Twelve Nightcaps Before Christmas

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!

photo-141Nightcap 1: Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura, Jura, France $25

Sparkling wine is appropriate any time of the year, but it's especially welcome during celebrations and holidays. Besides being festive, sparkling wines are made using grapes with high acidity. This acid, as well as the bubbles, helps these wines cut through a myriad of holiday foods, including those with higher salt and/or fat contents, making them excellent mates for varied holiday hors d'oeuvres. 

This delightful sparkling wine made with 100% chardonnay grapes from the L’Etoile region of Jura is made in the same method as Champagne. It shows citrus notes and lively acidity with a lingering touch of toastiness. And oh the bubbles! The icing on the yule log? Nicole Deriaux, granddaughter of the original winemaker and now full time vigneron, practices organic viticulture. L'Etoile means "the star" in French. Quite fitting for this star of a sparkler.


Uncork Your Inner Wine Expert!

Wine Institute of New England 


Uncork Your Inner Wine Expert!


Quattro's Restaurant & Wine Bar

Monday, November 11th, 2013

6:30~8:30 pm


Our Fall/Winter wine appreciation class series at Quattro's Restaurant & Wine Bar continues with one of our most popular classes. Learn wine tasting techniques in a fun and non-intimidating atmosphere while you try several highly rated wines. We will also share several excellent tips for optimizing your wine drinking experiences. This class will provide the information you need to feel more confident when selecting and tasting wines at home, with friends, or while entertaining clients. If you haven't had your inner wine expert uncorked yet, you must try this class!

To sign up for this class and to see our full schedule, click here:


Tasting Tips for Sipping Like a Pro

Wine Institute of New England


Tasting Tips for Sipping Like a Pro

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

7:00-9:00 pm

at The Crush Club

We will review tasting techniques, discuss grape varieties and wine regions, taste several well-rated wines, and reveal six simple secrets to sipping like a pro.


This class is limited to 30 people.


Join us before the class for a sparkling wine reception to celebrate 

the exciting new partnership between

Wine Institute of New England


The Crush Club

5:30-6:30 pm

65 South Colony Road

Wallingford, Connecticut

Entrance is at rear of building.


To register for the class, please visit:

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.

Auden’s Bachelorette Wine Tasting!

Wine Institute of New England

would like to thank Corrie Schmitt for inviting us to be a part of
the fabulous bachelorette party she threw for her twin sister, Auden.




Brave New World Wines

Our wine appreciation class series continues at Quattro's Restaurant & Wine Bar with a look at wines in our own backyard. We will explore wines from California to Connecticut, with stops in Oregon, Washington and New York. 


May 6th, 2013

6:00-8:00 pm



Quattro's Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar

14 Water Street

Guilford, CT 06437


To register for this class and for more information:

or contact us at:

Phone: 860-591-WINE


* Every participant will receive a coupon entitling them to 50% off the price of a dinner at Quattro's when they buy another at full price.*

Limited to first time students.

That’s Amore! The Wines of Italy


That's Amore! The Wines of Italy

Our wine appreciation class series continues at Quattro's Restaurant & Wine Bar with 

a journey to one of the most varied and exciting wine countries in the world ~ Italy.

Come explore what the various regions of Italy have to offer,

from the Veneto to Piemonte to Toscana…and beyond.

Basic wine tasting techniques will also be reviewed.


Advance registration required.

Each participant will receive a special coupon good for 1/2 off the price of one dinner at Quattro's

with the purchase of a regularly priced dinner. 

Limited to new students.


To sign up for this class and to see our full schedule, click here:

Become A Wine Expert By June

We are accepting students for 3 more days for our

Spring Certified Specialist of Wine Study Course

Classes begin Monday, March 11th, 2013

If you are in the food and beverage industry and want to bolster your resumé, if you're interested in entering the wine industry, or if you are just passionate about wine and want to learn more, then the Certified Specialist of Wine course is for you. The CSW is an internationally recognized accreditation.

Here are just a few of the careers people pursue with a CSW:

Food and wine writer

Wine expert for a restaurant

Wine store or wine distributor employee

Wine flash website owner

Professional chef

Wine educator

Wine critic

Wine judge

Wine bar owner

Wine enthusiast

Join our class now and become a wine expert by June.

Connecticut Celebrates the End of a Dry Spell

Onyx Spirits Mixes a Batch of Bees Knees

Prohibition ended on this day, December 5, in 1933 when the 18th Amendment was repealed by the passage of the 21st Amendment. I could think of no better way to celebrate the anniversary of this historic event than with some hors d’oeuvres and local moonshine at CPTV’s screening of the documentary Prohibition: Connecticut Goes Dry. The screening was held on November 29th in a room at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford replete with authentic tavern signs. The crowd arrived in good spirits, many donning period costumes such as flapper dresses and fedoras. And speaking of good spirits, Manchester’s own Onyx Spirits was on hand to pour authentic Prohibition era cocktails. The cocktail being served, Bees Knees, was just that – a delectable concoction of moonshine, lemon juice, orange juice and honey.  (see sidebar for more info on local moonshine) 

CPTV spent months soliciting black and white photos and other memorabilia for the documentary from Connecticut residents. In attendance for the screening were many people associated with the making of the film including the grandchildren of two people shown in some of the period footage. Approximately one hour long, the film was fast-paced and fun, while still providing the essential information one would expect of a documentary.  I could not help but smile at the fact that the temperance movement in Connecticut is believed to have begun in Litchfield in 1789 by a group of farmers who banned alcohol while working. Litchfield County is now home to six farm wineries including Connecticut’s oldest winery, Haight-Brown Vineyards, as well as host to the Connecticut Wine Festival. But don’t let this beginning fool you. Connecticut as a whole was far from endorsing temperance and was one of only two states that refused to ratify the amendment. According to the film, the popular thinking at the time was “Work was an effort made between parties.” The film showed scenes of Connecticut residents enjoying themselves in a way that would make the most popular frat houses of today envious. One particularly amusing scene showed several people exiting a home after the men and women had apparently exchanged clothing with each other. One man was being carted off in a wheelbarrow. These types of scenes were sharply juxtaposed with ones showing staunch supporters of temperance such as Presbyterian minister Lyman Beecher and P.T. Barnum.

The documentary touched on several important aspects of this time period, including the relationship between the temperance movement and the women’s movement, chronicling the evolution of the involvement of women throughout the period. Mention was also made of the power of grassroots efforts such as sermons and protests to effectuate change. To illustrate the power these efforts can wield, the film returned briefly to present day Connecticut to show current grassroots activists fighting for GMO labeling with Fairfield Green Food Guide’s Analiese Paik pictured leading the way.


Traveling back in time once again, a particularly exciting segment detailed the bootlegging and rum running that occurred as a result of Prohibition. Connecticut’s position along the coastline, as well as its proximity to Boston and New York, made this state the perfect hotbed for these illegal activities, ones that the nascent 5-year old coast guard could not adequately combat. “Rum Row” provided opportunities for those willing to take a small amount of risk with astonishing amounts of money. Whether it was a lack of police power or simply a lack of zeal on the part of the authorities to provide resistance, smugglers and other enterprising business people, such as famous innkeeper Nellie Green, continued to flourish during the Prohibition years earning Connectiuct the reputation of the wettest state in the union. In fact, there was one square block in Hartford that had more saloons on it than the states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina combined.


Connecticut may no longer have the reputation as the biggest party state in the union – let’s face it, it took a long time for grassroots activists to accomplish a repeal of Connecticut’s archaic blue laws banning the sale of alcohol on Sunday– but we can all raise a glass this December 5th in recognition of the end of a dry era, virtual though much of it may have been. Happy Repeal Day, Connecticut. Cheers!


Connecticut Moonshine
So what exactly is moonshine? Moonshine is a high proof, unaged liquor made from grains such as corn and was sold illegally in an effort to evade taxes or bans. Often associated with the Prohibition era, moonshine was produced in homemade distilleries under the light of the moon. Drinking the illegal alcohol could be risky as it was often contaminated by the distillery parts, such as car radiators, or made toxic by the addition of substances like embalming fluid. According to their website, Onyx Spirits are the producers of the first and only legal moonshine in Connecticut. Today, free from the constraints of Prohibition, owners Adam and Pete take their time to handcraft small batches of high quality spirits that taste great. So what does it taste like? Onyx Moonshine begins softly, opening up to reveal pronounced vegetal layers that culminate with a hint of birch sap and ends with a supremely smooth finish. Maybe moonshine this good should be illegal. To find out more about local moonshine, visit Onyx Spirits at



Press Release: Connecticut Wine Festival





More Music, More Entertainment, and More Wine at the Goshen Fairgrounds Saturday and Sunday, July 28th and 29th


Farmington, CT (July 18, 2012) –Connecticut wines will be on full display at the fourth annual Connecticut Wine Festival, Saturday and Sunday, July 28th and 29th, at the Goshen Fairgrounds, in Goshen, Connecticut. Featuring some of the finest, award winning local labels, thirteen participating wineries – all members of the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association (CVWA) – will be offering samplings of their many wines, while surrounded by music, artisan crafts, and wine lovers from all around the East Coast.

Daily admission to the CT Wine Festival is $25 in advance, available until July 21st at participating CVWA wineries, online, or by phone; $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 of the Festival are 12:00 Noon to 7:00 PM, Saturday, July 28; and 12:00 Noon to 6:00 PM Sunday, July 29.  More information and a complete list of participating wineries can be found at

Among the special events at the Festival is a wine class on Saturday, July 28th, conducted by Renée Allen, founder and Director of the Wine Institute of New England, which promotes wine appreciation and education at every level.  Renée is a Certified Specialist of Wine and a member in good standing of the Society of Wine Educators, the internationally recognized accrediting organization. "We are looking forward to Renée joining us this year and are excited about the wine expertise she brings to the attendees," says Sherrie Palmer, Festival Manager.


Connecticut Wines – Winning Friends, Influencing People

Connecticut wines are making their marks in the world and growing in popularity.  Last year’s festival drew a record number of attendees, including one special visitor, Governor Dannel P. Malloy.  This year, a representative from the Governor’s office will be on hand to receive a special “Certificate of Appreciation” for his ongoing support of the local wine industry and its important contribution to the state’s tourism effort. 

“The CVWA is proud to be recognized by Governor Malloy as a contributor to Connecticut tourism through our CT Wine Trail and CT Wine Festival, as well as through the individual efforts of the many participating wineries and vineyards whose award-winning labels are ‘putting Connecticut wines on the world map,’” said George Motel, Festival Chairman and owner of Sunset Meadows Vineyards.  “The Festival is a great place to see what all the excitement is about.  From Chardonnay to Merlot, attendees can taste some of Connecticut’s best wines from 13 participating vineyards.”


Purchasing Tickets

Tickets can be purchased in advance until July 21 at: Bishop’s Orchards Vineyards, Gouveia Vineyards, Jones Winery, Hopkins Vineyard, Miranda Vineyard, Sharpe Hill Vineyard, Sunset Meadow Vineyards, and Taylor Brooke Winery. Advanced tickets are also available at Adams Hometown Market, a Platinum Sponsor of the Festival.

Proceeds from the Festival will go toward promoting the CT Wine Trail and the Connecticut wine industry.  The CT Wine Trail is a state approved winery and vineyard awareness program that provides visitors with route suggestions to all participating members of the CVWA.  Visitors enjoy special wine tours and tastings, and can have their CT Wine Passport stamped at each winery along the trail for the possibility of winning prizes – all while enjoying the beautiful Connecticut countryside. 

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


Participating Wineries

The following wineries will be present at the Connecticut Wine Festival.  They are all members of the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association, and are dedicated to promoting Connecticut as a wine-producing region.

Bishop’s Orchards Vineyards – Owned by Keith B. Bishop, this unique winery is located in the historic town of Guilford. Winner, Gold Medal, 2010 Grand Harvest Competition; and Gold Medal: 2009 International Eastern Wine.  Log on to:

DiGrazia Vineyards – Founded in 1978 and owned by Paul DiGrazia, DiGrazia Vineyards produces over 15 different wines, ranging from dry to sweet.  Located in Brookfield, DiGrazia is known for offering a wide variety of unique wines, including Connecticut grown pear dessert wines.  Log on to:

Gouveia Vineyards – Owned by Joe and Lucy Gouveia, located in Wallingford, Gouveia offers 11 different wines.  Voted Best Rose in Connecticut 2010 by the Specialty Food Service Awards and Gold Medal Stone House Red winner at the 2008 Big E Wine Competition, Gouveia offers 11 different wines.  Log on to:

Hopkins Vineyard – Located in the heart of Litchfield Hills, Hopkins Vineyard has been making wine for over 30 years. With more than eleven different varieties of award winning wines, Hopkins Vineyard has received gold, silver, and bronze medals in National and International competitions, alike.  Log on to:

Jonathan Edwards Winery– Located in the quaint village of North Stonington, the winery is owned by the Edwards family. With vineyards in both Connecticut and Napa Valley, it prides itself on having “New England Charm and Napa Style.”  Log on to:

Jones Winery – Spanning 150 years and six generations of the Jones family, owner Jamie Jones carries on the tradition in the White Hills of Shelton. Connecticut Magazine said the Jones Winery had “the Best Connecticut Wine” in 2010 and 2011.  Log on to:

Miranda Vineyard – Owned by Maria and Manny Miranda, Miranda Vineyard uses the perfect blend of Old World wine-making techniques with modern techniques to keep any connoisseur happy.  Gold Medal winner at the 2010 Amenti del Vino International Wine Competition for its Vinho Fino.  Log on to:

Priam Vineyards – Founded in 1998 by Gloria Priam and Gary Crump, Priam Vineyards has quickly become a favorite in New London County.  Producing wines styled after Northern France and Germany, Priam Vineyards’ Late Harvest Riesling was a Double Gold Medal winner at the 2011 International EasternWine Competition.  Log on to:

Sharpe Hill Vineyard – Located in the historic town of Pomfret, Sharpe Hill Vineyard features a Zagat-rated restaurant and boasts over 250 medals in International tasting awards. The winery is just minutes from the scenic Route 169, as well as the Putnam Antiques District. Log on to:

Stonington Vineyards – Established in 1987 by Nick and Happy Smith, Stonington Vineyards has become known for producing quality, European-style table wines. The winery is best known for its barrel fermented Chardonnays and its proprietary blends Seaport White and Triad Rose.  Log on to:

Sunset Meadow Vineyards – Located in the scenic town of Goshen and owned by George and Judy Motel, Sunset Meadow is among New England’s largest producing vineyards. It was voted “New England’s Best Family Winery” by Yankee Magazine and has been featured in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Seven different wines have won Gold medals, including its 2010 Chardonnay, which took home the Gold in the 2012 International Eastern Wine competition. Log on to:”

Taylor Brooke Winery – Located in the quiet northeastern part of Connecticut, Taylor Brooke Winery, which started as a hobby, grew into one of Connecticut’s favorite wineries.  Owned by Richard and Linda Auger, Taylor Brooke is winner of Raspberry Rendezvous – 2009 Big E Wine Competition Silver Medal. Log on to:

White Silo Winery – Known for being a small specialty winery, White Silo was established in 1990 and housed in a 19th century dairy barn.  Owned by the Gorman family, it has received awards such as the Big E: Gold; Silver awards. Log on to:

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


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Editorial Contact:

Mario Almonte

212-616-1190, ext. 267