Just a Hopkins, Skipkins, and a Jumpkins
Hopkins Vineyard, New Preston
November 2, 2008
[December 2012 Update: I’m writing this tiny update sort of lamenting that I’ve never been back to Hopkins. (This is no longer true, July 2013.) This was the 14th winery we visited. It’s certainly one of our prettiest destinations in the entire state – especially when you include the drive out there. Oh well.]
A funny thing about these Connecticut vineyards… they just keep getting prettier and prettier. Hopkins Vineyard is, perhaps, set in the most attractive setting of them all – just north of Lake Waramaug in the New Preston section of Washington. I just read that Washington was supposedly the inspiration for Star Hollow of “Gilmore Girls” fame. Who knew? (Also, because CTMQ is the place for such trivia, Washington, CT is supposedly the first town named in honor of our first President – but there is some debate with Georgia. Georgia?!)
The Washington, Georgia official website states, “Evidence of this is found in a legislative act of 1783 which states that a town had been ordered and “actually laid out in the County of Wilkes at a place called Washington …” Thus Washington was the first of many towns to be named in honor of the great American general.” I’ve learned to never trust ellipses on the Internet.
But what’s astounding about Georgia’s silly claim is that Washington, Connecticut has a clear and proven history – The present town was incorporated in 1779, being named in honor of General George Washington, who traveled through the area several times during wartime. Oh Georgia, when will you ever learn?
Anyway, the drive up from DiGrazia Vineyards down in Brookfield was worth the price of the tasting alone. We wound our way around the eastern shore of Lake Waramaug along the ridiculously beautiful Route 45. “Lake Waramaug,” you say, “Wasn’t that recently featured on Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs”? Why yes… yes it was.
In fact, Mike Rowe himself remarked at the beauty of the area a few times during the piece – funny enough, he was very near here last year for the “Poo Pots” episode up at Freund Farm in Canaan. Now that I think about it, they were surely filmed during the same week.
So… the winery. It’s lovely. Set on the northern shore of Lake Waramaug, Hopkins Vineyard is a family-owned Connecticut Century Farm. I’ve scoured the Internet for 2 minutes (a thorough scouring) and have not been able to find anything about what constitutes a “Connecticut Century Farm”, but I’m sure it’s impressive. (It’s also a National Bicentennial Farm too. In case you were wondering.)
They say, “In 1787, Elijah Hopkins, returning from the Revolutionary War, chose this rich and fertile site on Lake Waramaug to settle his family and start the Hopkins Farm. Our farm has witnessed many diversified forms of agriculture over the years including the raising of sheep, race horses, grain crops, tobacco, and in the more recent past dairy farming. In 1979, the first vines were planted and our 19th century barn was converted into a state-of-the-art winery.”
You can read a little more about their history in this recent New York Times piece which is terribly written in my opinion. Man, the Gray Lady is fading.
Set in an old barn, the visitor rooms are large and comfortable. There is a very large selection of stuff to buy (besides wine) as well as a well-appointed wine bar upstairs. I like their description of the bar: “Sit back and admire the beauty of Lake Waramaug, all while enjoying a glass of wine in our wine bar. Located in the Hayloft of our 19th Century barn, the Wine Bar features a casual atmosphere of charming cafe tables with a stunning view of Lake Waramaug. Visitors can relax and enjoy our award-winning wines either by the glass or bottle along with a delicious selection of cheeses and country pates served with fresh bread.” Yeah, this place would be great without a toddler.
Damian was starting to get a bit fussy at this point in our journey, but nothing too bad. Hoang kept him entertained while I paid for and awaited my tasting. And what a tasting it was!
The woman pouring and explaining was professional and polite. The selection was seemingly endless – I think we had 10 tastings in all (an additional couple bucks would have gotten us some of their ice wine, but I passed.) The Hopkins website explains, “Sample the many wines we offer and hear an explanation of the ingredients, winemaking techniques and suggestions for food accompaniments.” Let’s just say… they speak the truth.
All the wine was good (though Hoang tasted half of them rather than me) but the menu they hand out with the tastings makes this place one of my favorites. A sampling:
Chardonnay 2007 Estate Bottled – Oak barrels, ripe fruit, crisp minerals, yada yada and “Serve with grilled lobster tails, crab cake sandwiches or endive, pear and roquefort salad.” Of course!
Duet 2006 Estate Bottled – the non-oaked Chard, nose of honeysuckle, granny smith apples, stone fruit, etc., and “Food suggestions: curly endive, crispy bacon and roquefort salad, herb roasted chicken with butternut squash.” Consider it done!
A couple more wines, including their signature Cabernet Franc and then we got to the Cider. This is to be enjoyed with “a cheddar omelette, smoked trout, endive and apple salad or roasted butternut squash soup with creme fraiche and chives.” Well, duh! I hope the Endive Growers Association has sent Hopkins Vineyard a thank you note.
Moving on, the Westwind wine from Cayuga White grapes goes great with “arugula salad and crispy prociutto, ripe sliced peaches and chevre or grilled herb shrimp and mango salsa.” I don’t go anywhere without my chevre.
You get the point. The list continues in this vein with things like “Apricot-Serrano glazed chicken,” “classic crepes suzette,” “raspberry fig crostata,” “caviar…” I’ve been accused of being a food snob (mostly by my wife) but geeze… this is a bit much. Oh I’m positive these foods pair wonderfully with these wines, and I’m more positive there are plenty of people in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties that have this stuff on hand all the time… but still, it’s pretty funny.
We bought a bottle of something and walked down to the lake to take it all in. There is a cutesy little Inn here as well for a nice weekend getaway. I love it out here in this part of the state and can’t wait to get out here for some museums and hiking in the coming months and years.
Note: The complimentary glass from Hopkins was my favorite of the year – See them all here