The most concentrated spot for vineyards in the State of Connecticut is Wallingford. The two in Goshen are closer, but they are only two. In Wallingford, you have three in close proximity. It’s an easy way to check off three stops on the Connecticut Wine Trail, and you get to enjoy some spectacular views and great wine.
It was a strange day to set out. The morning had featured torrential rains and thunderstorms. By noon, it was clearing and a fresh breeze filled the air. The sun burst through the banks of dark clouds, inviting us out.
First stop, Paradise Hills Vineyards. It is located off of some vacant farmland at the end of a residential cul-de-sac. The tasting room is out back behind all of the houses. The building is beautiful, featuring a hammered copper bar top. The painting behind the bar was actually done by a friend of ours, Blair McCleod. There is an outside eating area under a trellis with a view of some of the vines.
There were two parties going on when we arrived. The shrill notes of their laughter echoed off the stone floor and bounced off the ceiling. It got inside you. I don’t know how the staff manage it.
The tasting bar was crowded, and it was a few minutes before we could actually reach the bar for a tasting. The staff was trying to juggle the tastings as well as people buying bottles of wine. It might be easier to separate the two, because the bar isn’t big enough to accommodate everyone when it’s busy, and we want them to be busy.
They offer a full selection of wines. Amongst the whites, Lara liked the Casa Bianco, I liked the Vino Bianco Del Paradiso. But it was the reds where they really shine. Trio, President’s Choice, and the St. Croix were excellent. However, they are apparently out of one of our favorites, the Landot Noir. It’s hard to describe, but it may be one of the best wines mad in Connecticut from grapes grown in Connecticut. Hear our plea- please bring back Landot Noir!
From there it was at most a mile to Gouveia Vineyards. High atop a hill, the beautiful tasting room affords a spectacular view across the surrounding valley to the hills beyond. It, too, was crowded, but much more quiet than Paradise Hills. The staff was friendly, and unlike many Connecticut wineries, they had a separate station for those buying wine by the bottle.
Uniquely, Gouveia strives to achieve Portuguese-styled wines. You have a choice of steel or oaked chardonnays- the oaked was not very oaky. The Rose was good- perfect for turkey sandwiches, but had an odd soapy smell. The Stonehouse Red was much lighter than I was expecting. In theory, it should have worked with pasta and pizza, but I’m not convince it would stand up. Stick with the Cabernet Franc.
We enjoyed a light repast on their patio, enjoying the views, as couples strolled the grounds. You can bring your dog with you, so long as you stay outside with it. Lara made sure to say hello to all of the puppies she encountered. Everyone was enjoying themselves. Alas, they close at 5:00 PM, so we collected our things and proceeded to the next stop, Rosabianca Vineyards, maybe two miles away.
Rosabianca is the fulfilment of the dreams of its founder, Andrea Rosabianca. Much of his extended family works there, giving it a homey atmosphere. The tasting room is on the second floor of the winery, and you can look out on the production floor below, with its tanks of wine awaiting release.
Rosabianca is a fairly recent entry on the Wine Trail, and they remain a work in progress. We visited earlier this year in the dead of winter, and were impressed by the sense of family amongst the staff and the customers, who were primarily neighbors and friends. We did not care so much for the wines. We were in for a pleasant surprise on our return.
The whites all had odd tastes to them. It’s not clear to me if any of them use grapes grown on site. Most of the vines are still too young. It takes from three to five years for grape vines to mature to the point that you can use the grapes for wine. They expect to have more of their wines use only their own grapes in the coming years.
The reds, they will likely always import from elsewhere. As has been said in many places, it is difficult to grow red wine grapes in New England, and even far more difficult to grow the classic red wine grapes. The Primitivo was dry, with a bit of an aftertaste. The Tramonto offered a strong berry taste. The Dolcetto was surprisingly dry with a nice berry flavor. The Vino del Nonno was a strong dry, smoky wine that I could easy see enjoying with a plate of pasta and Lara’s Mother’s sauce for a Sunday dinner. Lastly, the Tre Uve adds an oak flavor to the smoke and berries. We had a bottle last night with grilled steak, and it was perfect. Next time, we will stay longer and enjoy a bottle in their outdoor patio, with a nice block of asiago and some olives.
As far as things to do and places to see, both Paradise Hill and Gouveia’s websites offer a fairly extensive of list of local attractions. Gouveia has also opened a restaurant in Wallingford, The Library. We haven’t been there yet, but the menu looks good, and offers one of our favorite wines, the Fairview Pinotage.
So till next time, see you on the trail!