Connecticut Vineyards Part II: Chamard Winery

I was really excited to go to Chamard Winery in Clinton, CT. It is about an hour away from home and I felt like this could become my new regular hangout. What makes it even better is that it’s about a mile away from one of my other favorite places–the Clinton Crossings Outlet Shopping Mall! So what could be better than a day with friends, drinking wine, and shopping?? Well, let’s just say the drinking wine part didn’t go as well as expected…

We arrived mid-afternoon and hopes were high as we saw the lovely deck overlooking a lake and the beautiful building. We planned to do a tasting and decide on a bottle to drink out on the patio. The tasting was extremely awkward because they only do them every half hour so we sort of had to sit around waiting for the clock to strike 2:30. When the woman hosting the tasting finally began, she first decided to tell the group about herself and her lack of knowledge about wine! Seriously, she went on and on about this being her summer job and she lives in the neighborhood. Not a pleaure to listen to at all.

This particular day was quite warm and I was looking forward to trying a nice cold white wine, but unfortunately, all of the wines were served at room temperature, which was about 75 degrees F. There were 3 Chardonnays on the tasting list. First was the 2003 Chardonnay,which is 60% fermented in steel and 40% in oak. This wine had a lovely floral aroma and tasted of ripe fruit. It was a little too sweet on the palate. Next was the 2003 Estate Chardonnay, which is 40% steel fermented and 60% barrel. This was much better than the first chardonnay. The aroma was very pronounced and it tasted of tropical fruits. I’m thinking I really don’t enjoy the wines that are predominantly fermented in steel vats, therefore I was excited to try the next wine on the tasting list, the 2003 Select Estate Chardonnay because it is 100% barrel fermented. Only problem was that the host skipped that one!! We moved right onto Merlots. The first was the 2004 Merlot. It had a taste that I am starting to associate with Connecticut red wines in that it is very dry and spicy with undertones of black pepper and cherries. Next we moved onto the 1999 Estate Merlot and the 1999 Cabernet Franc, whose claim to fame is that it is part of the “Harvest of Hurricane Floyd.” They’ve both been aging in the bottle for 6 years. Neither one was very good, but the Cabernet Franc was the best of the “Floyd Wines.” It was lighter in body and similar to a Pinot Noir in color. Lastly, we tasted the Rose. I had very low expectations at this point, but guess what? This was my favorite wine of the day! The very young 2006 Rose is a blend of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Has aromas of strawberries and rasberries and maybe even apple.

At this point we were having a lovely time. We were planning to forgo the vineyard tour and just buy a bottle and enjoy the picnic that we packed. We were told harshly by the host as we stood in a long line to pay for our tasting (very awkward and unusual) that they cannot sell bottles for drinking on the premises! Ummm, hello?!?! We are at a winery! But, I do know that Connecticut has some very Puritanical laws when it comes to alcohol (we can’t purchase any on Sunday or in grocery stores or any day after 9pm). The other wineries in Connecticut that I have been to have sold us bottles for drinking immediately though, so Chamard must be lacking in a specific aspect of licensure.

My friends and I each ordered a glass of the Estate Chardonnay and we paid for it, but then we were told we’d have to wait to be served while she finished charging the other customers. When we were finally served, our wine was in a tiny tasting glass. I was annoyed but I felt bad for the poor woman from the neighborhood that was working there. She obviously had no experience with wine, which is bad enough, but I’m not sure that she ever had a job in which she interacted with people. We did have a fabulous time nonetheless. It was nice to take a break during the work week to shop and drink midday! What could be better?

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