“Next issue… Wine! Mort! Pat! Eleanor!”
McLaughlin Vineyards, Sandy Hook
November 2, 2008
[December 2012 Update: Man, I barely remember this place. But as I write this, it’s impossible to miss that it’s in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown and here we are in December 2012… and we all know what happened this month in Sandy Hook. Sigh. I need some wine.]
I’m writing this on the dark and stormy night of November 30, 2008. I’d almost rather be watching TV or reading something, but I feel compelled to knock out a quick post on a recently visited vineyard and winery. Why?
Because tomorrow is the drawing of the winners in the 2008 Winery Passport program. Y’know, the one where two lucky winners get to go to Spain for 12 days and 15 other winners get a weekend getaway at some spa in Connecticut. So we have a two in X number chance of winning one of the 17 prizes! Sigh.
We visited McLaughlin at the beginning of a four winery day out in the picturesque Litchfield hills – in an effort to finish up with the required 14 wineries to be eligible for tomorrow’s drawing. It was a beautiful day and even though we had Damian with us, MY confidence was high we’d get through all four. (And what the heck, Hoang would be tasting a lot of wine in the next few hours, so she was doing just fine – even if she still refused to believe we’d get the required 14 visits at this point in the day.)
It should be mentioned that McLaughlin opens at 11 AM and once again your humble writer picked a time to leave his house in West Hartford such that he arrived at the winery doorstep at 11:01. I’m awesome. Hoang rarely acknowledges my uncanny skills, but surely she must appreciate this knack I have, right?
Before we get to the wine, the drive to the tasting room is surely the longest “off the beaten path.” The McLaughlin website explains the approach thusly: “Follow long gravel entrance to the winery.” That “long gravel entrance” is indeed long. It twists, it turns, it rises, it falls… it crosses a rather daunting beaver bog and it is only a single track road. It’s also very pretty.
Their site also states, “McLaughlin Vineyards is a year-round farm dedicated to the production of quality wines and maple syrup in a natural environment. Located in Southern Connecticut, the 160 acre historic operation includes 15 acres of vineyards, a 2500 case winery, hiking trails, wine education seminars, a sugar house, sugar maple trees, and even a 50 acre wildlife and bald eagle sanctuary.” Cool.
Once inside, we were greeted by a very nice woman who took us to a back tasting room. Even though we were the first visitors of the day AND we had an ornery toddler, she was great. We launched into the whites, starting with a barely-oaked Chardonnay, which was nice. We then all made fun of oakey chards – always a joy to do.
The “Blue Coyote” was next, made from Vidal and Aurora grapes. There are hints of green apple in this wine and it was a bit too fruity for me, but a) Hoang liked it and b) it’s their most popular seller. The last two whites, Snow Goose and Vista Amber, were also a little too sweet.
To have them tell it, ” We grow approximately 60% of our fruit on our 15 acre vineyard. Varietals grown here are French-american hybrids: Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Aurora, Cayuga, Chancellor, Foch, and Leon Millot. Our growing season begins in mid-May and continues until the last week of September. Our relatively short season prohibits the growing of vinifera varietals at our site. We contract with reputable growers on Long Island for Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Riesling is contracted from the best region in the United States for this varietal, the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.”
We talked with the lady a little about politics and the vineyard owner’s other home in Vail. We laughed about being rich and showed a knowing nod. She never caught on that I was just kidding. But, she did offer us some wonderful Godiva chocolates to go with our red wines – and Damian got to enjoy some delicious wine crackers, which are like soft oyster crackers with a touch of sweetness.
The reds were good, especially the cherry tinged Merlot. As we were finishing up, a band of merry tasters arrived and were taken to the other tasting room. That’s right, this winery out in the middle of nowhere down a dangerous road (leaving the property back out onto the paved road is almost a deathwish) is actually very popular and is said to be “packed” mid-day on Saturdays. I believe it.
The “Country Store” there is also huge for a winery, but we left empty handed as we knew we’d be spending enough today on the tastings, gas, and lunch. But I’m sure we’ll be back someday, to perhaps spend some more time here – as it deserves.
[2012: 4 years later… Whoops.]