Connecticut Corkers

A New England Wine Dinner

Wine Institute of New England


A New England Wine Dinner


Chef Daniel Chong-Jiménez


Join us for an unforgettable wine dinner focused on the wines and cuisine of New England. Chef Daniel will prepare a delectable 5-course meal based on seasonal native foods. Each course will be expertly paired with regional wines by WINE’s director, Renée Allen, and presented with food and wine pairing tips and techniques.

Saturday, April 11th

6:30 pm

The Crush Club

65 South Colony Road

Wallingford, CT

Menu subject to change based on availability.


Domestic Cheese, Nut & Fruit Display

paired with Hopkins Vineyard Gold Label Sparkling Wine

New England Cheddar Apricot Tartlet

paired with Sunset Meadow Vineyards Blustery Blend

Stonington Scallops on a Bed of Brussels Sprouts Sauerkraut topped with Red Pepper & Bacon Relish served with Mini Arugula Salad with Egg Crumble

paired with Sunset Meadow Vineyards Cayuga or St. Croix

Tenderloin of Beef with Twisted Connecticut Butter Emulsion Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower, Rosemary New Potatoes,  Connecticut Butter Cabernet Emulsion

paired with Jones Winery Cabernet Franc

~ Study in Chocolate ~

Mini Lava Cake with Pana Cotta Quenelle & Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate Bark

Westford Hills Eau de Vie Chocolate Cherries

paired with Hopkins Vineyard Night Owl


About the Chef

Chef Daniel won many awards and pleased many palates as the Executive Chef of the Norwich Inn & Spa for 11 years. One of his signature dishes made Connecticut Magazine’s 50 Dishes To Try Before You Die. In addition to his award winning cuisine and innovative approach to nourishment, Chef Daniel is well known for his entertaining hands-on cooking classes.

The CT Wine Festival at the Durham Fair

Wine Institute of New England 

to present free wine appreciation seminar


The Connecticut Wine Festival at the Durham Fair

Durham Fairgrounds

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

at 2:00 pm

Hands Holding Wine

Summer Breeze, Makes Me Feel Wine…

What better way to spend the first day of summer than sipping the wines of the Southeastern New England AVA at the Coastal Wine Trail's Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival? This event was promised to be the first of several planned this year to celebrate the Southeastern New England AVA's 30th anniversary. The Wine Institute of New England left the familiar surroundings of Connecticut and headed for Westport, Massachusetts to see what the rest of New England was pouring. 

coa_int_logoThe Coastal Wine Trail weaves its way along the Southeastern New England coastline from Connecticut to Cape Cod. Each winery has its own distinct flavors and personality it brings to the trail. In attendance were ten wineries, each offering tastings of 4 wines to ensure there was something for every palate. The wineries pouring were Stonington Vineyards, Coastal Vineyards, Greenvale Vineyards, Langworthy Farm, Newport Vineyards, Running Brook Vineyard & Winery, Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, Travessia Urban Winery, Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod, and Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery.



My invitation included entry to the "Media Tent." Although it may have been the lure of V.I.P. treatment that lulled me in, it was what I found under the tent that kept me there. Along with a small showing of select wines, it was here I found the grape growers and winemakers.

IMG_1144I started off with the 2010 Chardonnay Select from Greenvale Vineyards, a perfect summer sipper. Winemaker Richard Carmichael was on hand to talk about the winery. In addition to three Bordeaux grapes (merlot, malbec and cabernet franc), and two hybrids commonly grown in this region (cayuga and vidal blanc), Greenvale is growing albariño on their 22 acre vineyard. Carmichael explained how this white grape indigenous to northwestern Spain seemed to thrive in the maritime climate at their vineyard in Rhode Island. Albariño grows in Rias Baixas within a region known as "Green Spain" due to its wet, cool climate. Planted 3 years ago, Greenvale's albariño will be making its debut very soon. I can't wait.

IMG_1136 Some cute as heck graphics caught my eye on what looked like a large bottle of beer. It was in fact a beer bottle, but it definitely wasn't beer; it was Farmer's Fizz from Westport Rivers Vineyard. Unlike the original Farmer's Fizz, this newer version of their popular bubbly was produced in the style of a Prosecco. Meaning what? It went through two fermentations, both in the tank (rather than the second one ocurring in the bottle, as in Champagne). Made from 3 chardonnay clones, pinot gris and pinot blanc, it was fizzy, off-dry, refreshing and fun. Grape grower Rob Russell told me that, although they produce excellent examples of several styles of wine, traditional method sparkling wine is the style at which this winery excels. In addition to spotlighting sparklers, Westport puts an emphasis on using estate grown grapes for their wines, the majority of which are dry.*

IMG_1142While enjoying his 100% Estate Grown 2011 Cabernet Franc, I chatted with Dave Nielson, winemaker and owner of Coastal Vineyards. Coastal produces 15 wines from their 8 (soon to be 10) acres of vines, including one from the French-American hybrid, chambourcin. Chambourcin, popular on the East coast, was commercially released in 1963 and is typically used as a blending grape due to its intense color. Chambourcin is resistant to fungal diseases, allowing the grower to use fewer chemicals. Coastal makes a sparkling wine from chardonnay and pinot noir using the traditional, or Champenoise, method. Look for this winery to release a red dessert wine this year.

IMG_1145I was happy to spot a bottle of Stonington Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Franc, one of my favorite Connecticut red wines, poised at the end of the table. Standing next to his creation was Mike McAndrew, grape grower and winemaker at Stonington. Although the winery mainly produces single variety wines a là Burgundy, France, McAndrew revealed that a pinot noir-riesling blend, aptly named "Pink Noir," is joining the lineup. While it may be a break from Stonington's more traditional offerings, it is probably not a bad marketing move. Sales of rosé wines increase every year, with imported rosés experiencing 9 straight years of double digit growth, inlcuding a 39% increase in volume in 2013. Like it or not, pink is still in. I happen to like it. (If you like pink, too, click here to sign up for our upcoming class, Looking at the Wine World Through Rosé Colored Glasses)

IMG_1138IMG_1148There were many other wines being poured that were worth a second sip. The Blessed Blend Limited Edition by Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyard (owned by bangle buff Carolyn Rafaelian of Alex and Ani) was a lively, lip-smacking blend of vidal blanc and chardonnay. I also enjoyed the lineup from Running Brook. The festival coordinators broke the day down into sessions. This was great from the public's perspective as it kept crowding at tables down to a minimum. I am already looking forward to next year's festival. In the meantime, this Connecticut dweller will definitely be hitting the Coastal Wine Trail again this summer. 

To see what else the Coastal Wine Trail has in store to celebrate the Southeastern New England AVA's 30th anniversary, visit their site: CoastalWineTrail

*During my discussion with Mr. Russell, I was persuaded to visit Wesport Rivers Vineyard & Winery after the Festival. Check future posts to read about my experience there.



Happy Anniversary to a Local AVA!





The Southeastern New England American Viticultural Appellation (SENE AVA) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Formed in 1984, this AVA brings together wineries from Cape Cod and the Islands, all the way through South Coast Massachusetts and down to coastal Rhode Island and Connecticut.  

As part of the celebration, the Coastal Wine Trail will be having a Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival this Saturday, June 21st, 2014, from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm at the Westport Fairgrounds in Westport, Massachusetts.

The Coastal Wine Trail is comprised of 10 wineries that span from Stonington, Connecticut all the way through the Newport, Rhode Island region up towards the South Coast of Massachusetts and down to Truro, Cape Cod.  Each winery is located along the scenic Atlantic shoreline, making the Coastal Wine Trail a great 2-3 day weekend trip for sightseers and wine lovers.


Wineries currently in the Coastal Wine Trail include Connecticut’s Stonington Vineyards, as well as Coastal Vineyards, Greenvale Vineyards, Langworthy Farm, Newport Vineyards, Running Brook, Sakonnet Vineyards, Travessia Winery, Truro Vineyards, and Westport Rivers Winery.  

“Although each winery is located within close proximity to the coast, they all have very unique identities” said Kaisa Holloway Cripps of Running Brook Vineyard.  “Each winery has a distinct atmosphere which makes the trail a diverse and interesting experience for travelers.”

All ten of the Coastal Wine Trail wineries will be serving wine tastings at the Festival. Tickets cost $25 in advance and $40 at the door. For tickets and more information, click here: Wine, Cheese & Chocolate

Sixth Annual Connecticut Wine Festival

Wine Institute of New England 

to present free wine appreciation seminar


The 6th Annual Connecticut Wine Festival

Goshen Fairgrounds

Saturday and Sunday, July 26th & 27th

Hands Holding Wine

"Have A Grape Day"

The Connecticut Wine Festival will be returning for a sixth 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 free wine appreciation seminar at this year's Festival.  Renée, a Certified Specialist of Wine, will cover wine tasting techniques and varietal information, and will debunk some common wine myths.

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 20th 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 26; and 12:00 Noon to 6:00 PM Sunday, July 27.  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.

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.