The 5th Annual Shoreline Wine Festival

Although driving rain may have discouraged some visitors from coming out to the 5th Annual Shoreline Wine Festival last Sunday, the Festival started off on Saturday, August 13, with blue skies and just a hint of autumn in the air. Upon entering the field at Bishop’s Orchards, host of the Festival, I was given a wine glass, a bracelet and a tasting ticket. The ticket listed the participating wineries and I was instructed to present it to each one I visited so that they could punch a hole next to their name. Guests were supposed to be limited to one visit per winery however, due to the absence of Jerram Winery, attendees were allowed two bonus visits to wineries of their choosing. Wineries were limited to serving five wines, with some opting to pour only four.

The wineries, vendors, and events were thoughtfully organized for easy traffic flow and accessibility. Two tents housed the wineries and most of the vendors, which included retailers, food vendors and charitable organizations. In honor of the day’s host, I began my tasting tour at Bishop’s Orchards Winery where a friendly staff member happily engaged in conversation about the wines being poured. Feeling comfortable and unhurried, a couple of fellow guests and I chatted amicably as we sipped through the samples. Bishop’s was pouring 5 wines, including one of my favorites, their Hard Cider. Made from their own apple cider, this wine has a delightful mild effervescence to it that just tickles my tongue. Mike and Mimi of Branford, Connecticut, my companions at the booth, were visiting the Festival for the second time since its inception. I convinced a skeptical Mike to try the Sachem’s Twilight, a sparkling wine made from Bishop’s own peaches. In addition to the misconception that fruit wines must be cloyingly sweet, I find that men are particularly resistant to trying wines that they perceive as just too pretty. My persistence was rewarded, somewhat. Mike agreed he enjoyed the bubbly beauty more than he had anticipated. Mimi and I, on the other hand, delighted in every last sip. (For more on Bishop’s Orchards Winery, visit http://wineinstituteofnewengland.com/bishops-orchards/)

Mike & Mimi of Branford, CT

It is no secret that I enjoy the wines of Sunset Meadow Vineyards (SMV) and my experience at the Festival was no

Happy Tasters at Sunset Meadow Vineyards

exception. Their Cayuga White has been one of my favorite “go to” wines this summer with just the right balance of fruit and acid. Crisp, thirst-quenching and citrusy with a hint of stone fruits, it pairs well with light summer fare, seafood and poultry, or can be enjoyed on its own. The SMV Merlot was tasting very well with notes of cherries, a hint of anise on the midpalate and a soft, elegant finish. I was happy to see that SMV had brought out one of their big boys, Twisted Red, an award-winning blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, lemberger and chambourcin. White Silo Farm & Winery presented a nice selection of wines made from their organically grown fruits such as rhubarb and blackberry. The Upland Pastures White, which is currently made with Cayuga grapes from the Finger Lakes, will be made with White Silo’s own Cayuga grapes next year as they become ready to harvest. Jones Winery had several favorites on hand including Strawberry Serenade and Woodlands White, but I was especially excited to try their limited production Rosé of Cabernet Franc made with 100% estate grown grapes. I experienced a delicate and dry wine with the essence of cherries. A young woman behind the table dispensed pairing advice while I enjoyed a taste of Ripton Red. Her advice for this wine? “Anything with tomatoes.” (For more on Jones Winery, visit http://wineinstituteofnewengland.com/jones-winery)

Hopkins Vineyard

Chamard Vineyards was on site serving chardonnays and merlots, contrasting their estate wines with those made from grapes from Long Island and Suisun Valley, California. And although I enjoyed all four wines, what caught my attention was an offering on their full wine list that was not at the Festival – a 2002 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir. My interest was further piqued upon hearing about another new offering – a pinot noir and chardonnay sparkling wine produced in the traditional champagne method. It looks like I will be taking a trip to Chamard in the very near future. Whereas Chamard was pouring grapes from both coasts, Jonathan Edwards Winery was showcasing California. Sauvignon blance from Napa, merlot from Calistoga, pinot grigio from Russian River Valley. The Stone Table Red had a wonderful nose of dark red fruits and the wonderful spicy notes expected from petite syrah, which accounts for 25% of this cabernet sauvignon blend. The wines from DiGrazia Vineyards offered up tastes of honey, apples, raspberries and pumpkin pie. Yankee Frost, a white wine made with vignoles, was complexly layered with honey, apples, cider spices and floral notes. Hopkins Vineyard made a strong showing with the very popular Westwind, a semi-sweet wine made from Cayuga white grapes, as well as a very earthy cabernet franc with a distinct ashiness. Sachem’s Picnic, a blend of French hybrid grapes perfect for cold weather climates, provided a lovely low tannin semi-sweet red perfect for summer meals.


Having successfully completed the entire wine circuit, it was time to find something for lunch. There were several food vendors at the ready, including a barbeque truck and Guilford’s own Naples Pizza. Off to one side of the field, I was pleased to spot Little Sister’s Grilled Cheese truck. I had seen them for the first time at The Connecticut Wine Festival in Goshen last month (The Connecticut Wine Festival), but the throngs of people kept me

The Gang from Little Sister's Grilled Cheese Truck

from getting a taste. Seizing an opportunity to approach, I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich made with honey and goat cheese dubbed the “Honey Bear.” It was delicious. As I made my way back to the parking lot, I came upon a tent set up with several rows of chairs facing a table in anticipation of an introductory wine tasting class. In the barn, Bishop’s employees were selling bottles of the wines being offered at the Festival. As I approached my car, I spied a group of people following another Bishop’s employee into a building for a tour of the winery. All in all, the 5th Annual Shoreline Festival provided an excellent opportunity for wine drinkers to experience some of what Connecticut has to offer in a very enjoyable atmosphere.

Discoveries and Rediscoveries at The Connecticut Wine Festival

It was a perfect summer day for the throngs of people who streamed into the Goshen Fair Grounds to partake in the third annual Connecticut Wine Festival this weekend. Over 8,000 attendees tread the grounds during the course of the weekend, a remarkable 50% increase from last year’s event, according to Festival Chairman, George Motel. Mr. Motel’s winery, Sunset Meadow Vineyards, was one of fourteen Connecticut wineries represented, all of which are members of the Connecticut Wine Trail. (http://ctwine.com/) Specialty food vendors, jewelers and musicians were also represented. Upon entering the grounds, friendly women clad in purple tee shirts handed out programs, wine totes and wine glasses etched with the words “Connecticut Wine Festival.” This would be the one and only glass I would use throughout the event so I made sure to baby it as I headed out on my wine quest. The wineries were set up inside two buildings, segregated by their location in the state – Eastern Connecticut and Western Connecticut. One hour into the event, and the crowds were already gathered four rows deep in front of every winery. Each winery was strictly limited to pouring only four of their wines. Most wineries opted for a combination of white and red wines, with the occasional rosé making an appearance. Water pitchers and spit buckets were at the ready. Friendly and knowledgeable people poured briskly, trying to keep pace with the eager tasters. Many of the winery owners, themselves, were pouring the wine and answering questions. If a taster found something she particularly cared for, she could opt to buy a glass of it for drinking right on the spot, or purchase a bottle to consume on the grounds or at home.

Jonathan Edwards Winery

Jamie Jones of Jones Winery

My first stop was Jonathan Edwards Winery where they offered pours of both Connecticut grown and Napa grape wines. Jones Winery brought crisp chardonnay and refreshing First Blush, a blend of apples, pears and black currants and the perfect antidote to the heat. Sunset Meadow Vineyards, always a crowd pleaser, had Sunset Blush and Cayuga White on hand. I was especially excited to visit their table after recently spending an evening at their vineyard for a beautifully put-together and well-paired farm to chef wine dinner. Other interesting finds included the Hungarian grape, bianca, and the pinot noir mutation, corot noir, at Land of Nod, a 100% riesling flavored with natural peach essence from Taylor Brooke Winery, and a lovely Alsatian-style riesling from Priam Vineyards, bottles of which were just flying out of the booth. I made sure to stop by Sharpe Hill Vineyard for a taste of

George Motel of Sunset Meadow Vineyards

Gary Crump of Priam Vineyards

their renowned Ballet of Angels, a semi-dry white that is a proprietary blend of 12-14 grapes. Most, if not all, of the wineries offered the off-dry to semi-sweet wines so popular in this state, with only the occasional truly dry wine being found. Bishop’s Orchards Winery and White Silo Farm, both fruit wine specialists, saw a steady stream of sippers.

As I navigated the lines from winery to winery, I stopped to chat with as many people as I could to find out where they had come from and what wines they were enjoying the most. All corners of the state were represented and every guest had their own wine preference – some sweeter, some drier, some fruit. Some guests seemed knowledgeable about Connecticut wineries, already professing a favorite from prior visits along the Connecticut Wine Trail, while others were discovering our state’s wineries for the very first time. One Connecticut resident out supporting local agriculture on Sunday was Governor Malloy, who made a personal appearance at the Festival and visited all 14 of the wineries. Apparently, he was so inspired by what he found that, after the Festival, he paid a visit to Sunset Meadow Vineyards for a tour, and returned to the Governor’s mansion with at least a few bottles in tow. Overall, the crowd was very young, comprising approximately 60-70% of the total guests. According to Mr. Motel, last year’s group comprised a similar makeup. I stopped to talk to two women taking a momentary hiatus from imbibing. Lynn Allen and Carrie Traverse, from Wallingford and East Haven, respectively, were visiting the Festival for the second year. And although they remarked, as many did, on the number of people present, it was clearly not an obstacle to an enjoyable time. They were especially appreciative of the appearance of the fans this year. Both women had previously been to the two wineries in Wallingford, Gouveia Vineyards and newcomer Paradise Hills Vineyard, and were hopeful to see Paradise Hills included in next year’s Festival.

Lynn Allen & Carrie Traverse

For those requiring some sustenance to get them through the afternoon, food vendors could be found both inside the

Homemade Potato Chips

buildings and elsewhere on the grounds. Lunch selections included chicken and beef on sticks, fresh potato chips, organic beef burgers and, of course, cheese platters. I noticed there was a constant crowd of people at Little Sister’s Grilled Cheese truck where one could get a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches, including goat cheese with honey, or tomato, mozzarella and basil. After bumping into winery owner, Eric Gorman, at the Blue Moon booth buying cheeseburgers for his staff, I was persuaded to head back inside to sample some rhubarb wine from his winery, White Silo Farm. I was greatly rewarded. The white rhubarb wine was delicate, slightly tart and quite pleasing.

Little Sister's Grilled Cheese Truck

Back outside, I came upon a tented section showcasing several specialty food vendors, including Ola! Granola, Cato Corner Farm and Peace Tree Desserts. I picked up a few items at each of these tables, including some heavenly Applejack Cajeta Caramel from Peace Tree. Owner, sustainable pastry chef, Robyn Eads, told me this authentic Mexican style caramel sauce was handcrafted with goat’s milk from Connecticut family farms. It was so delectable, I decided to bring home the Curry Cajeta Caramel, as well.

Robyn Eads of Peace Tree Desserts (right)

Although not a recreational activity for those shy of crowds, the Connecticut Wine Festival provides a wonderful opportunity to see and taste what Connecticut wineries are creating in a festive and friendly atmosphere, as well as sample some of Connecticut’s specialty food offerings. Will the Connecticut Vineyard & Winery Association be sponsoring a fourth Connecticut Wine Festival? Absolutely. As Mr. Motel explains, “This is a great event for (Connecticut wineries) to showcase our wines and create better awareness of the Connecticut Wine Trail.” Current plans are to keep the event at the Goshen Fair Grounds and to spread the wineries out a little more to better effectuate flow of traffic. I have no doubt that I will be heading back up to Goshen next year to participate in this fun and well-run event.

Taking a siesta under the perfect sky

Bishop’s Orchards Winery

Just ten days after the passage of a bill that will allow Connecticut farm wineries to sell their wines at farmer’s markets around the state, I caught up with one of the Connecticut winemakers instrumental in the creation of this bill, Keith Bishop. In addition to being a staunch advocate of our state’s wineries, this month’s Connecticut Corker is, himself, a winemaker, producing award-winning wines from apples, peaches, raspberries, pears, strawberries and blueberries, all grown on his farm at Bishop’s Orchards. Mr. Bishop’s most recent awards include medals for 13 of his wines entered into the 18th Annual Amenti del Vino International Wine Competition, including a Gold Medal for his Semi-Sweet Hard Cider and a much-coveted Double Gold Medal for Strawberry Delight.

If there is one misconception that fruit winemaker, Keith Bishop, could correct, it is that not all fruit wines are overly sweet. “(Fruit wines) can be sweet, but they don’t have to be, and they definitely all aren’t.” Gone are the days of the early Boone’s Farm Apple Wine, which might be remembered by some baby boomers out there as that cloyingly sweet, mildly alcoholic fruit juice. Fruit wines can be just as elegant as grape wines and can be paired with an entire panoply of foods. When it comes to fruit wines, Mr. Bishop should know. It is the only kind of wine he makes and he is quite successful at it.

The Bishop family, one of the founding families of Guilford in 1639, began this farm in 1871 and six generations have worked the farm throughout the years. Bishop’s Orchards has grown from a roadside farm stand in 1910 to the bustling market it is today, selling, among other things, meat, dairy, baked goods, wine, and fruits and vegetables, many of which have been grown on their own 320 acres of farmland. Standing at the wine bar, the site chosen by Mr. Bishop for our interview, I was struck by both the history and charm of my surroundings. Our discussion was intermittently interrupted by customers in search of assistance, and I was impressed by the grace and good nature with which Mr. Bishop responded. This is a man who keeps his finger on the pulse of his business. At one point in our conversation, a woman carrying a couple of well-worn books approached us. She had discovered a dozen scrapbooks at a local tag sale that contained newspaper clippings of the Bishop family. She offered to temporarily leave all of the books with Keith for his enjoyment. Keith took a moment to browse through one of the books. He paused at a picture of his father taken after he won a national junior vegetable grower contest. The history here was indeed palpable. [Read more…]