Connecticut Corkers

Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas – The Re(night)cap with Afterword

The nightcaps we posted are good all year long

With any of these you will never go wrong

In case you missed one we’ve reposted them here

With one afterword, coming sometime next year…

imageEpilogue: Oktopusake Premium Junmai Sake, Connecticut

On the rare occasions I’m not drinking wine with sushi, I opt for sake instead. Sake is a perfect pairing with sushi and, since it is a rice wine, I can still call it research. I was very excited to learn that there is a local company working on perfecting their own sake. Oktopusake will soon be offering three varieties of their premium junmai sake to Connecticut consumers: Sun – a traditional dry sake; Moon – an unfiltered version (think milky white and slightly sweet); and Stars – a specialty reserve sake that will be as black as squid ink because it will be tinted with, well…squid ink! We will keep you posted on Oktopusake’s progress and are very much looking forward to seeing this new local product in Connecticut stores and restaurants in 2014.



Re(night)cap: One of the questions I encounter the most as a wine educator is “What’s your favorite wine?” I confess, it’s a question I’ve come to dread because I always feel like I’m disappointing the inquisitor. My answer usually goes something like this: “I don’t really have a favorite. It depends on the day, the time of year, the company in which I find myself, and any gustatory delights with which I may be pairing the wine.”  If really pushed, I’ll tell them that I am a Champagne girl. This seems to provide them with a little more satisfaction. But the truth is my favorite wine changes on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis. And I am always waiting to find my next favorite wine. The beauty of the wine world is that there is always more to explore. So, here I will present a list of my 12 favorite wines right now for drinking and gifting during the holidays, one day at a time for the next 12 days.

A Votre Santé!

For the full list of 12 nightcaps, click here: Nightcap Recap






Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas – The 5th Nightcap

Nightcap #5: Onyx Moonshine Secret Stash 2013, Connecticut, USA, price varies

It may not be wine, but we would be remiss not to include a product by this company in our list of worthy nightcaps. Onyx Moonshine is a local success story, and an almost overnight one, at that. The first moonshine to be legally produced and sold in New England, Onyx can now be found on shelves in almost every bar and liquor store in Connecticut. I first discovered this white lightening a year ago at a screening of a documentary about Prohibition in Connecticut where they were pouring drinks made from their moonshine. For an explanation of just what moonshine is and to learn more about their very first product, click here: Connecticut Celebrates the End of Prohibition.

Barrel Aged JPGOnyx prepared for an even bigger celebration of Prohibition Repeal Day this year. On December 5th, Onyx released their newest product, Secret Stash, a charred oak barrel-aged moonshine and Connecticut’s very first whiskey. This firewater is now spreading across Connecticut like wildfire. If you want to catch the craze early on, you will need to hurry. A very limited amount of Secret Stash was produced – 33 barrels to be precise – a tribute to the year that Prohibition was repealed. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle, you can expect to pay in the area of $60 for it, although price varies depending on the retailer. As if its scarcity and sexy name weren't enough, each of the 33 barrels produced has different flavor notes due to the unique nature of each barrel used and the conditions under which it was made. A list of the 33 restaurants and stores carrying the Connecticut-crafted hooch, complete with each barrel's flavor profile, can be found here: Find Secret Stash.
If you miss out on the first run, take heart. Onyx plans to release more of their sneaky pete during the summer of 2014. In the meantime, you can grab one of their other home-brewed products as a gift for that special grog guzzler in your life. Visit Onyx Moonshine.

If you snagged a bottle of Secret Stash, you might want to try this cocktail recipe, provided by Onyx Moonshine:

Onyx Maple Manhattan

2 oz Onyx Barrel Aged Whiskey (Secret Stash)
½ oz Maple Syrup
½ oz Sweet Vermouth
Orange rind, for garnish

Combine Secret Stash, maple syrup, and vermouth in a shaker over ice. Twist the orange rind over the mixture to release the orange oil, then rub the orange rind along the rim of the rocks glass. Shake and strain over an ice sphere.

Where to Find Secret Stash

Read our full story on this product here: Nightcap #5

M&R Liquors
206 Buckland Road, South Windsor
smoke, maple, cigar box
M&R Liquors
2773 Main Street, Glastonbury
smoke, peanut brittle, biscuit
M&R Liquors
120 Tolland Turnpike, Manchester
lemon, straw, sandalwood 
M&R Liquors
214 W Main Street, Avon
charcuterie, truffle, oak
M&R Liquors
838 Farmington Avenue, Farmington
smoke, citrus, truffle
Manchester Wine & Liquors
1010 Tolland Turnpike, Manchester
butterscotch, lemon, charcoal
Market Grille
110 Buckland Hills Dr, Manchester
pear, maple, gingerbread
Oxford Liquors
451 Hartford Road, Manchester
hickory, caramel, bacon
Sav-Rite Liquors
117 Washington Ave, North Haven
roasted corn, cedar, smoke
The Cork Fine Wines & Spirits
1597 E Main Street, Torrington
smoke, fruit wood, marzipan
Bottle Shop of Unionville
20 S Main Street, Unionville
fruit wood, mocha, pastry
Spendless Discount Liquors
210 Spencer Street, Manchester
smoke, cappuccino, wicker
Worldwide Wine & Spirits
480 Queen Street, Southington
lemon, fruit wood, chocolate
krust Pizza Bar
686 Main Street, Middletown
hickory, apple, gingerbread
Stew Leonard’s Newington
3475 Berlin Turnpike, Newington
smoke, nuts, honeycomb
Crazy Bruce’s Liquors
178 Newington Rd, West Hartford
peanut brittle, cappucino, smoke
CT Beverage Mart
3127 Berlin Turnpike, Newington
caramel, espresso, maple
Worldwide Wine Cellar
33a Fieldstone Commons, Tolland
coffee, chocolate, baked fruit
CT Beverage Mart
615 Hartford Road, New Britain
straw, lemon, caramel apple
Broadway Wine & Spirits
71 Broadway, Colchester
lemon, vanilla, smoke
Liquor World
135 West Road, Ellington
caramel, smoke, roast chestnuts
Liquor World
136 Berlin Road, Cromwell
lemon, apple, honeycomb
Putnam Plaza Super Liquors
4 Main Street, East Hartford
maple, cedar, truffle
Town Line Fine Wine, Spirits & Beer
345 Hawley Lane, Stratford
smoke, butter, baked fruit
Willowbrook Spirit Shoppe
2 Willowbrook Road, Cromwell
hickory, apple, chocolate
Crazy Bruce’s Liquors
1224 Farmington Avenue, Bristol
gingerbread, charcoal, sandalwood
Liquor Depot
687 W Main Street, New Britain
maple, carrot cake, mint
Riley’s Liquor Store
320 Hartford Turnpike, Vernon
gingerbread, smoke, truffle
CT Beverage Mart
955 Washington Street, Middletown
butterscotch, herbal, pepper
Amity Wine & Spirit Co.
95 Amity Road, New Haven
citrus, maple, cherry
Wine Cellars 4
68 Farmington Avenue, Farmington
smoke, lemon, pastry
Liquor Super Store
1261 Meriden Road, Wolcott
toast, grilled fruit, vanilla
Maximum Beverage
33 N Main Street, West Hartford
espresso, lemon, roast chestnut


A Tasting of Wine & Chocolate

Knipschildt Chocolatier


Wine Institute of New England



A Tasting of Wine & Chocolate

November 19th, 2013

7:00 – 9:00 pm


Chocopologie Cafe

12 South Main Street

Norwalk, CT 06854

Knipschildt Chocolatier, CT Magazine's Best of CT for chocolate, and Wine Institute of New England, CT Magazine's Best of CT for wine appreciation, join forces to bring you the best of both worlds. Accompany us on a gustatory journey to tantalize the senses. 

The evening begins with chocolate-infused hors d'oeuvres and sparkling wine, 

followed by a guided pairing of wine and artisan chocolate made in CT.


The Hors d'Oeuvres Menu

Seafood Ragout in Wonton with White Chocolate

Tortellini with Mushrooms Served on Dark Chocolate Truffle Sauce

Pheasant Rielette with Lingonberry & Mole Sauce



This event is limited to 36 people. 

Advanced registraton required.

To register, please visit:

or call 860-591-WINE

Summer Sparkles at Sunset Meadow Vineyards

Sunset Meadow Vineyards (SMV) in Goshen started summer off with a bang by introducing two new wines to their already impressive lineup. SMV recently took home the 2013 Wine Product of the Year award at the Connecticut Specialty Food Association's 2013 Product Awards Competition for their intoxicating ice wine, Midnight Ice, as well as placed first in the Blush, Dessert and Dry White Wine categories. Always at the top of my list of wineries to watch, I was only too happy to make the trek to Goshen to sample their new offerings. 

RisqueWithLabel-WebSMV Shades of Risqué ~ Since first being introduced to SMV wines, I have wanted to see what talented winemaker, SMV owner George Motel, would do with a sparkling wine. I finally got my wish this year with the introduction of their first sparkling wine, Shades of Risqué, and I was not disappointed. While ultimately it is the quality of the wine that makes or breaks the bottle, it is the bottle itself that first draws us in. The label on the bottle housing this new sparkler is pink and flirtatious, and just begging for attention. Motel never skimps on closures and the long silver foil and black faux mushroom cork topping this bottle are no exception. Opening the bottle may not produce the attention grabbing "pop" often associated with Champagne, but the 2.5 atmospheres of pressure contained within produce a delightfully delicate bubble ballet in the style of an Italian frizzante. In the glass, the elegant elixir just a few shades shy of ruby red sparkles like the arils of a pomegranate. The nose is tickled by a hint of ripe berry aromas that are more fully repeated in the first sip. Flavors of field fresh strawberries are held up by a creamy mousse pillow and linger on the tongue for several pleasurable moments, reminiscent of a bowl of perfectly paired strawberries and cream. As it states on the back of the bottle, "More fruity than sweet, this off-dry wine…(is) equally appropriate as an aperitif or paired with a main course. " I could not have said it better myself. This titillating bubbly is easy to drink and would pair well with many things, including salads, fish and poultry dishes, cheese and charcuterie and, yes, strawberries and cream. Bravo on a sparkling addition to Connecticut wines!


Root63WithLabel-WebSMV Root 63 ~ Wine drinkers unfamiliar with Connecticut wines are often dismissive of them as being overly sweet. While the majority of local wines are not overly sweet, there certainly are many sweet wines to be found. So it is an unusual occurrence to have patrons actually request the production of a sweet wine from a Connecticut winemaker. But request it of SMV they did. The majority of SMV's wines fall into the dry and off-dry categories (perhaps one of the reasons I am such a fan). But when customers of SMV clamored for a sweet red wine, Motel obliged them. Well, semi-obliged. Root 63 is SMV's first semi-sweet red wine that is not a dessert wine. The playful name (SMV is located on Route 63) is appropriate for this rather playful wine which is a proprietary blend of estate-grown red grape varieties. The beautifully designed label includes the Western Connecticut Highlands AVA designation. Although I found the wine to be lacking the complexity characteristic of SMV's dry red wines, Motel's ability to produce a well-balanced wine is evident here, too. The straightforward wine is dark pink, almost mauve, and is pleasantly fruity. Motel suggests serving this wine chilled to 51 degrees. An easy summer sipper, Root 63 will undoubtedly please many palates.

Uncork Your Inner Wine Expert at the 5th Annual CT Wine Festival

Wine Institute of New England 


Uncorking Your Inner Wine Expert!


The 5th Annual Connecticut Wine Festival

Goshen Fairgrounds

Saturday, July 27th  

Hands Holding Wine

Renée Allen, Director of the Wine Institute of New England, will be conducting a wine appreciation seminar at this year's Festival on Saturday, July 27th from 1:30-3:00 pm.  

Renée, a Certified Specialist of Wine, will cover wine tasting techniques and varietal information, and will offer terrific tips that will have you sipping like a pro this summer.

For information and advance ticket sales, visit:



The 5th Connecticut Wine Festival

Wine Institute of New England 

to present a wine appreciation seminar


The 5th Annual Connecticut Wine Festival

Goshen Fairgrounds

Saturday and Sunday, July 27th & 28th

Hands Holding Wine

"Have A Grape Day"

The Connecticut Wine Festival will be returning for a fifth year of showcasing Connecticut’s wines, a reflection on the growing popularity of our local wines. 

“From international gold medals to ‘people’s choice’ and ‘Best in Show’ awards, Connecticut wines continue to win fans and impress connoisseurs from around the world,” said George Motel, Festival Chairman and owner of Sunset Meadow Vineyards.  “The Connecticut Wine Festival is a true showcase for introducing wine lovers to much of our state’s home-grown offerings.  We look forward to another record year, and the opportunity to prove that our wines are truly the ‘hidden gems’ of the industry, as The Wall Street Journals calls them.”

The Festival will be staged again at the Goshen Fairgrounds in Litchfield County. Sponsored by the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association (CVWA) and presented by the CT Wine Trail, the Festival features fine wines from a wide variety of local vintners, making it one of the “must attend” events of the summer.  The Festival also features wine classes, specialty food vendors, artisanal crafts, and a variety of live musical entertainment.

Renée Allen, Director of the Wine Institute of New England, will be conducting a wine appreciation seminar at this year's Festival on Saturday, July 27th from 1:30-3:00 pm.  Renée, a Certified Specialist of Wine, will cover wine tasting techniques and varietal information, and will offer terrific tips for getting even more enjoyment out of your wine.

The specialty food vendors are primarily members of the Connecticut Specialty Food Association, an association that is part of the Connecticut Food Association. They feature local foods made in Connecticut.  Adams Hometown Market, a Platinum Sponsor of the Festival, will also sell advance tickets at its stores throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Daily admission to the CT Wine Festival is $25 in advance, available through July 19th at any participating CVWA winery, online, or by phone, and $30 at the door.  These tickets include free wine tastings, a commemorative festival wine glass (for the tastings) and a tote bag.  Guests under 21 and Designated Drivers can attend for a reduced admission price of $10.  Photo ID with proof of age is required for the wine tasting.  Hours for the Festival are 12:00 Noon to 7:00 PM, Saturday, July 27; and 12:00 Noon to 6:00 PM Sunday, July 28.  More information and a complete list of participating wineries can be found at

Festival proceeds are used to promote the CVWA Wine Trail and the Connecticut wine industry.  The CT Wine Trail, a state approved winery and vineyard awareness program, features trails that wind their ways through some of the most scenic and historic regions of Connecticut.

“The Connecticut Wine Festival is a great place to come and enjoy the day, taste some local wines, some great food and relax.” said Sherrie Palmer, the festival director. “Cases of wine will also be available at a discount, so guests can easily make back the price of admission in great savings. What more can you ask for?”

For more information and to purchase tickets, log on to  You can also email or call (860) 677-5467.

Wine and Weeds

Wine Institute of New England


Wine and Weeds

a forest-to-table foraging tour and wine tasting


Hosted by 
Sunset Meadow Vineyards 
Goshen, CT

With special guest forager “Wildman” Steve Brill


Saturday, May 4th, 2013


Experience an event like no other you have experienced before. 

Learn how to forage for wild edibles with the East Coast's most famous forager, Wildman Steve Brill. After the foray, Wildman will create a delicious salad on the spot from the day's finds and  lead a discussion of his advanced healthful vegan cooking concepts.  Samples will be on hand for tasting, including wild sourdough rye bread with a wild garlic spread, wild chocolate truffles, and curried sunflower seeds.

The afternoon will also include a tour of Sunset Meadow Vineyards with winemaker, George Motel, and a tasting of several of  Sunset Meadow Vineyards' award-winning wines.

Wine education will be provided by Renée Allen of the Wine Institute of New England.

The foraging tour will begin promptly at 4:00 pm


Cost of event: $75 per person

This event will be limited to 50 people.

For reservations or information, please call 860-591-WINE

or register online here: 


Meet the Wine and Weeds Team:

Renée B. Allen, CSW ~ Renée Allen is the Founder and Director of the Wine Institute of New England, a wine education and epicurean entertainment business. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine and a member of the Society of Wine Educators. As part of providing wine education, Renee has the opportunity to work closely with many local chefs and is especially excited about the events she does involving local wines and local, sustainable foods. She is an authority on Connecticut wine and specializes in organic, biodynamic and sustainably farmed wines from around the world. Renee is also a contributing wine writer for Connecticut Magazine. The idea for Wine and Weeds came to her one day while nibbling on a wineberry in the middle of the forest.

George Motel III, Winemaker, Sunset Meadow Vineyards ~ George Motel crafts award-winning and highly palatable wines at the Motel family’s scenic winery overlooking the Litchfield Hills in Goshen, Connecticut. SMV won Best Family Winery in 2010, awarded by Yankee Magazine’s Travel Guide to New England, and recently won first prize in 3 categories in the CT Specialty Food Association’s Products Award Competition, including 2013 Wine Product of the Year.

“Wildman” Steve Brill, Forager ~ "Wildman" Steve Brill is America's go-to guy for foraging and a self-taught naturalist, environmental educator, author and artist. He's led thousands of foraging tours since 1982, working with the public, school classes, day camps, museums, parks departments, nature centers, libraries, garden clubs, organic farms, scouts and more, and also leads birthday party tours.

He designed and maintains his website, Foraging with the "Wildman,", and has writtenIdentifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Places, (Harper-Collins Publisher, 1994),The Wild Vegan Cookbook (Harvard-Common Press, 2001), and Shoots and Greens of Early Spring in Northeastern North America (self-published, 2008). He created WildEdibles, a master foraging app for iOS and Android devices. He stars in the DVD, "Wild Edible Basics," and his next book, Foraging with Kids, will be available in 2012.

He's appeared countless times in major electronic and print media, but he's still best known for having been arrested and handcuffed by undercover park rangers for eating a dandelion in Central Park in 1986. The media ate it up and embarrassed officials negotiated with the naturalist, dropped the charges, and hired him to lead the same foraging tours for which they arrested him. He worked for the city for 4 years before resuming freelance work.

And The Winner Is…

The results of the 12th Annual Connecticut Specialty Food Product Awards Competition were announced this morning. We are pleased to report that Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen, CT was awarded 2013 Wine Product of the Year for their outstanding 2010 Midnight Ice.

"We are proud of our entire staff for all of their efforts and share with them the recognition for this achievement," stated George Motel, owner of Sunset Meadow Vineyards and vice president of the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association. "This is confirmation of the ability to create a quality wine that is also a genuine Connecticut product."

This was only the third year that Connecticut wines were included in what was formerly a food and non-alcoholic beverage competiton. All of the wines submitted were required to be made from 100% Connecticut grown fruit. The Connecticut Specialty Food Association (CSFA) received 28 submissions from 5 wineries.

"We applaud the CSFA for conducting the state's only competition that requires every wine to be made from 100% Connecticut grown fruit," said Motel, "and for recognizing the contribution of those wineries that work to produce these wines."

After participating in the judging last week, Renee B. Allen, director of the Wine Institute of New England, shared the four wines from among her favorites that she picked as likely to appear in the winner's circle. All four of the wines chosen were awarded first place finishes in their respective categories. To read Allen's impressions of these wines, visit

Analiese Paik, founder of the Fairfield Green Food Guide, served as a specialty food judge and was happy to see all of her picks for best products receive an award. For a complete list of food winners from the competition and to read about Paik's favorites, visit  

And the wine winners are…




2013 Wine Product of the Year

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT

Midnight Ice 2010



Wine – Blush


1st Place             Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT, Sunset Blush, 2010

2nd Place            Bishop’s Orchards Winery, Guilford, CT, Amazing Grace


Wine – Dessert


1st Place             Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT, Midnight Ice, 2010


2nd Place            Taylor Brooke Winery, LLC, Woodstock, CT, Corot Noir, 2011


3rd Place             Taylor Brooke Winery, LLC, Woodstock, CT, Woodstock Valley Red, 2010


Wine – Dry Red


1st Place             Jones Winery, Shelton, CT, Cabernet Franc, 2010


2nd Place            Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT, St. Croix, 2008


3rd Place             Jonathan Edwards Winery, North Stonington, CT, Cabernet Franc, 2011


Wine – Dry White


1st Place             Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT, Cayuga White, 2010


2nd Place            Taylor Brooke Winery, LLC, Woodstock, CT, Wine Dog 1, 2011


3rd Place             Taylor Brooke Winery, LLC, Woodstock, CT, Woodstock Hill White, 2011


Wine – Fruit


1st Place             Bishop’s Orchards Winery, Guilford, CT, Hyland Red


2nd Place  TIE    Bishop’s Orchards Winery, Guilford, CT, Celebration

              Bishop’s Orchards Winery, Guilford, CT, Honey Peach Melba


3rd Place             Bishop’s Orchards Winery, Guilford, CT, Happily Impeared


Wine – Other White


1st Place             Jones Winery, Shelton, CT, Woodland White, 2011


2nd Place            Bishop’s Orchards Winery, Guilford, CT, Hard Cider – Semi-Sweet


3rd Place             Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT, Blustery Blend, 2010


Wine – Rosé


1st Place             Taylor Brooke Winery, LLC, Woodstock, CT, St. Croix Rosé, 2011


2nd Place            Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT, Rosé, 2011


3rd Place             Jones Winery, Shelton, CT, Rosé of Cabernet Franc, 2011


You can visit the Connecticut Food Association at

Judging Connecticut Wines for the CT Specialty Food Association

I had the pleasure again this year of being involved in the Connecticut Specialty Food Association's Product Awards Competition. The competition was held at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. Although this was the Competition's 12th year, it is only the third year that Connecticut wines have been included in the competition and the judging was intense. A total of 28 wines were submitted by five wineries for judging in seven different categories: dry white, other white, dry red, rose, blush, fruit and dessert. Only wines made from 100% Connecticut grown fruit were allowed to be entered into the competition. 

The wines were blind tasted with only the vintage and fruit or grape variety being revealed. Each wine was judged on its appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish. Judges conducted their individual assessment of a wine and, once all scores and notes had been recorded, some lively discussions ensued. Although the judges were often in agreement, there was some debate over the course of the 3-hour tasting, with each judge having his or her particular favorites. Some general observations were the fact that Connecticut wines continue to improve and that no serious flaws were detected. One judge was particularly excited to award one of the wines he tasted a perfect score. 

The Connectiuct Specialty Food Association is now charged with the task of tallying up the scores and awarding the winners of each category. Once the list comes out, we will publish it here. In the meantime, here are a few of the wines that particularly stood out for me. I would not be suprised to see them in the winner's circle.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards Sunset Blush – a delicately sweet wine with hints of citrus, plum and blueberries, this wine earned one of my top scores for both its structure and balance. From first sniff to lingering finish, this wine provides a rewarding experience. 

Jones Winery Cabernet Franc – made from my favorite red grape grown in Connecticut, this dry red wine hit the mark with its earthiness and black cherry notes. Nicely balanced.

Bishops Orchards Winery Hyland Red – made from farm fresh raspberries, this wine captures the essence of the fruit with a journey that begins with heady aromas and sweetness and ends with a pleasant, tangy tartness.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards Midnight Ice – one of only two ice wines being made Connecticut, this sweet nectar burst with tropical aromas and flavors like mango and lychee. Perfectly intoxicating.