Columbus Day dawned grey and gloomy, with the promise of heavy rain throughout the day. Our itinerary was set by those vineyards choosing to open that day to take advantage of leaf peepers. Thus far, autumn has been warm and dry, so there has not been much in the way of foliage to view. We had visions of harvest festivals and food trucks, and hoped that the lack of color and the rain would keep crowds down.
We crossed the Connecticut at Middletown and headed to Arrigoni Vineyards in East Hampton. Arrigoni got its start as a country store selling decorative items. Somehow, they made the decision to enter the world of wine, and you can see some of their vines out behind their buildings along Route 66. We were the only visitors, so the staff gave us full attention. We learned about the different grapes that went into each wine, and what food might pair with them. They finished off the tasting with samples of their wine slushees.
While we were there, we learned of yet another vineyard not on the Wine Trail, Chateau le Gari, in nearby Marlboro, started by a former owner of our next stop, Priam Vineyards. We talked about stopping by after our last scheduled stop for a stamp.
From there, it was a short drive down Route 66 to Colchester and Priam Vineyards. We were hoping to combine it with a stop at Cato Corner for some cheese from their cheese cave. Unfortunately they are closed on Mondays. Priam at least advertised cheese and fresh-baked bread available to purchase on site, so we were hopeful of getting some Cato Corner cheese anyway.
The entrance to the tasting room was not well marked. I suspect that with the inclement weather they had buttoned things up, as they have an outdoor patio area under some cover. Once inside only the immediate tasting bar area was lit up. They had recently remodeled and expanded their tasting room, but we didn’t get a good look at things. Once again, we were the only visitors. They seemed to have fewer selections than the last time we were there.
Our server was a self-proclaimed Hungarian Wine Gypsy. His dream is travelling the world working at vineyards, doing whatever is needed and drinking lots of great wine. It sounds like a nice job, if your passport is in order. The wines were good, but nothing spectacular. We liked the Salmon River Red, which had blueberry notes. The Essence of St. Croix was a unique take on St. Croix, in Port form.
We reached the point where we wanted something to eat. Our server showed us a list of recommended pairings with Cato Corner cheeses. We made our selections when he then informed us that they did not have any Cato Corner cheese. They had some packaged cheeses and some crackers to purchase, but that was it. I didn’t bother asking about the bread. We left in search of some place to eat.
We would be disappointed. Most places were closed on Monday, holiday or not. We drove past a couple of hopeful spots to find they were not open. We slowly worked our way through the remote vastness of east central Connecticut, past homes and farms in the increasing drizzle.
It was raining in full by the time we pulled up to Staehley’s Farm Winery. Like Bishop’s, Holmberg, and Rosedale, they started as a farmstand, unique, only in that they also sell Christmas trees in season. Like Bishop’s they confine their efforts to fruit wine, chiefly apple wines. They offer three apple wines featuring the exact same blend of apples in dry, sweet, and semi-sweet. The semi-sweet was the best. We tried a blueberry wine, Midnight Blueberry, but found it weak. DiGrazia’s are better. The Spiced Apple was similarly anemic. We were told they had cut down on the spice this year. We finished the wines with their claim to fame, Pomodoro- a tomato wine. It tasted like V-8. We weren’t really sure what it paired with, but bought a bottle for shock value—don’t tell my in-laws! The tasting concluded with their newest addition, a line of ciders. The one we had was balanced, and lacking in bite.
Staeley’s had announced that they were to have food trucks on site for a harvest celebration. But that was before the rain. That morning we read that the trucks were cancelled due to the inclement weather. We would need to look elsewhere.
We finished hungrier than ever. I eyed the apple cider donuts, but not a meal would those make. We had seen a place nearby that seemed to be open, Two Wrasslin’ Cats. Eagerly, we hastened there, only to discover that they were primarily a take-out place. The only seating was outside, in the rain.
Growing more desperate by the minute, we continued southward into Haddam. I knew there was Five Guys in Middletown. Surely they would be open. However, Lara was not keen on fast food or chains. Google is your friend. I found a couple of choices and we settled on the Celtic Cavern in Middletown.
It was dark, and vaguely industrial. The menu was what we were expecting, except for an impressive charcuterie selection. We can recommend the duck prosciutto. The charcuterie is expensive, however. The meal was far more than expensive than it warranted. But we were hungry, and they were open.
Since we were close enough, we made yet another effort to visit Sunset Hill Vineyard. Once again we got nowhere, as I reached an answering machine, but we at least got some definite hours when they were open- Saturday and Sunday, 12-6. Maybe next weekend.
All in all, it was a frustrating day. We got three stamps for our efforts, but that felt like all we got. The trail has become a marathon. Five more to go. We can do this, I think.