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.


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:

Food, Fads and Fashion at the 2012 Mohegan Sun Winefest

I attended the 2012 Mohegan Sun Winefest early on Sunday hoping to avoid some of the thirsty throngs at this popular wine tasting event. Armed with my stemware, I filed in at 11:00 with other trade and press members and surveyed the room for a plan of attack. I was met with a mouth-watering display of fresh Connecticut grown fruits and vegetables displayed by Sardilli Produce and Dairy, a foretelling of the bounty that lay within.

Sardilli supports locally grown sustainable agriculture, supplying restaurants and institutions in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Westchester County, New York.

I delved into my first tasting at a booth across from Sardilli called “PEEL” that was touting fine liqueurs made in Connecticut with fresh fruit. The lemons in the Limoncello may not have been locally grown, but the libation was refreshing, delicious and beautifully bottled just the same.

Refreshing liqueurs made in Connecticut by Peel.

As I moved further into the body of the room, I gazed at the sea of wine distributors hawking their portfolios.  A cursory look revealed that many of these companies were highlighting a current trend I am enjoying, the resurgence of the muscat grape.  Muscat is grown all over the world and is usually easily recognizable by its powerful aroma and grapey flavor. The fourth most planted grape in Italy (known there as moscato), it is widely used for sparkling wines such as Asti Spumante, and many countries use the grape for making sweet dessert wines. Now the muscat grape has come back into favor and can be found in every style from still white to rosé to bubbly. While I typically minimize my dessert wine tasting at events such as these, I was drawn in by a sweet little bottle of Pellegrino 2010 Passito de Pantelleria perched enticingly on the Frederick Wildman table. Made from 100% moscato, the wine was sweet without being syrupy and the stone fruit notes with just a hint of spice left me wanting another taste. However, the rapidly growing sea of sippers forced me to move on. I paused at the table of the highly recognizable brand, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, to pick up a purple-footed key chain and try their new Moscato Spumante, a fun, fruity and creamy sparkler at a good price point. In fact, Barefoot Bubbly is the most awarded California wine brand under $15.

The seductive labels of "Sweet Bitch" wines.

Further exploration of the room revealed another current trend as cleverly named wines reared their naughty heads with labels such as “Sweet Bitch,” “Sassy Bitch,” and “Mommy’s Time Out.” And while these playful names may be no more revealing of the contents within than many of the French labels the uninitiated struggle to interpret, they certainly catch the eye more quickly. I have been seeing more and more of these wine bottles on the shelves that attempt to shock, awe and delight wine buyers with attention grabbing labels. This would account for the multitude of banners that hung like an airborne celebrity A-list around the room. The well-respected names of generations of winemakers are no longer the only way to brand wine. These days, many of the names that are responsible for closing the deal on our wine purchases are recognizable from different areas of our lives – Francis Coppola (movies), Jeff Gordon, (car racing) Ed Hardy (fashion). As much as I enjoy the tattoo-esque designs of Christian Audigier, it may take me a little more time to grow accustomed to the jeans and high school jacket clad Ed Hardy rep at wine shows. One of the more successful fads they have capitalized on is sangria in a bottle. If you’re short on time and fresh fruit, pick one up and bring it along to your next picnic or barbeque.

Fashion Meets Wine at Ed Hardy Wines

Bottles of unoaked varieties, both red and white, abounded. I tried an unoaked chardonnay from the “Simply Naked” line. The idea is to allow the variety’s natural characteristics to emerge unmasked by the flavors that accompany oak aging. I found the chardonnay light and citrusy.

Always on the lookout for wineries embracing biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming methods, I was pleased to see some of my favorites in attendance. The wines of Grgich Hills Estate made from 366 acres of organically and biodynamically farmed grapes are always a pleasure to taste. Slocum & Sons brought along one of my favorite new discoveries, a tannat from Bodegas Carrau of Uruguay. This winery is doing some wonderfully innovative things with sustainable and organic farming. Their wines made from the lesser-known tannat grape are worthy of exploring. For those seeking something closer to home, the sole representative of the Connecticut wine industry in attendance was Jonathan Edwards Winery. In addition to pouring their Connecticut cabernet franc and chardonnay, this local farm winery was serving up some of their well-known wines made from Napa Valley grapes.

Food tables were set up along the perimeter of the room with pre-purchased food coins required to taste the culinary offerings. I enjoyed tacos from SolToro Tequila Grill and sushi from Feng Asian Bistro. Both were excellent. Although the wine tables seemed to be the main draw, there was no shortage of entertainment for food lovers in the crowd. Over the course of the weekend, a main stage on one side of the room played host to an oyster shucking competition, grape stomp, and celebrity chef demonstrations from such well-known names as Bobby Flay, Daisy Martinez and Todd English. Diehard foodies could sign up for a Celebrity Chef Dine Around on Saturday evening to see their favorite chefs cooking up a storm.

SolToro Tequila Grill

By 12:45 the thirsty throngs had indeed arrived and sipping space was at a premium. I decided to make my way to calmer territory and headed out to Todd English’s Tuscany for a wine seminar given by Aurelie Botton of Marnier Lapostolle. Lapostolle is an organic and biodynamic winery in Chile. Held in the intimate setting of a private dining room, my seminar was attended by 22 guests seated at a banquet table complete with cheese platters, table settings and 4 pre-poured glasses of Lapostolle wine. Lapostolle was founded in Chile in 1994 by Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle, the creator of Grand Marnier, and is now run by his great granddaughter, Alexandra. Ms. Botton told the history of the carménère grape in Chile, at one time mistaken for merlot, and how carmenere fell out of favor in its native Bordeaux because there are too many clouds there. Apparently, a large amount of UV rays are required to dissolve the substantial quantity of pyrazine present on the skin of carmenere grapes. The climate, coupled with the fact that carménère was virtually annihilated by phylloxera in France in the 1800’s, has rendered this grape all but extinct in France. Chile on the other hand is the perfect home to this deeply crimson red, smoky, spicy variety with hints of green peppers. In fact, the introduction of carménère vines into Chile predates the phylloxera outbreak in France and therefore Lapostolle’s vines retain their original roots rather than having been grafted onto phylloxera resistant roots, as is the common practice throughout the world today.

As I soaked in the history, I sipped delightful sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and carménère wines. The wines tasted all the better knowing that the vineyards are organic and biodynamic. It is the belief among biodynamic winemakers and their followers that biodynamic viticulture results in a wine that is a truer reflection of the earth in which the grapes are grown as well as of the vines’ surroundings – often referred to as terroir. Ms Botton may have lost a listener or two as she briefly described the preparations and unusual rituals that are the heart of the process, but I soaked that in as well. Some of the best wines I have tasted are created using biodynamic viticulture. For those seminar participants who may not have been buying into the concept, there were still other wonderful and innovative techniques being employed at Lapostolle about which they could get excited such as the use of indigenous yeasts and the introduction in 2005 of their state-of-the-art 100% gravity flow winery, Clos Apalta. With the discussion about the newer winery came the grand finale, a glass of Clos Apalta wine.  This blend of carménère, cabernet sauvignon and merlot is made with whole cluster fermentation, a process similar to carbonic maceration in Bordeaux, and hand-destemmed grapes. The result is magnificent. A frequently awarded wine, Clos Apalta earned a place on Wine Spectator’s 2008 Top 100 list and was named Best New World Winery 2008 by Wine Enthusiast.

The Lapostolle seminar at Todd English's Tuscany.


The Mohegan Sun Winefest has something for everyone. Here you can consume delicious food, rub elbows with celebrity chefs, or experience the thrill of a live oyster-shucking contest. Wines can be found in a range of prices beginning with savvy selections for under $10 in the Grand Tasting to some of the finest wines in the world at the Elite Cru Tasting. If wine is not your passion, bourbon and beer tastings can be enjoyed as well. The Grand Tasting is a great way for the uninitiated, truly patient and/or truly thirsty to sample many different wines. For the well seasoned and less patient wine drinkers out there (I consider myself both), the seminars and special events provide more detailed information and the opportunity to engage in more detailed conversations with winemakers and wine educators.

Just pick your poison.





Greenwich Audubon Farm-to-Table Wine Dinner Menu

The Historic Ketay-Asnes Barn

The Greenwich Audubon Farm-to-Table Wine Dinner is quickly approaching and it promises to be an extraordinary evening with exquisite food from organic and biodynamic farms prepared by Chef Marc Alvarez. The highly acclaimed wines chosen by Renee Allen, Director of the Wine Institute of New England (WINE), to pair with the Chef’s delectable menu are all made by winemakers who practice either sustainable, organic or biodynamic farming. The evening will include wine education from WINE and an auction of small items to help benefit Audubon’s conservation and education initiatives. $120 per person. Advance tickets are required and very limited. To reserve a table for you and your guests, contact Jeff Cordulack at 203-869-5272 x239.

The evening’s menu with wine pairings:


Crostini of Nettle Meadow Farm Kunik Cheese & Stanley Plum Compote
Seared Snow Hill Farm Beef Carpaccio, Horseradish & Crisp Russet Potato

Fall Vegetable Crudités, Rosa Bianca Eggplant Baba Ganoush

Warm Chickpea Fritters & AMBA Farms Tomato Chutney

paired with

Albet I Noya Cava NV, Spain


Ryder Farm Roast Pumpkin Soup
Wilted Sage, Black Trumpet Mushrooms & Mini Pumpkins

paired with

Bonterra Viognier, California


Snow Hill Farm Duo Of Lamb
Wild Hive Polenta & Spigarello (Wild Broccoli)

paired with

Bodegas Carrau Ysern Tannat, Uruguay


Cayuga Pure Organics Farro Risotto
Cooperstown Creamery “Toma Celena” & Fall Vegetable Medley

paired with

Nuova Capelletta Barbera del Monferrato, Italy


Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris, Alsace


Warm Cortland Apple Tart & Blue Pig Vanilla Gelato

paired with

Domaine de Mihoudy, Bonnezeaux, Anjou-Saumur

This event was made possible through the generous support of:, Concierge Foods, Wine Institute of New England, AOC Fine Wines, Mike’s Organic Delivery Service, The Metro North chapter of Slow Food USA

Farm-To-Table Dinner Party in the Historic Ketay-Asnes Barn

Wine Institute of New England will be providing wine education on sustainable, organic & biodynamic wines at a very special event to raise money for Audubon Greenwich.

A unique, local, food-centric event showcasing organic farms, seasonal meals, and sustainably managed vineyards. Guests will be treated to exquisite wines paired with farm-fresh goodness sourced from organic & biodynamic farms. The evening will include wine education from the Wine Institute of New England (WINE) and an auction of small items to help benefit Audubon’s conservation and education initiatives. $120 per person. Advance tickets are required and very limited. To reserve a table for you and your guests, contact Jeff Cordulack at 203-869-5272 x239.

The Summer Wine Acid Test

What is it about summertime that turns even the most ardent red wine drinkers into white wine sippers? Is it the hot summer days? The need for something cold and refreshing? Well, yes. But it’s also the acidity found in many white wines. The natural acids found in grapes (eg. tartaric, malic, citric) begin to decrease at the moment the grapes begin to ripen, or when the sugar content begins to increase. Winemaking is a balancing act between sweet (sugar) and sour (acid) in which the winemaker must harvest the grapes at the optimal time when sugar and acid are well balanced. A good amount of acidity adds brightness to a wine. Too much acid, and wine will taste tart or even sour. Too little acid, and the wine will appear what is often referred to as “flabby” or “flat.”
Acid in white wine can produce a thirst-quenching sensation. White wines with good acidity both pair well with a wide variety of foods and prepare the palate for the food. Acid helps wine stand up to foods high in salt, fat and rich proteins. Another benefit of acid is its role in wine longevity, helping some wines age longer and preventing browning and microbial spoilage. So, instead of grabbing a glass of California chardonnay with oak and high alcohol content that make it a food pairing problem, reach for a nice, crisp sauvignon blanc or riesling instead. Cheers!

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

Wild Wines

Wildman Steve Brill has been leading foraging tours since his first public excursion in Central Park on April 24th, 1982. The fact that he was arrested in Central Park in the mid ‘80s for eating a dandelion did more to boost his career than all of his knowledge, good story-telling and self-promoting combined. After receiving feedback from followers that his looks did not seem “wild” enough for a man who combs the forest for food, Wildman grew a beard and purchased a pith helmet to fit the part. Foraging for wild edibles is Wildman’s passion and, when you follow your passion, good things happen. In addition to providing a 30-year long career, foraging is what led the Wildman to his wife. The couple met when Steve led a foraging tour for singles, and the two have been foraging together ever since. These days, the outings include their 7-year old daughter, Violet, who has a knack for spotting wild edibles, and has even led a tour with her father for her former first grade class. One of Wildman’s best moments came when the great grandson of the brother of jazz musician, Bix Beiderbecke, attended an outing. Wildman is a great lover of jazz and performs his own version of the music in a technique he calls “Brillophone.” “Its legitimate jazz,” Steve says. On several occasions, he has been invited to jam with bands playing in Central Park.

So what drew Wildman into the world of foraging? A love of cooking and ethnic foods played a large role. He remembers seeing a group of Greek women picking something wild in his hometown in Queens one day. He ended up heading home with a handful of grape leaves which he stuffed and enjoyed that evening. A self-taught forager, Steve feels his most impressive credential is that he hasn’t lost a tour member yet to a poisonous plant. And the tour members keep coming. Several people called to reserve spots in upcoming outings while Steve and I spoke. The day I went on my tour, 62 other people showed up. Wildman has a talent for storytelling and is a natural educator, especially of children. Three young boys hiked alongside Wildman for a large portion of our 3-hour journey, asking questions and soaking in the stories. When I called to interview Wildman, he informed me that he had just returned from a bicycle tour with inner-city kids. The bikes they used were made up of recycled parts. I told him my day’s outing had been cut short by the unfortunate disturbance of a wasp nest and several painful stings. “Did you find some jewel weed?” Steve asked me. “It cuts the pain in half.” I had, in fact, just learned this on the recent outing he led, but did not have the presence of mind to forage for it in my wounded state. Maybe next time.

Now it was time to discuss the reason for my call – to learn more about what Wildman calls his “wild wines,” wines made from wild edibles. The very first wild wine Steve made was a dandelion wine in the 1980s. He had seen books that talked about making wines from foraged edibles, including those by Euell Gibbons, author of books on natural foods and proponent of natural diets during the 1960s, and he knew that dandelion wine was being made in Italy. For this inaugural wine, Steve foraged dandelions from Cunningham Park in Queens during the peak of their growing season, mid-April. A very labor intensive wine, only the yellow parts of the flowers were used because the green sepals are too bitter. For citrus flavor, he added some lime, poured boiling water over everything and let it cool to lukewarm. He then blended in a wine yeast purchased at a winemaking supply store in Little Italy and fermented the mixture in an open plastic food tub. Apparently, the wine came out great. Steve is not much of a wine drinker himself, but he enjoyed experimenting with several varieties of wine, some of which he used for cooking. Ramp wine was one reserved solely for cooking as the wine had a garlicky flavor that worked well in recipes, but was not pleasant to drink. Other more potable wines created by Wildman included those made from wisteria, black locust, red bud, pink mulberry, wine berry, autumn olive, wild currant, day lily, pineapple weed, apple blossom and, Steve’s favorite, oak leaf. He is not currently making wild wines because the many gallons he created have a long shelf life. For those of you inspired to try this at home, several recipes for wines made from wild edibles can be found in Wildman Steve Brill’s, The Wild Vegan Cookbook. For a list of upcoming outings, go to

Any Port in a Storm

For those of you unable to finish a bottle of red in one sitting and tired of having opened wine sit around until it goes bad, why not consider sipping a Port instead? Most Ports will last anywhere between 1 week and 6 months after opening, depending on their type and how they are stored. A ruby or young tawny will last 2 weeks to 3 months, while an aged tawny can last anywhere from 1 month to 1 year.Traditional Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV) is not quite as hardy, lasting 1 day to 2 weeks. Port should be stored in the refrigerator or at least in a cool place for best longevity. And if you happen to have a bottle of vintage Port more than 30 years old, make sure to seek out a pair of Port tongs. Corks of that age can be quite fragile and unable to withstand the use of a corkscrew. Traditionally, Port tongs are heated until red hot and then clamped around the bottle neck just below the cork for ten seconds. The tongs are then removed and cool water is poured over the neck which causes a single crack that severs the neck from the bottle. The bottle neck with the cork still inside is lifted off the bottle and discarded. What an exquisite gift the tongs would make for the wine lover on your gift list who has everything. Cheers!

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…]