The Connecticut Wine Festival

Wine Institute of New England


A Free Wine Tasting & Seminar


The Connecticut Wine Festival


The Goshen Fairgrounds

Saturday, July 22, 2017

at 2:00 pm

Shifty Shades of Grey: Sustainability Simplified

Most of us are familiar with the word “organic” and have a fairly knowledgeable idea of what it means with respect to agriculture. However, in spite of the fact that the word “sustainable” is becoming an equally familiar term, fewer of us have a clear understanding of what that actually means in relation to agriculture generally, and to growing wine grapes specifically. The criteria for organic growing are black and white and organizations exist around the world to monitor and police these rules, but when it comes to sustainability, one must abandon the notion of black and white and instead adopt a philosophy made up of many shades of grey that takes into consideration the impact on our environment of various farming practices. Sustainability also includes an analysis of social goals as well as economic viability. Although this lack of a specific definition may seem frustrating at times, it is exactly this amorphous quality that is the essence of sustainable agriculture.

The very nature of the concept of sustainability means that the term will have different definitions at different times and in different places. For simplicity, the definition can be thought of as a balancing test: What at this given moment in time at this specific location would have the least negative impact on the environment and on our society, taking into consideration alternative solutions and factoring in the importance of maintaining a viable business.

Many wineries advertising sustainable farming publicize examples that include such things as beekeeping, free-range chickens and goats, and the erection of bird nesting boxes and raptor perches. All of these efforts are meant to strengthen and enhance the surrounding ecosystems with the desired result of creating a stronger and healthier environment in which to grow vines. Although these efforts can have a positive impact on the environment, the less glamorous balancing test is in fact the heart of sustainability. Take, for example, the issue of weeding. Organics eschew the use of chemical herbicides to control the growth of weeds between the rows of vines. An organic farmer might opt instead to mulch these areas. Our sustainable farmer, on the other hand, will take into consideration not only the effect of agrochemicals on the environment but also the effect of using diesel fuel during the mulching process. This farmer might reasonably decide that it is more environmentally sound overall (more sustainable) to use infrequent applications of a mild herbicide to control weeds than it is to use additional diesel fuel to take extra passes with a tractor.

Like organic growing, sustainable agriculture attempts to leave the land for the next generation in better condition than it was when it was inherited. But sustainability goes one step farther in its consideration of the environment’s long-term future by addressing issues that organic principles do not, such as global warming, water usage and greenhouse gases. There is currently a movement to create certification standards for sustainable practices. And while this will be a positive step toward giving recognition to those implementing these procedures, I can only imagine the enormity of the task of codifying the many shades of grey that make up sustainable agriculture. While I wait, I will continue to support my environment by seeking out and enjoying sustainably grown wines.


Want to support the environment with every sip? Why not start with one of these sustainable vineyards:


  • Bliss Family Vineyards, Mendocino, California
  • Michel-Schlumerger, Dry Creek Valley, California
  • Bodegas Carrau, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Benziger Family, Carneros, California
  • Kunde Family Estate, Sonoma Valley, California
  • Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, Connecticut
  • Château Tanesse, Cadillac, France

A Foraged Feast 2012


Wine Institute of New England


A Foraged Feast

forest-to-table cooking demonstration with wine pairing


Demonstrated by
 Chef Daniel Chong-Jiménez

Hosted by 
Sunset Meadow Vineyards 
Goshen, CT

With special guest forager “Wildman” Steve Brill


Sunday, April 29th, 2012


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, followed by a wine reception and tour of Sunset Meadow Vineyards with winemaker, George Motel. Chef Daniel Chong-Jiménez will then demonstrate how to incorporate foraged finds into a gourmet dinner prepared from locally sourced ingredients. Each course will be expertly paired with one of Sunset Meadow Vineyards' award-winning wines.


Foray ~ 3:30 p.m.

Wine Reception & Tour ~ 5:00 p.m.

Cooking Demonstration ~ 6:00 p.m.

Dinner with Wine Pairing ~ 7:00 p.m.


Cost of event: $125 per person

This event will be limited to 50 people.

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

or register online here:


The Evening’s Menu

featuring seasonal, locally grown foods enhanced with foraged delicacies:


Cato Corner Cheese with Field Garlic Chutney


Salad of Burdock Root and Japanese Knotweed with Violet Vinaigrette


Grilled Tenderloin of Beef with Sweet and Sour Garlic Mustard Root


Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Sassafras Syrup


In order to bring you the freshest local ingredients possible, the menu is subject to change based on seasonal availability.


Meet the ForagedFeasts™ 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. The idea for ForagedFeasts came to her one day while nibbling on a wineberry in the middle of the forest.


Chef Daniel Chong-Jiménez ~ Chef Daniel continues to focus on local and delicious foods since switching from agricultural sciences to a career in the culinary arts in the late 90s. He has many years of experience working as executive chef at destination resorts for discerning clientele. Chef Daniel is currently the Culinary Director of ChefDesigned, providing nutritious and delicious food on-the-go. A long-time resident of Connecticut and a seasoned culinary educator, Chef Daniel is well known for his entertaining and informative hands-on cooking classes.


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 4 of 7 categories in the CT Specialty Food Association’s Products Award Competition.


“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 written Identifying 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.


2012 CT Specialty Food Association Product Awards Competition

The CT Specialty Food Association (CSFA) held it’s eleventh Product Awards Competition on Thursday, March 8, 2012, at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville. 203 specialty food items from Connecticut-based manufacturers were entered into 36 categories, with hopes of receiving the prestigious honor of CSFA Product Award Winner 2012.

A panel of 21 judges consisting of local media personalities, food writers, chefs from the CT Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-Chef Program, and wine specialists scored products on overall taste/flavor, consistency/texture, appeal, and color. Each judge was assigned to specific categories, responsible for evaluating an average of approximately 35 different products.

Categories included breads, cheese, confections, CT Grown, gluten-free, organic, pasta sauces, salad dressings, savory condiments, snack foods, and many others.The wide array of food products featured fresh breads, cheeses, many varieties of sauce, jams, relishes, flavored seeds, oils and vinegars, syrups and much, much more.

“It is always amazing to see the diversity and high quality of the foods and beverages made by producers right here in Connecticut,” said Tricia Levesque, CSFA Director. “This competition showcases the best of the best in the state. Each year we seem to find additional entrepreneurs looking to showcase the outstanding products they produce. Not only are these products perfect for everyday meals and parties, they also make wonderful gifts. There is always something for every member of the family.”

“Purchasing products from Connecticut companies helps to fuel our local economy and create jobs here in our state, which is so important in today’s economy,” Ms. Levesque continued. “It really is a win-win for everyone – consumers get the best quality foods available and Connecticut companies stay strong.”

Consumers looking for CT specialty food products can visit and ask for them at local markets and grocers.

Last year Connecticut wines were included in the competition for the first time. A variety of wines produced here in Connecticut were entered again this year. All wines were required to contain 100% CT grown fruit. New also this year were three of the four wine judges. Returning judge Renee Allen, Director of the Wine Institute of New England, helped CSFA put together an experienced team of wine tasters that included Brian Mitchell, Director of Wine & Beverages for Max Restaurant Group, Daniel Chong-Jimenez, Director of Culinary for ChefDesigned, LLC and Nicholas Paris, Public Relations Manager for E. & J. Gallo. Although the wine judges may not have seen eye to eye on every wine tasted, all of the judges agreed that Connecticut wines have shown remarkable positive growth over the last several years. Sunset Meadow Vineyards from Goshen, CT had a particularly strong showing, taking first place in four of the seven categories. The list of wine winners appears below. For a complete list of all winners from the competition, please visit

From left to right: Nicholas Paris, Brian Mitchell, Renee Allen, Daniel Chong-Jimenez

Wine – Blush

1st Place

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT Sunset Blush 2010

Wine – Dessert

1st Place

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT Midnight Ice

2nd Place

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT Pyrrha’s Passion 2008

3rd Place

Gouveia Vineyards, Wallingford, CT Epiphany Reserve

Wine – Dry Red

1st Place

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT St. Croix 2008

2nd Place

Hopkins Vineyard, New Preston, CT Cabernet Franc 2008

3rd Place

Jones Winery, Shelton, CT Cabernet Franc Vintner’s Selection 2010

Wine – Dry White

1st Place

Jones Winery, Shelton, CT Pinot Gris Vintner’s Selection 2010

2nd Place

Gouveia Vineyards, Wallingford, CT Seyval Blanc

3rd Place

Jones Winery, Shelton, CT Stonewall Chardonnay

Wine – Fruit

1st Place

Jones Winery, Shelton, CT Black Currant Bouquet

Wine – Other White

1st Place

Hopkins Vineyard, New Preston, CT Westwind 2010

2nd Place

Gouveia Vineyards, Wallingford, CT Cayuga White

3rd Place

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT Cayuga White 2010

Wine – Rosé

1st Place

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT SMV Rosé

2nd Place

Gouveia Vineyards, Wallingford, CT Whirlwind Rosé

3rd Place

Jones Winery, Shelton, CT Rosé of Cabernet Franc Vintner’s Selection 2010

CSFA is a subdivision of the CT Food Association and is a non-profit organization that represents small food businesses based in the state. To learn more, visit or email

A Foraged Feast ~ Forest-to-Table Wine Dinner

Wine Institute of New England

Chef Daniel Holding Freshly Foraged Chicken of the Woods

A Foraged Feast
forest-to-table wine dinner

Prepared by
Chef Daniel Chong-Jiménez

Hosted by
Sunset Meadow Vineyards
Goshen, CT

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Experience an event like no other you have experienced before.
Learn how to forage for wild edibles with a trained forager on the Sunset Meadow Vineyards property then enjoy a wine reception and tour of the winery while Chef Daniel Chong-Jiménez prepares a gourmet dinner from locally sourced ingredients then teaches you how to incorporate your foraged finds.
Each course will be expertly paired with one of Sunset Meadow Vineyards wines.

Foray – 3:30 p.m.
Wine Reception & Tour – 5:00 p.m.
Wine Dinner – 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Cost of event: $125 per person

This event will be limited to 36 people.
For reservations, please call 860-201-4654 (SMV)
or register online at:
For information, please call 860-591-WINE

Foraged Wood Sorrel

The Evening’s Menu
featuring seasonal, locally grown foods enhanced with foraged delicacies:

Bisque of Butternut Squash with Toasted Black Walnuts and Wood Sorrel Garnish

Dandelion Greens and Goldenrod Tips with Blistered Grapes and
Sumac Berry Vinaigrette

Breast of Chicken Braised in SMV Twisted Red Wine Accompanied by Foraged Vegetable Delicacies and Potato

Vanilla Bean Crepes with Syrupy-Sweet Braised Autumn Olives and Ice Cream

In order to bring you the freshest local ingredients possible, the menu is subject to change based on seasonal availability.

Meet This Evening’s ForagedFeasts™ Team:

Renée B. Allen, CSW ~ Renée Allen is a Certified Specialist of Wine and Founder of the Wine Institute of New England, a wine education business based in Guilford, Connecticut. Although well versed in wines from around the world, Renée specializes in sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines, as well as the wines of Connecticut. The idea for ForagedFeasts came to her one day while nibbling on a wineberry in the middle of the forest.

Chef Daniel Chong-Jiménez ~ Chef Daniel, currently serving as Executive Chef at the Spa at Norwich Inn, is the founder of ChefDanielOnline, an online culinary resource that promotes health and well-being through Powerful Nourishment. In addition to his award-winning creations at the Norwich Inn, Chef Daniel is well known for his entertaining and informative hands-on cooking classes.

George Motel III, Winemaker at 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. Their most recent accolade is for Best Family Winery in 2010, awarded by Yankee Magazine’s Travel Guide to New England.

Lynn Murdock, Forager ~ Lynn is an avid herbalist and forager and loves to share her knowledge with others through foraging classes. After scouring the great outdoors for wild edibles, Lynn enjoys using her foraged finds to make herbal medicines and delicious meals.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards ~ Born of a Vision

Although Sunset Meadow Vineyards has a long list of numerous awards for outstanding wines produced in the scenic Litchfield Hills of the Western Connecticut Highlands, it is one of their most recent accolades in which owner and winemaker George Motel III takes the greatest pride. Yankee Magazine’s Travel Guide to New England named Sunset Meadow Vineyards New England’s Best Family Winery in 2010 after only having been open for two years. Mr. Motel attributes this honor to the efforts of his staff. Respected by both his employees and his peers, our August Connecticut Corker George Motel plays a prominent role in the Connecticut farm winery industry by virtue of both his wine and his wisdom.

George Motel III of Sunset Meadow Vineyards

George Motel is more than a winemaker or a vineyard owner. He is more than a businessman. George Motel is a visionary. One of his visions materialized in 1995 when he serendipitously drove by the property in Goshen that is now home to Sunset Meadow Vineyards. The vision? Running a farm. Although firmly entrenched in a corporate lifestyle, Motel was not a total stranger to farming, having had a friend with a dairy farm as a child growing up in Seymour, Connecticut. The beautiful piece of property that caught his attention had been a dairy farm in the 1970s. And so Mr. Motel worked his day job and then worked the land at night and on weekends raising beef cattle and providing hay to dairy and horse farmers. It was Grace Nome, President of the Connecticut Specialty Food Association for 26 years, who initially put the bug in Mr. Motel’s ear about growing grapes on his property. Motel was intrigued but not convinced. The very night of Ms. Nome’s prescient suggestion, Mr. Motel returned home from a hard day of corporate work to find a bull in the middle of his driveway. The cattle had broken out and were scattered around the property. Clad in his business suit, Motel spent the evening trying to lure the escaped herd with a pail of grain and a special cattle call in an attempt to restore order. Bovine intervention. It was time for a change.

Sun Dappled Cayuga Vines

Motel enlisted the help of Dr. Richard Kiyomoto, member of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and well-known advisor to Connecticut grape growers. Dr. Kiyomoto advised Motel to test his site with vines. In 2001, the first grape, cabernet franc, was planted at Sunset Meadow Vineyards (SMV), with chardonnay following closely behind. Motel planted 1,400 vines that first year, choosing seyval blanc, Cayuga and St. Croix, in addition to the chardonnay and cabernet franc. These were followed the next year by another 1,300 vines, vidal blanc, chambourcin, lemberger, riesling, and more chardonnay and cabernet franc. Year three saw the addition of Frontenac, landot and merlot, as well as even more chardonnay and cabernet franc into the sandy loam soil. People were beginning to take notice. An active member of his community through his volunteer basketball coaching, Motel was known around town to the other parents. One year at a New Year’s Eve party, a woman spotted him across the room and sought him out to ask him a question. “Are you the guy planting all those grapes?” she queried. Motel affirmed he was indeed that guy. “Nothing but hay grows in Goshen!” she insisted. 30 acres and 14,000 grape vines later, Motel begs to differ. He still owns more acres that he wants to plant and, with an eye toward the future, he has leased additional acreage nearby. It has gotten to the point where local farmers are approaching him with offers to lease their land.

The transition from cattle to grapes has been a successful one for Motel. A longtime lover of wine, Motel is a big believer in the health benefits associated with drinking it. The merging of his passions for both farming and wine has been a dream come true for him. Having early on determined that the quality of the wine could best be controlled by making the wine himself, Motel enrolled in the UC Davis Enology program. George, his wife Judy and son George IV do everything from growing and harvesting to bottling and selling. “I want to control the whole process.” George explains. “I want to know what’s in the wine.” What is in the wine are Motel’s own estate grown grapes, for the most part. It is Motel’s goal for his wine to comprise 100% estate grown grapes in two years, and he is very close to that goal now. In addition to controlling the process, Motel derives another benefit from doing the winemaking himself. A former musician, Motel views the winery as an opportunity to express himself. “The winemaking aspect of this business allows for some creative expression, expression you don’t get in the business world or in other aspects of the wine business.” As part of creating a healthy environment in which to grow his grapes, sustainable farming methods are utilized and surrounding natural wildlife encouraged. The property is home to many birds including hawks, eagles, bats and owls for which the Motels maintain nesting boxes. No pesticides are used on the vines. If necessary, Japanese Beetles, the only real insect pests in the vineyard, are hand removed. Motel allows the vine canopy to grow higher than he might otherwise because the beetles eat from the top down. He has determined that this is an acceptable sacrifice. Herbicides are used in only the rarest of circumstances and when they are, it is usually a home grade Roundup. Mr. Motel keeps a close personal eye on what transpires on his property. On any given evening or weekend, Motel might be found either walking the vineyards with rescue dog Churchill by his side, or traversing the many acres of grapes on his ATV.

SMV's Vineyard Dog, Churchill

Motel’s commitment to exceptional quality is carried over from the fields to the winery where he employs such methods as racking instead of fining to slowly precipitate out the unwanted solids in the wine. Racking, George believes, better maintains the integrity of the wine. This integrity is preserved by the finest quality cork closures, while also allowing the consumer the traditional uncorking experience. The building that houses the fermentation tanks, barrels and bottling equipment has no air conditioning but is designed to stay cold all year long by use of a louver system. Hot water is instantaneous, heated only when needed, which is both energy efficient and responsible to the environment.

As a visionary, Motel has a keen eye for the bigger picture. He knows that, although the quality of his wines is paramount, there is more required to run his business successfully. The Motels make hospitality and the consumer’s overall experience at their winery priorities. Opened for business in 2008, the spacious tasting room with indoor and outdoor seating, wine-related gifts and friendly staff members enhance visitors’ experiences. The Motels’ attention to detail and customer satisfaction is clearly paying off. 95% of SMV’s total wine sales is attributable to tasting room traffic. In another effort to increase wine sales while facilitating customer convenience, Motel has just added an online shopping cart allowing customers to purchase wine directly from the SMV website. With 13 wines from which to choose, it may be hard settling on just one. I asked Motel which wine is his favorite. “I make all of our wines as if they’re my favorite. Having said that, my passion has always been dry red wine so I guess I enjoy our dry reds the most.”

Farm-to-table wine dinners provide another way of introducing consumers to SMV wines. I recently had the opportunity of participating in the “Sunset in July” Farm to Table Wine Dinner at Sunset Meadow Vineyards which included SMV wine paired with food prepared by the Litchfield Saltwater Grille, as well as a tour of the winery. A bout of uncooperative weather forced the festivities indoors. Luckily, SMV is equipped to house an event of this nature inside their tasting room. The long, family style banquet tables used for outdoor gatherings were abandoned in favor of more intimate seating indoors, with only one elongated table set up for a large party that had arrived together. Conversation was possible between neighboring tables and guests had ample opportunity to mingle at both the raw bar and the tasting bar. The food was sourced from local, sustainable and organic farms and each course was specially paired with SMV wine. The pairings were all successful but the two that stood out for me were the SMV Riesling paired with miniature New England lobster salad rolls, and Cayuga White mated with Connecticut oysters. (More detailed wine tasting notes follow this article.) One of the highlights of the evening was a tour of the winery led by Mr. Motel. Not only were guests allowed a peek into the inner workings of SMV complete with informative and entertaining narration by Mr. Motel, we were treated to a taste of SMV Twisted Red, a cabernet sauvignon blend, straight from the barrel.

[Mr. Motel has consented to WINE publishing video footage of the winery tour conducted inside Sunset Meadow Vineyards the evening of the “Sunset in July” wine dinner. WINE would like to thank Mr. Motel for allowing its readership this exclusive opportunity to gain insight into the workings of a first rate farm winery in a more personal and animated way. The footage is presented below in two parts.]
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When he is not pruning vines or bottling wines, Mr. Motel spends time in his official capacity as Vice President of the Connecticut Vineyard & Winery Association working to further the interests of the Connecticut farm wine industry as a whole. This includes keeping a watchful eye on the industry, working on beneficial legislation, and doing marketing and promotional events. Motel was involved in the recent passage of the legislation authorizing the sale of Connecticut wines at farmers’ markets and he is working to get legislation passed that would allow Connecticut farm wineries a second festival each year. They are currently limited to just one, The Connecticut Wine Festival. Mr. Motel is Chairman of this Festival, an annual event promoting The Connecticut Wine Trail that saw more than 8,000 participants over the course of the last weekend in July this year.

So what is George Motel’s vision for the future? Organic grape growing, for one thing. Practically unheard of in Connecticut due to the challenging climate, Motel has targeted a block of his St. Croix grapes to grow organically. One year into the project, things appear to be going well. “We are encouraged by the early progress and results but remain cautiously optimistic,” reports Motel. What else is in SMV’s future? He’s not ready to reveal all just yet. But George Motel has a way of making his visions come true. I suggest we keep watching.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards Tasting Room

Sunset Meadow Vineyards is open Sunday, Monday & Thursday from 11-5 and Friday & Saturday from 11-6.
599 Old Middle Street, Goshen, CT 06756

Wines to Uncork

Cayuga White 2010 – Exceptionally crisp and thirst-quenching, this dry expression of the Cayuga grape is acidic and well-balanced with the perfect hint of citrus and stone fruits.
Merlot – Soft and unassuming, this Bordeaux style merlot flaunts red berries with undercurrents of anise and a velvety smooth finish.
St. Croix – Smokey, sexy, dry and quite quaffable. I have yet to find a St. Croix I prefer more.
Twisted Red – A dry, big-bodied blend in the style of Bordeaux with dark red fruit flavors and a touch of spice.
Rosé – An elegant rosé in the style of Provence, luscious red fruits just barely peek through this delightfully dry salmon-pink beauty.
Pyrrha’s Passion – This beautifully bottled wine is a sweeter expression of the St. Croix grape perfect for accompanying desserts. Slightly nutty and hinting of caramel, the wine’s complexity is reminiscent of port.
Midnight Ice – This intoxicatingly aromatic ice wine boasts bold fruit aromas and flavors, especially honeydew melon and lychee. It has a honey-like viscosity on the tongue and is richly layered. Limited.

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

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

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. ( 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