I Feel a Little Fruity. Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
Bishop’s Orchards, Guilford
August 24, 2009
[December 2012 Update: I’ve only been back to Bishops one more time beyond this original visit – my 19th overall. Bishop’s and Taylor Brook are the two places that make fruit wines that are actually good. It IS possible. Bishop’s is a CTMQ Top Choice in the Food Available category.]
Color me shocked. Color me as shocked as when I met Peter Murphy at UConn. Of course you remember him… Right? He was known as “Bishop’s Son” around the dorm and quite frankly, when I just Googled his story I used “Bishop’s Son” because I forgot his real name. Anyway, Bishop’s Son was the illicit son of a prominent Irish Catholic Bishop.
And for the record, he hated being called Bishop’s Son. So we never stopped calling him that… ever.
I miss college sometimes.
Now that is certainly a shocking story. But no, I don’t think even that is as shocking as how much I liked the wines made at Bishop’s Orchards down in Guilford. For you see, they are almost universally fruity wines, something which I’ve stated time and time again here that I really don’t enjoy. Turns out, I actually DO enjoy them, when done right.
It also probably helped that Hoang and I were both in a good mood; off from work on a perfect summer’s day ready to hit the beach over at Rocky Neck. It was late morning and drinking wine wasn’t really on our docket, as our plan was to run in, get one little tasting, get our Passports stamped and get out.
But then a funny thing happened – the guy produced some cheap plastic cups and said the tastings were free. And not only that, but we’d be tasting 10 wines! And his pours wouldn’t be weak. Bishops quickly became one of our favorite wineries even before we tasted a drop. At 11AM on a Monday.
Since 1871, six generations of Bishops have been serving the shoreline with fresh farm products. Their farm market has grown from a roadside stand of the 1910’s to a simple, yet bustling market, handling fresh fruits and vegetables, and related farm products – including wine. The winery itself is not available for tours and the tastings take place in the back corner of the store. There is a nice little bar area for this, but apparently until 2009 they gave out tastings to random people just standing around.
So there we were, in flip-flops and bathing suits ready to try some “fun” fruity wines. Because the setting was so homey and the server was so nice and we were in such good moods, I tried to dispense with my preconceptions about wines not made with grapes. And get this – I also did my best to overlook their corny naming conventions, such as…
Pearadise, their Pear Wine. “Our “Perry” is made from Bishop’s golden ripe Bosc Pears. The Roman Empire introduced pears to America via Britain and France. Pear production surged during the Middle Ages and Perry became popular. Classic pear aromas abound in this dry mellow wine. Smooth with a crisp finish, it complements cheese and light dishes. Serve chilled. Enjoy our Pearadise!”
You see what I mean? Hey, this stuff was pretty good! Not too sweet at all! Amazingly, we had company at our tasting – a younger couple who were as goofy as we are and a gaggle of retirees who were unintentionally hilarious. One lady hated everything and thought her utterances were being quietly shared with her friends, but due to her poor hearing, she was practically yelling her negative opinions. And yet, she kept taking sample after sample after sample…
And so did we. Up next we had the Stone House White which was slightly oakey and not really all that memorable. Time for another punny wine: The Happley ImPeared. “Overlooking Long Island Sound and Faulkner’s Island, our sun drenched apples and pear trees are carefully tended year round. Their harvest has been transformed into pear and apple ciders, combined and then aged into this inspirational, flavorful dry, wine by Bishop’s Orchards Farm Winery. It compliments any meal, and is great with New England Cheeses.” Again, this was surprisingly crisp and delicious.
At this point, we realized we could “re-sample” whatever we wished – and Hoang wasn’t shy. Up next was the surprise hit of the day, Faulkner’s Spiced Apple. “Bishop’s Orchards Farm Winery has taken the superb reputation and flavor of Bishop’s Sweet Apple Cider and aged it into a semi-dry spiced apple wine. The mulling spices add a delightful essence to the apple bouquet, to enjoy before or after dinner. Cheddar, brie and smoked cheeses are great companions. Also enjoy it heated.” Heated? Hm. I don’t know about that, but this stuff was really good.
In fact, we bought a bottle of this later and plan on serving it at Thanksgiving (which happens to be next week as of this writing.) Imagine that! Me, serving a “spiced apple wine?” It’s true. We’re also serving Bishops’ Honey Peach Melba wine – “Bishop’s Orchards Farm Winery has taken the superb reputation and flavor of Bishop’s Sweet Apple Cider and aged it into apple wine with a fresh, fruity, medium sweet bouquet. Lightly Sweetened with Connecticut Honey which brings out the Peach and Raspberry Bouquets, our Honey Peach Melba Wine complements fish, chicken, pork and pasta dishes, before or after dinner.” I know, I can’t believe it either.
We drank several other wines that morning, from off-dry apple wine called Celebration to an Apple Raspberry Blush which wasn’t awful at all to the Amazing Grace which incorporated cranberries into the apple wine. I was in shock at this point. Not only was I enjoying fruity wines, but I was enjoying all of them.
Then it hit me. This place is genius! By this point, Hoang was probably legally drunk and I was working on a little buzz. Remember, the tasting was free (though this changed and they now cost money) and the pours were ample. This is when we were told about the special deal – if we were to buy 3 bottles, we’d get some healthy percentage off. Which is exactly what we did.
The third bottle we bought to get the discount was their hard cider. They make two styles: semi-sweet and semi-dry. We bought the semi-dry and later were upset to realize we couldn’t open the dang bottle while lounging around on the beach eating one of the
There were other wines for us to try – and believe me, we did. (And so did the cantankerous old lady, by the way.) A blush and a rose rounded out our morning. We ended up buying a bunch of other stuff too, like some of their homemade apple cider donuts which really hit the spot after such a copious amount of free wine.
An interesting note about Bishops – they sell wine from other Connecticut wineries in their store. Notably, they had a large selection from Jones Family Winery way up in Shelton. I had never seen these places selling other’s wines before, so I asked about it and was told the Bishops family has been friendly with the Jones family since way back when. That’s cool, but I can report that on a later visit to Jones Winery, they did not sell any Bishops wine. Lame.
Let’s hope the apple spice wine and the peach melba stuff is as drinkable on Thanksgiving as we felt it was back on that lazy summer day (they were, which you can read about here). At the very least, Bishops does have one of the best logos of all the wineries in Connecticut as well. Granted, we didn’t get a logo wine glass with our tasting, but so what. It was f-r-e-e.*
*It’s no longer free, by the way – sgw, 2015