Jonathan Edwards Winery, Stonington
October 24, 2009
[December 2012 Update: I’ve been back to JE’s a couple times, but really only for passport stamps. For one, North Stonington is as far away in CT as one can go from my house and two, it’s always crowded. Which is great for them, not so great for me. This was the 22nd CT winery we ever visited.]
I was recently asked by a reporter which Connecticut winery was my favorite. I said that I had no idea. So the question was rephrased to, which one is the prettiest? Hm. I hadn’t ever thought about that even though almost every time we go to a new one, I’m struck by how most of them are set in beautiful spots. I still didn’t answer him, but came up with a few of what I felt were the best off the top of my head.
Jonathan Edwards was one of the three I mentioned – and it wasn’t even for the scenery surrounding the vineyard, but for the building itself. Oh sure, the rolling lowland hills and colonial stone walls zig-zagging all around the building are lovely, but for some reason the building really sticks with me.
It’s the perfect size, is tastefully and comfortably appointed, has a little viewing balcony of the wine-making process and even has a little art gallery space. And the exterior of the modern yet colonial barn is a stark white building with red accents. I was very impressed before the three of us stepped foot into the place. As they say, “Located in the quaint town of North Stonington, Jonathan Edwards Winery is situated on a beautiful 48- acre hilltop with distant views of the Long Island Sound.”
We’d just come from Stonington Vineyards across town (CTMQ visit here) and an early stop at the historic (and delicious) BF Clyde’s Cider Mill (CTMQ Visit here). You could say this was perhaps one of the best ways to spend a rainy autumn day in Connecticut… And you would be correct. In fact, we’ll probably make it an annual road trip, at least until we win that dang trip to Spain for visiting 14 state wineries in a year.
[2012: While this rainy day trip remains wonderful, you’ll want to be sure to go to Saltwater Farms Winery too.]
If crowds are a measure of a winery’s quality and success, then this place is top notch. It had become a rather crappy day outside, but this place was packed. And it wasn’t just one large group either, as no one seemed to know each other beyond groups of four. Hoang and I, being the jerks who continue to bring a wily three-year-old to wine tastings, were once again more-or-less ignored at the outset.
I get it, I really do. We’re younger (well, at least Hoang looks younger anyway – she turned 36 a week before this visit and she was actually carded at a liquor store the other day. Ha!) than most visitors and I can totally see how little kids don’t really help things out at wineries. But even so, sometimes I think I’d serve us first and quickly, just to get us out of there. Y’know?
But understand, the folks at Jonathan Edwards were not rude in the least and they really did have their hands full with roomful of people. On top of that, I just noticed that they have some very family friendly events there with pumpkin painting and hayrides and the like.
This Winery does something that I don’t think any of the others in the state do – they make wine from Napa Valley grapes and promote that concept. The Edwards family has taken a unique approach to providing you with the best wine tasting experience possible. Jonathan Edwards handcrafts both premium Napa Valley, California and estate Connecticut wines to highlight each coasts’ unique climate. The two diverse product lines complement each other and allow our guests to sample delicious wines that showcase what each area is known for.
How does that work? Let’s ask their website: “While living in Napa Valley, winemaker Jonathan Edwards carefully selected grapes from specific vineyards each chosen to enhance the grapes varietal characteristics. These vineyards were then placed under long term contracts with our winery which ensures product consistency. During harvest season the CA grapes are handpicked under direct supervision, and then immediately begin their transition into wine in California. Jonathan does this to maintain optimal freshness and stability of their premium wines. The young wine is then brought to Connecticut in refrigerated trucks to begin 12-18 months of barrel aging and bottling. This allows them to bring the best the West Coast has to offer to your doorstep. Jonathan Edwards Winery currently features Napa Valley Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. They produce a new ruby Port each year focusing on a new variety. They have had a Zinfandel Port, Syrah Port and most recently their Sierra Foothills Zinfandel Port. The port production is limited and can only be purchased at the winery.”
Hm. That’s pretty cool. But they of course make some wines from local grapes, right? Yes. They also offer a full line of premium estate Connecticut wines. They say they have “selected varietals that highlight our unique New England coastal climate. These grapes are harvested from our vineyards by hand. Traditional fruit forward flavors are to be expected. Our estate wines currently include Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Franc. 2009 was the first release of the much anticipated Pinot Gris.”
[2012: It’s funny to me, now that I “know” the whole CT wine scene, that JE is always mentioned among those with the best wines. At least they are upfront about the fact that they are actually California wines. Many of our wineries are not upfront about the fact that they are Chilean wines half the time.]
Here’s something else unique here… At least to my knowledge. “The lands were previously called Crosswoods Vineyards and all of the vineyards had to be removed due to years of neglect. As sad as that may seem, it provided an excellent opportunity to start fresh and utilize the latest technology in their vineyards. Located nine miles from the coast, the site provides them with moderating temperatures from the Long Island Sound which extends the fall season for optimal grape maturation. Being perched on the South side of a hill allows for full sun exposure for our grapes and excellent airflow to dry off the vines after a summertime shower. Additionally, an extensive drainage system known as “tiling” has been installed throughout the vineyards. Every vineyard row now has a drainage tile to allow excess water to drain down and out of the vineyard, allowing warmer soils in the spring, increased aeration in the soil, and prevention of excess moisture in the winter.
Jonathan Edwards’ vineyard is the only fully “tiled” vineyard in New England. “
Now we know. But keep in mind that paragraph was written before 2006, so who knows how true it is anymore.
As I mentioned, the tasting room is really nice. I think they do an excellent job of describing it on their website, so I won’t change it a bit: “ Aside from the spectacular panoramic views including distant views of the Connecticut shoreline, our winery situated on nearly 50 pastoral acres truly maintains the vintage New England character. Complete with a stone fireplace and custom built wine bar, our tasting room evokes the mixed spirit of Napa Valley within elegant Connecticut farm country.”
They offer two different tasting levels – 8 wines for 10 bucks or 4 wines for five. Because it was so crowded and Damian was getting punchy after watching his parents drink sips of about 15 different drinks at this point, we opted for the lesser of the two.
I know we had the Estate Connecticut Gewurztraminer which is aged in stainless steel and has a crisp, clean dry finish that follows fragrant aromas of grapefruit and lemon. I don’t know why, but it didn’t really work too well for me. Not too many wineries in CT grow these grapes… Maybe I now know why.
The other three wines we had were mostly enjoyed by Hoang, and at that point Damian had run off to go upstairs to the Loft Gallery. The loft gallery, located above the tasting room is where they show many different mediums of artwork, from a variety of local artists. We rather enjoyed ourselves, but that’s not really the point of our visit, now is it?
Back downstairs I had some of the Napa Valley Zinfandel which was jammy and full of spice. It was excellent and I wanted to buy a bottle, but again the wait was a bit too much for the boy. Hoang can’t remember the two she had that I didn’t, but was very impressed with them both.
Oh well, like I said… This place is a definite revisit next year out, so perhaps I’ll add some real detail then.
[2012: Man, what a terrible review. You got nothing at all from all that. Like I said, I’ve been back here a few times and it’s true, J Edwards does have the best red wines in all of Connecticut… The caveat being that they are actually from Napa Valley. ]