Through Zephyrs and Rain and Damian, We Continue the Wine Trail
NorthWinds Vineyard, Watertown
July 10, 2010
[April 2013 Update: They’ve closed up shop citing family time and other pursuits. Note that the bracketed statement just below was written with no knowledge of this decision.]
[December 2012 Update: This is such a weird page. I like it, because it’s honest and pointedly objective about something that was bothering me back in 2010. It is, of course, a bit unfair to NorthWinds… but I think if you read CTMQ you can glean that my ire wasn’t directed at them, but rather the Wine Trial people. This was the 25th CT winery we’d ever been to. Also, NorthWinds only keeps up a facebook pages these days and they say the name is “NorthWinds;” not “North Winds” or “Northwinds.”]
[2012 Update: This was way back when everyone didn’t read the Internet while walking down the street.]
I think I’m getting tired of the Wine Trail. There, I said it. And it didn’t feel at all good…
This comes with caveats:
1) The Passport program has gone from 12 to 14 to now 16 visits required to enter the (incredible) grand prize drawing. This means when we hit our 16th winery this year, we’ll have gone to all 29 participating wineries in the state; and several multiple times. Most of those visits, by the way, have been with a special needs child from the age of 2 to 4. That gets a bit tiresome.
2) The Wine Trail is an absolutely excellent program, with phenomenal prizes, but still seems to have a right miserable marketing head. I know they are not a company per se and vinters aren’t in the promotion game, but really… When their website is years outdated and the brochures are years outdated (and differ from the outdated website) and the radio ads for the CT Wine Festival mispronounce “silo” as “cee-lo” and when they never, ever, ever announce the prize winners anywhere, it gets frustrating for those of us who care about this stuff.
3) Shhh – the majority of Connecticut wine just isn’t all that great. It’s good, some of it very good – and I love it for what it is – but really, this IS Connecticut after all and our weather isn’t exactly predictable and vines are all relatively young.
4) Most importantly, Hoang is simply done. Damian is a crapshoot wherever we take him, but there’s something about dealing with a Difficult Damian while not enjoying a glass of wine that makes these visits harder and harder as the years go on.
So why unfairly place this rant on the new-ish NorthWinds page? I don’t know. Well, actually I do, but it really has nothing to do with the very nice folks at NorthWinds or their wine. You see, it just gets a little tiring. I have agreed with Hoang that after we hit the final four joints together this year, we will not try to do another Passport at least for a long, long time. (In reality, you can just run in to each place and tell them to stamp your book and leave, but you have to be a real jerk to do that.)
So this post is sort of my “Turning the Corner” post. Which is sort of weird I guess depending on how you came to this page. (The last winery we visited chronologically was Saltwater – and I loved it.) Suffice it to say, there have been some tough visits between then and now. Who knows how those final four (and even more, if/as new wineries open for tastings down the road) pages will read. I always get sort of maudlin when I near the end of a particular list or trail or whatever on CTMQ. In this case, however, I’m sort of eager about it.
[2012 Update: With 2 visits to go now – one has yet to open in Glastonbury – I can say that “eager” certainly wins the day.]
[2013 Update: More than 2 now, with a couple other new ones popping up. Still eager.]
So… NorthWinds. In Watertown. Watertown? Yeah, Watertown. What’s it to you? A good friend of mine grew up in Watertown, got married and lived in Watertown, got divorced and lived with his parents in Watertown, works for the town of Watertown, and now is now a remarried father living in new house in… Bozrah. Nah, just kidding… He’s still happily in Watertown.
No one lives in Bozrah. NO ONE.
The vineyard is perched up on a hill overlooking the valley below and the hills beyond. It’s quite striking, really – and a bit surprising after driving up through Watertown’s commercial center. There is a very nice new giant building here too, which I’m assuming is the owner’s house. We walked around back to find their “open-air tasting pavilion,” which is a change from the usual tasting room, I’ll admit.
Damian became difficult from the moment we arrived and huffed and puffed around the grounds. Ironically, there were children’s toys here and plenty for him to do, while Hoang and I did our best to learn about the new operation.
NorthWinds Vineyard is a small family owned 5 Acre vineyard featuring estate bottled wines made from Riesling, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, St. Croix, and Cabernet Franc grapes.
Our mission at NorthWinds Vineyard was to take our prime farmland soils and establish crops that could produce premium wines. The soil along with a steady cool climate and hilltop setting allow for ideal growing conditions for the Varietals offered. Over 85% of the total wine produced is Estate Bottled, and all of our hand-crafted wines contain fruit from our vineyard.
Keeping production under 400 cases allows us to oversee every aspect of the grape growing and winemaking process from pruning to harvest, and grape to glass. This gives us more hands-on control of the winemaking process which allows us to use techniques that on a large scale wouldn’t be possible so the quality comes out in the end product.
Forgoing the usual tasting in light of Damian’s plight, we each got a glass of wine. Of course, this makes this review unfair as I like to do a tasting at new places. Oh well.
I found this tidbit from their website interesting: We take an organic – sustainable approach to growing our grapes. Our pest management program utilizes OMRI (Organic Materials Register Institute) listed materials for protection of fungus, mildew, and non-beneficial insects. We spent 5 growing seasons developing this program and found the OMRI fungicides yielded better results in health of the vine and taste of the fruit.
We got a glass of the Zephyr (“Zephyr is a blend of whites with crisp acids and soft fruit. An elegant white with a zing of acid”) and another of the Vidal Blanc (“The harvest of our Vidal is split to bring out the best expression of the grape. Crisp acids, floral, and citrus aromas are retained in the October Harvest. The rest of the crop is left on the vine to gain more concentrated sugars and acids. In the December harvest, the unfermented juice called the “sussreserve” is blended into the already fermented wine contributing the residual sugar necessary to balance and create a full bodied wine.”)
Our distracted amateur judgement: The Zephyr was decent and, well, the Vidal wasn’t the best. I feel terrible that we didn’t try anything else. The other guests were very much enjoying their tastings and buying bottles of the reds. I’m sure I’ll stop by again someday unencumbered by Damian’s antics. (He actually found a ball and kicked it up the hill, into the vines and far, far away from us which was great… Except for the, y’know, him being all alone by himself in some random vineyard on a hill in Watertown in a drizzling rain.)
I felt (and feel) badly for the nice young women doing the tasting and pouring. They were exceedingly nice and kept smiles on their faces with two obviously grumpy parents (that would be us) and an obviously difficult child (he knows who he is). I owe it to them to return some day and do a proper tasting. And with the Mattatuck Trail still to do relatively close to here, I promise that I will.
[2012: Really. I do.]
[2013: Whoops. I never did. Sorry.]
NorthWinds Vineyard facebook page – it’s all they’ve got right now.