And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
If you will recall, we started this journey to cover the entire Connecticut Wine Trail on 5 May 2017. With roughly two weeks left in the passport season, we were down to our last two vineyards, in the far northeastern corner of the state set among rocky hills and ancient trees. The day promised abundant sunshine, and although the start was chilly by midday it was almost summery, bathed in sun.
We set out early Saturday morning, bound for Sharpe Hill Vineyards in Pomfret. The journey would take close to two hours, far into the hinterland, past old white churches, numerous Scout and church camps, squires’ homes and trailer homes– testimony, I think to man’s persistence in making a living, even under unforgiving circumstances. A restaurant we passed in nearby Ashford boasted that they were always open, no matter what: “We have a generator!” I have no idea what that claim suggests, but I surmise they must have cause to use it often enough.
Sharpe Hill is a reconstructed farm house of some substance. While many of the crazy doors and passageways remain, and the place has a vintage look, virtually the entire interior and much else has been completely and lovingly rebuilt. They have a small restaurant on site, and it was the reason for our hurry. Reservations are required, and the only spot we could get was for Noon.
The Fireside Tavern looks like a barn or outbuilding, but inside, it looks more like a typical colonial home. The main dining area is on the upper floor, and one must navigate beams and chimneys to reach your table. The menu offers suggested wine pairings, which we followed. The menu choices are eclectic but quite good. The food is somewhat pricey, but it was all clearly fresh. The service was excellent. I would imagine a holiday meal there would be very festive, especially if they use the fireplaces.
For tasting room patrons, they also offer a boxed charcuterie in the tasting room, which looked good. I mention this because seating is limited at the restaurant, and they have a delightful courtyard where you can sit and sip. Assuming the box includes some of the items we had at the restaurant, it is excellent indeed.
After our meal, we took a table in the courtyard and ordered a wine tasting. You have two options, a six wine tasting, or a thirteen wine tasting. We decided to split a thirteen wine tasting, to get a full feel for what they have to offer. In retrospect, thirteen wines is an awful lot to taste in one sitting, unless it is the only tasting you do that day. But we were allowed to take our time, and in this sunny day, it was much appreciated.
We started with Ballet of Angels, which might well be their best white. It was crisp with hints of sweetness and citrus. It is a very flexible wine that would work well with may foods. The American Chardonnay was very crisp with a hint of melon. The Reserve Chardonnay as very disappointing. You are much better off trying the Cuvee Ammi Phillips, a delightful full-bodied, crisp Chardonnay using grapes from Long Island. Rounding out the whites, the Dry Riesling has a nice balance of floral and mineral notes. The Riesling was sweet with a slight peach taste. The Select Late Harvest was very sweet, too sweet for us, as a matter of fact.
As an interlude, we tried the Angelica Rose, which was light and very tart. While they suggested that it could be consumed at room temperature, it’s probably better chilled.
Turning to the reds, we started with the Red Seraph, a Chianti style wine blending Merlot and St. Croix. It was very smooth. Their St. Croix was very dry with a blend of candy and pepper. It, too, is a very flexible wine. Their Cabernet Franc was very smooth with the expected peppery finish. The Pinot Noir was also very peppery. We finished with the Fleur Rouge, a very sweet red, a disappointing ending.
Weary from our tastings, we drove on to our final stop, Taylor Brooke Winery in Woodstock. Their principal claim to fame for us is their love of dogs. They have two “wine dogs,” and honor their original with a bottle named Wine Dog 1 that gives a dollar for every purchase to animal rescue. We have yet to meet any of their dogs. We would disappointed yet again, as apparently one of them gave evidence of wanting to run. Someday perhaps we will meet one.
The main wine bar was busy, so we went to a side room. They had the honor of collecting our passports. “You have a lot of stamps,” they said. A lot indeed. When they learned we had visited every winery on the trail, we were then asked about those farther afield. Our serer liked wine, but found her schedule did not permit much travelling.
You can choose from tasting five or ten, each of which gives you a taste of their selections. We chose to do five apiece. The Wine Dog 1 was sweet and very fruity, not our favorite. The Traminette was also very sweet, but with a more floral taste. The Green Apple Riesling was one of several “fruit-infused” wines they offer. It was crisp, dry, and apply. By far the best white was the Woodstock Hill White, a crisp, light wine, with minerality to spare. We finished the white selections with the Late Harvest Traminette, a dessert wine, which was suitably sweet.
Taylor Brooke as started by a facilities manager who was surrounded by beer-brewing biologists and engineers. Disliking beer, he countered by making his own wine, and the bug bit. Traveling the country for his job, he got to experience local foods wherever he went. Dick Auger took this spirit home with him, seeking to create the best wines with locally sourced grapes. Sadly, he passed earlier this year, but his widow has taken the lead and developing the business, expanding their operations.
Their goal is to be a one-stop shop for locally produced alcoholic beverages. They are opening a brewery and a distillery in the next year. They already offer a brandy, presently distilled nearby distillery, but destined for their own stills in due time. We are not so familiar with brandy, but we found it a bit harsh.
Finished with the whites, we started with the Lazy Day Red, which was a light red with cherry and plum notes. The Corot Noir was very earthy. Taylor Brooke is one of the few wineries in Connecticut to offer wines with this grape. It’s one of their newest wines, offers some promise of development. The Roseland Red, is a St. Croix-Cabernet-Merlot mix, very bold, with a hint of sweetness. By far our favorite was the Woodstock Valley Red, a jammy currant St. Croix. We liked it so much, we each bought a glass to enjoy, as we enjoyed the fading light and savored the fact that we had finished our race.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.