22 July 2017: If You Build It, They Will Come

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Another weekend, another vineyard trip.  This time we headed to far northern Hartford County. We drove up Route 8 to where the highway ends, and then it was eastward into the woods, past Barkhamsted Reservoir, up hill and down, letting the Connecticut Wine Trail Companion app guide the way.  This time, we were really to the back of beyond, and without GPS to guide us, I’m not sure how we would have found Lost Acres Vineyard, a place that truly lives up to its name.  But for the tell-tale sight of grapevines, we would not have known we were there.

Lost Acres is set amongst a number of orchards.  The area was a major fruit producing region in Connecticut for many years.  Co-owner and winemaker Kevin Riggott started making wine as a hobby, but when faced with the likelihood of losing his job in technology service and repair, he decided to turn his hobby into a business.

They have five acres of vines.  Initial experiments with growing red wine grapes were not successful, and so the only grapes grown on site are white varietals: Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, and of course, Cayuga.  They import all of their red grapes from California, where they can enjoy the long growing season they need.

I was very impressed by their focus on growing the right grapes for wine making in their particular location.  Unlike many vineyards, they do not grow Chardonnay.  Apparently it did not do well for them.  The results of this thinking is the wine itself.

All of their whites have a consistent crispness.  The Reisling has a hint of pear.  While they apparently oak the Clemons Springs, we didn’t taste it.  Our favorite white, by far, was the Wedge White, which convinced Lara to drink a Cayuga again, after all the Cayugas we had in the Finger Lakes.  It would pair well with spicy Asian food.

We also loved the Salmon Brook Rose, which was dry and crisp, with a hint of fruit.  It was a great summer wine, pairing well with grilled chicken.  The Merlot was smooth with black cherry and pepper notes.

But our absolute favorite of all the wines we tasted at Lost Acres was the Rock Wall Red.  It is dry, bold, thick and oaky, rich with fruit.  It works with grilled meats, pizza and light pasta.  We ought a bottle to enjoy outside, basking in the sun.

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Unlike many vineyards in Connecticut, Lost Acres grows more than wine grapes.  They raise pigs and chickens, and many herbs and vegetables.  Many of these come together on their meat and cheese platters.  We loved the antipasti platter, and highly recommend it.  You get a generous select of crackers, cheeses, roasted peppers, olives and sausages.

It was here that we brought out our Plush Picnic for the first time.  Perfect for vineyard hopping, it holds plates, glasses, flatware, a cutting board, a waterproof blanket, and an insulated carrying space.  It passed with flying colors.

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Our server as excellent.  She was a neighbor, and clearly supported the mission of the vineyard.  To our minds, this is a huge asset for such an enterprise, and creates its own atmosphere of excitement and interest.  We will be back, particularly for their pre-Thanksgiving Farmer’s Market.

The transition from Lost Acres to our next stop, Brignole Vineyards was stark.  We came down from the woods and headed into downtown East Granby.  Another recent entrant to the Wine Trail, their facility is beautiful.  There were couches and tables with games about the tasting room.  I would image that there will be fires in the fireplaces come fall and winter.  They have created a destination, and people have responded.  “If you build it, they will come,” was Lara’s thought.

The place was bustling, and we saw our share of bright young things.  All of the servers at our station were young men, and they showed marked disinterest in serving a middle-aged couple.  They did not seem very interested in the wine.

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Was the wine worthy of the facility?  Not for us.  Some Connecticut wine has a funky taste, the result of odd yeasts, or bacteria in wine, often, in my experience, the result of very damp conditions.  Brignole imports some of their grapes from California, and one of their California wines had that funky taste.

This is a shame, as, from their website, they are very serious about educating people on the science of growing wine grapes, and the particular techniques employed for the different varieties of grapes.  It might also be that the wines themselves are new, and over time this taste will disappear.  We certainly hope so.

From there, we turned westward to Simsbury, and Rosedale Farms.  My family has deep roots in Simsbury.  At the town’s tercentenary celebrations in 1969, my great grandmother, Lucy Stockwell Comstock had her own float as Simsbury’s oldest native.  Rosedale Farms started out as a dairy farm in the 1920s.  As with so many of New England dairy farms, years of government support put an end to their operations.  Instead of shutting down completely, they turned to other products, initially fruits and vegetables.  They have a lovely farmstand, which invites discussions of food pairings.  Wine is only a new addition to their product line-up.

You park out on the edge of a farm field.  It brought back memories of going to my grandfather’s orchard in the fall to pick apples.  The tasting “room” is set up behind the stand buildings under a canopy.  What is not so obvious is that you must go into the stand itself to buy a token to get the wine tasting, as the servers do not take any money.  Later, we did find a small sign explaining it, but it was far from obvious.

Our two servers, both teen-aged girls were enthusiastic and informative about the farm, the Epstein family that owns it, and even about the wine.  They were intrigued by the sight of us entering our tasting notes into our phone, so we showed them a little bit of the Connecticut Wine Trail Companion.

Unlike most vineyards, your tasting includes every wine they make, and they make a few.  We liked Serendipity, a Foch-Cayuga rose, the Farmington River Red blending Foch and Marquette with Cabernet Sauvignon, and Lou’s Red, blending St. Croix with Merlot and Sangiovese.  We found the Farmington River Read to be better than some French Bordeauxs.

They are in the process of erecting a dedicated tasting room building, which will hopefully make the process of getting a tasting easier and allow for extended hours.  The farm stand itself has local food and cheeses available for purchase.  We’ll be back with my mother to remember the past, and probably stop for a scoop of ice cream at Tullmeadow Farms.

Next up, the Litchfield Farmer’s Market.  Stay tuned.

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