Last weekend, we had agreed to support a friend of ours by attending her bell choir concert in Bethlehem. It would have been an obvious choice to stop at Bethlehem Vineyards, but we didn’t. This sad story recounts why.
We decided to visit Walker Road Vineyards in Woodbury first, figuring we could make a quick stop there, since they offer only two wines, red and white. It was a beautiful, but hot day, and the vineyard was crowded. They have tables scattered about the grounds and located in what must have once been a shed. People were out and about enjoying the rare taste of sunshine, in what has been a rainy spring.
The main tasting room is located in a converted barn. It felt good to get out of the heat. We were greeted by the owner’s wife, who showed us the label bottle of white before we tasted our sample, to explain that the label its significance. It was actually a clever way of doing a label on the cheap. They had been asked to produce a private label wine for the Woodbury Historical Society, using a scene from their museum and garden. They chose a nice floral arch. The vineyard then added an image of the founder’s mother, suitably adjusted to look like she was leaning against the arch. Clever.
At this point, Owner, Founder, and Winemaker, Jim Frey took over serving us. Gregarious would be a good word to describe Jim. He is passionate about his wine, and proud of the fact that he was named Connecticut Winemaker of the Year for 2016. He is a great ambassador for Connecticut wine. He will happily answer any question you may have, particularly about winemaking, which makes Walker Road a little different from most other Connecticut vineyards.
Their two wines are blends, and that perhaps is their genius. Recognizing that the climate is cold and damp, they take the grapes that grow well here, St. Croix, Cabernet Franc, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, and Sauvignon Blanc and blend them, adding some Sangiovese to the red for flavor, because it’s the flavor profile Jim’s after. You will note a roman numeral marked on each bottle, which indicates which particular batch the bottle came from.
Gertrude’s Garden White, is an unusual white, in that it is full-bodied. Most whites, whether sweet or dry, tend to be thin wines, delivering a single note or taste. Gertrude’s Garden brings a wealth of flavors, with a boldness, I associate with reds. There is a touch of sweetness, but only that. It would not work well with grilled chicken, but it would pair well with turkey or pork, and quite likely macaroni and cheese.
Walker Road Red benefited from the two years of drought we have experienced in Connecticut. In discussing wines in general, Lara confessed that her all time favorite wine is an Italian Barolo. Jim agreed heartily and said he had its characteristics in mind when blending this. It is dry and oaky, with a strong taste. Pair this with steak, or smoked pork chops, or a big bowl of pasta.
But we were in for a surprise. Jim had a new wine for us to try. Several years ago, he planted a small batch of Marquette grapes as an experiment. This is the first year he made wine with them. It was a much light wine than either the white or red. I would be curious to see ho a bottle tastes after a year or so in the cellar, since it is so new.
Given the heat of the day, we opted for a chilled bottle of Gertrude’s Garden to enjoy with some cheese, chorizo, and crackers. It felt good to just sit, and enjoy the day.
It was then that tragedy struck. We were about to have our passports stamped, when I realized I had not brought them. My dear wife gave me one of those exasperated looks of disbelief that come from several years of marriage. I feebly pointed out that the wine was good, so we would be coming back anyway, but a lesson was learned, do not forget the passports.
I’ll add, parenthetically, that it also provided and idea for the wine trail app, digital check-ins and passport stamps.
By the time we had finished, we would only have enough time to make it to the concert, which was held at the Congregational Church of Bethlehem. Chime In! is unique, for these parts, in that it is a community bell choir, as opposed to a church bell choir. They make every effort to reach out into the community to interest people in playing bells.
The concert was evenly split between traditional religious pieces and more “secular” pieces, often with a touch of humor. Hearing the 5th Dimension’s version of “Age of Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” performed on handbells reminded me of hearing a group of elderly Englishwomen playing Simon and Garfunkel on steel drums at a church fete in London- incongruous, but fun. Keeping with their mission, the group explains various aspects of bells and how they work.
Following the concert, we decide to check out a newer “Farm to Table” restaurant in Woodbury, Market Place. As you might expect, they draw upon the produce of local farms, though curiously not the wine of local vineyards. The food was very good, quite fresh, and well presented. There is a cost for all of this, and it is not cheap. Actually, for what we got, we felt we paid too much. The atmosphere contributed to that feeling. We were square by the entrance to the kitchen, and from it streamed a steady progression of waitstaff, busboys and other employees. So too some of the younger staff members behaved condescendingly toward our waiter, and older gentleman who gave first class service. We made sure to tip him well for his troubles. Would we go back? Perhaps, but not for some time.
And now we take a little intensive detour. Lara and I are off the Finger Lakes for a week. We will check out both the wine and cheese trails there. Stay tuned!