Last week, we took a break for hitting the Wine Trail to attend to Mother’s Day, since we were hosting. Lara and I had hoped to hit several vineyards Saturday, but the day opened cool, dark and damp—hardly the sort of day to pop the top and go for a drive. When my mother-in-law called to say that they were going to a wedding that evening, that settled any thoughts we had of going anyway. I got some groceries and collected the four year old beagle-springer spaniel mix we share with my in-laws, so they wouldn’t worry about leaving him alone for too long.
The Lord’s Day dawned bright and clear, with the promise of a delightful day to experience some new vineyards. What we had forgotten to account for was our minister’s proclivity to preach for an hour. Even if we had thought things through better and been prepared to leave immediately after the service, the hour long sermon delayed our departure too much to reach northern Connecticut and our chosen destinations.
So, where to go? We had already been to Savino’s, which would have been an easy choice. We thought about going to Wallingford, which has three nice vineyards reasonably close to each other, but we weren’t certain we could get in all three before the last one closed at 6:00 PM. Walker Road Vineyards in Woodbury was close, too, but nearby Hawk Ridge Vineyards will not open until June.
That left Jones Family Farm Winery in Shelton, from whence we had just come. They serve food there, so no outside food is allowed, simplifying things for us. Off to our winged chariot we flew, backed out of the garage, lowered the top, and set our course for the winery.
The Jones family has been farming in Shelton for several generations, and over the years, their enterprise has spread. They offer blueberries, strawberries, pumpkins and Christmas trees. The winery site boasts a number of buildings and houses, but the path to the tasting room is well marked. Unlike many Connecticut vineyards, they do not permit dogs with the admonition: “This is a working farm.”
Lara is from Shelton, and she grew up not far from the farm. She used to play on the hill of Christmas trees that forms the backdrop to the tasting room. We were greeted at the entrance, and told of the special event of the day, a port and truffle tasting. We were then steered to the tasting bar and assigned a staff member to pour our tasting. The staff was very personable, though I would be curious to see how they functioned under heavier traffic.
Our server told us something about the history of the farm and the family, and how they got into wine. They offer a wide selection of wines, divided into two styles of tasting: Dry and Sweet. We really liked the one wine that appeared on both lists, the Muscat Ottonel, which is new this year. We also really liked the Vidal Blanc, which sadly may not be available by the time you read this. We were told that they were pouring the last bottles of it, which is a shame, as it was a very versatile white. I liked the Woodlands White, which I thought would go well with cheese. We both liked the Ripton Red, which ironically has the smallest percentage of Connecticut grapes of the wines they make.
As we checked in, we were told that there was a special port and truffle tasting, for which we eagerly signed up. They make the port from a blend of every grape grown on the farm. We’ve had a number of Connecticut ports, which are pale echoes of a true port. The Seventh Generation is not one of those syrupy creations. It was as close as we seen to a real port. It certainly went well with the truffle. Dave, our server, told us to come back in a month or two when the truffles on offer would be freshly made on the premises.
The food selections were quite good. The cheeses are from New England, and you get an entire cheese, not a few slices. The salami comes from Before and After Farms in Woodbridge and was among the best we’ve tasted. It certainly keeps the ethos that pervades the place- keeping things fresh and local.
I could not leave our stop a Jones’s without mentioning one wine we did not have, the Black Currant Bouquet. Tart, crisp, with a hint of sweet. It makes for a great after-dinner drink, especially in the summer or early autumn.
When we left Jones’s, we headed up Route 110 to stop at Stone Gardens Farm to check out their meat selection. They are a complete farm stand, offering chicken, pork and beef, eggs, and all sort of produce. We picked up a bunch of scallions, the largest I’ve ever seen. As we examined a package of breakfast sausage, the woman who waited on us apologized for the cost, but said that her husband insisted on using the New York butcher who made them, because they were very good. We had some the next day for breakfast and heartily agreed.
In downtown Shelton itself, you can get a taste of both Jones Family Farms and Stone Gardens by dining at Grow. The atmosphere is eclectic and a touch bohemian. But food is all local and fresh, and it doesn’t get much better than that.