early 50’s and they decided to do something they truly enjoy as well as have a passion for which is to make great wine.

Manny Miranda, one of the owners, was born and raised in Portugal and he learned to make wine as a young boy alongside his father and grandfather. As a child, he watched and later took part in crushing the grapes, squeezing them into a hand press, and fermenting them into a fabulous wine. Manny’s dream has always been to have his own vineyard and after many years of working hard, his dream has finally come to fruition. Miranda Vineyard is a beautiful establishment, a lovely place to spend a day if you are in town or live within a ”day trip’s distance”. (Lucky for you if you actually reside in Litchfield County!) The Miranda Family makes really nice wine considering this is their first year in business and their wines are very young.

My personal favorite was the Woodbridge White, described fittingly on their website as ” A versatile New England wine, blending chardonnay and seyval blanc grapes. Refreshing for a summer afternoon yet complicated enough for an evening dinner party.” To me, it feels just as good to drink a wonderful local wine as it does to drink an exotic ”far-away, not easily attainable” bottle of wine. My friends and I bought a bottle of the Woodbridge White and sat outside on the patio to enjoy it. The weather was absolutely lovely, not hot or humid and a little breeze was in the air. The atmosphere at Miranda Vineyard was really nothing less than perfect. Seriously, if it were not an almost two hour drive from where I live, I might begin to spend way too much time there! Overall, the Miranda Vineyard is definitely a trip to take if you are in this area!

 Our next stop on the Connecticut Wine Trail was the Haight-Brown Vineyard in Litchfield. Our visit there was, well, a little less inspiring.  Okay, well, we attended the “Taste of Litchfield Hills” festival so the winery was probably experiencing it’s most busy day in a while if not ever…and wow, it was very crowded!! In fact, when we arrived at about 2:00 p.m., they had actually run out of wine glasses!

We felt like we were at an unfortunate college party, drinking out of plastic cups made for taking shots (at $5 a glass no less!). I wasn’t sure what I was tasting actually, being that it was turning out to be a rather warm day I simply ordered “chardonnay” and just drank what was handed to me at that point.

On the plus side, there were a variety of local vendors there to give us the opportunity to try different foods from local establishments.

We did enjoy some decent food, although we were quite hungry at the time and we were just happy to eat! We ordered paninis, Italian sausage and broccolli rabe grinders, tomato and mozzarella salad, steak and chicken kebabs, grilled pizza, and maybe more, who remembers. After we drank a little and ate (which put us in a MUCH better frame of mind) we bought tickets to a “Wine and Chocolate Pairing” with a Winery Tour to follow. This was an intersting event, yet it was poorly organized. It did occur to me that the winery did not expect such a great turnout and they may have been a bit unprepared. We bought tickets (it was not included in our admission fee) and arrived on about ten minutes early, yet there was no available seating so we ended up standing in a corner.

The event host appeared, clearly flustered and overwhelmed, but she compensated well with humor. She gave us a taste of the first wine, their “Picnic Red” which, according to their web description is ”a medium bodied red wine, made from the Marechal Foch grape variety.  To enjoy on a picnic or on most occasions”. We were still drinking from those hideous plastic shotglasses, still no stemmed glasses available, and this Picnic Red was paired with a Vermont chocolate with peppery (yes, peppery chocolate!) undertones. The wine was not bad followed by the chocolate, but I was not eager to buy a bottle.

Next was a sweet, oh so (read: TOO) sweet, wine, called the “Morning Harvest”. The name alone makes you want to buy a case and drink it with breakfast!! The taste, well, that’s another story…It was paired with another Vermont chocolate made with sea salt…interesting, no doubt.

With the chocolate, the wine was just okay. Our next stop was the tour of the winery. Because we did not have seats for the wine/chocolate pairing, we were out of there first and had front row seats for the winery presentation. There we discovered that all of the wine at Haight-Brown Vineyard is fermented in steel canisters, with wood chips added for flavor. It was all downhill from there….someone obnoxious in the “audience” kept asking questions, perhaps believing that this new steel process was the next great thing in winemaking. Then we headed out to the vineyard where we listened to the lecture for a bit and decided to head back up to the winery for a bottle. We decided that we would purchase the “Morning Harvest” variety. Because we were a group of five, and this particular bottle was available only in 350 ML bottles, we went ahead and bought two bottles, anticipating a lovely time enjoying it outside on the deck. We discovered a bit later unfortunately this was a wine that was….ummm…not good at all.

Instead, it felt like drinking medicine forced upon you as a sick child. We drank, between the five of us, one of the half bottles and decided to leave. (My brother took the second bottle home to cook with, but as of now it’s still sitting on the counter.) We never did get to have a tasting, just the wine/chocolate pairing class, but we were ready to go and not in the mood to fight the crowds in the tasting room, which resembled more of a bar scene.

On the way home (again, two hours away) we suddenly felt the need for a great restaurant to please us. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon “The Boulders Inn” and we all enjoyed fabulous meals including duck, shrimp and tortellini, and steak, all prepared and presented with tremendous care. The Boulders Inn is definitely a special occasion restaurant and I did feel a bit underdressed at first, especially after spending the day outdoors. 

Entree prices are in the $25-$35 range and starters range from about $12-$18. The location of the restaurant is exquisite and we were lucky to sit outdoors by the lake and view the sunset, and most importantly, enjoy a lovely bottle of Chateau Margaux. This bottle made my friends and I remember that although we enjoy the hunt of a good, different, and local wine, sometimes it is best to stick with what you know is good.

 

[Image Courtesy of Abstract Gourmet]

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Reader Comments

Great article, Anne! I felt like I was actually at the winery…I never thought to visit one, but now I can’t wait!

Sorry to hear about your experience at Haight Vineyard - it’s been sold in the past year or two so while the festival you attended has been around for ages, the new owners might not be so prepared for it yet. I attended a great tasting there when I worked at a newspaper in that neck of the woods years ago and it was a lot of fun (and not too crowded).

Being a big fan of dessert wines myself (not sure if they are your bag) I really enjoy Jones Winery in Shelton. They have a few reds and whites that are good too (and when they opened at least, all the wines were barrel aged).