A Chief New Winery
Arrowhead Acres Winery, Franklin
During my five year hiatus from checking out Connecticut wineries, a bunch of new ones opened. At the end of 2014, I had “caught up” and had “completed” the list; having been to every open winery in the state and written about them all. It felt good.
Right around that time, breweries were sprouting like mushrooms. I mention mushrooms because you’re reading about a brand new (late 2018) winery in Franklin, which has historically been known for its mushroom farms. Times change and many of them are now gone, but Franklin is still very much an agrarian town.
If not mushrooms, why not wine grapes? Enter, Arrowhead Acres, an old repurposed dairy farm:
Our farm is located on land that has been farmed since the 1800’s. My great grandparents ran a dairy farm here, and I’ve heard stories of the big barn burning down in the late 1960’s. I’ve seen pictures of it being rebuilt in 1970, and take pride in knowing that its still here. My grandmother ran a livestock auction for several years in the barn where our farm store is now. I have great memories of it being one of my favorite places to go on Wednesday afternoons. Our farm name, Arrowhead Acres, came from the collection of arrowheads my great grandfather found in these plowed up fields. I love the family history we have here, and have been working to restore the land and barns to their full potential.
Nice. Lots of our wineries are hobbies for wealthy retirees. I like this salt-of-the-earth story. However, far too many of Connecticut’s small farm wineries put out a product that is, shall we say, comparable to the stuff in which mushroom farms use to grow mushrooms. I don’t want Connecticut wine to be terrible, but… it too often is.
I approach everything I do for CTMQ with fresh eyes and a renewed palate. I try to be fair each and every time, and although I’m cognizant and mindful of the whole “small business, struggling farmer” dynamic, I also can’t sugarcoat things when I pay money for battery acid.
Arrowhead Acres is… out there. As out there as one can get in Connecticut anyway. In the rolling farmland hinterlands equidistant from routes 2, 6, and I-395. You don’t wind up in North Franklin by accident. (Although, there are a few wineries in this area in Lebanon, Scotland, and Columbia. Yeah, that’s right, there are three towns that share names with countries in eastern Connecticut.)
And judging by the completely empty tasting room during my Saturday afternoon visit, my assessment of Arrowhead’s location is accurate. Which is a shame for a few reasons: It’s a very nice tasting room! Appropriately rustic and homey, but clean and well-lit. There is a main room and a smaller room, as well as a nice porch and patio overlooking the vineyards and the hills beyond.
It’s as nice as almost any other Connecticut winery. There’s a fireplace! And couches! I like this place.
Before one walks to the tasting room, one must go through the farm store. Talk about olde timey New England quaint! There’s a bakery here and veggie stand. Everything is fresh and homegrown/made. I really like the concept; bakery, farmstand, winery. Good for Franklinites.
Arrowhead has a “no one under 21” policy in the tasting area, which is fairly rare. Maybe it’s catching on at wineries across the state, as I saw the same rule at a new one in Glastonbury recently. I happened to have an under 21 with me, but instead of stashing him away in a corner of the farm store, he was allowed to chill on the porch.
Which… good? Since we were the only ones there? (A few other patrons arrived during my stay.) It’s not remotely illegal to have underage people in a winery or brewery – but I respect the rules, as they have implemented them for a reason. I suggest you do the same.
After perusing the list of six available wines, I went with a glass of the Farmhouse White. This was made with Cayuga grapes and is described as “a crisp semi-sweet wine with aromas of mango, white roses, and a hint of pineapple. On the palate you will experience cantaloupe, orange blossoms, and passionfruit. The flavors are sure to be a tropical experience.”
Hm. Not sure anyone’s ever had a tropical experience in Franklin, Connecticut, but okay. I’m also not sure I was able to parse the passionfruit from the cantaloupe, but the wine was… good! I was, quite Frank(lin)y, shocked. Lots of Connecticut white wines use Cayuga grapes and they are, by and large, pretty bad.
But Arrowhead’s was dry, crisp, and did impart the flavors as advertised. I told the woman working there and she was quite pleased. She offered up her Niagara grape varietal and I knew enough to say no thanks. “That’s really grapey, isn’t it?” I mused.
“Yes. It is.” Now I know lots of people like Niagara grape wines, but I do not. They all taste like Welch’s grape juice to me. (And, funny enough, another new winery in Enfield claimed that they are the only winery in Connecticut able to source the Niagara grape for wine. I knew upon hearing that that that was nonsense.
And I just wrote a sentence containing “that that that” that worked. And now I’ve done it with “that that that that!” I’m a wizard.
On to the glass of red. Let’s go with the Sunset Red – cripes, I think half of our state’s wineries have a wine with the name Sunset in the name. And we have two with “Sunset” in their name (Sunset Meadow in Goshen and Sunset Hill in Lyme). Anyway, the Sunset Red here is a blend where, “you will find dark cherry, raspberry, cedar and vanilla on the nose. You will then discover big red fruit on the taste with chocolate, butterscotch, and raisins in the background. This wine is velvety and smooth leading you to enjoy one more glass.”
A California Cab this is not, but… it was pretty good again! Let’s hear it for Arrowhead Acres Winery in Franklin!
Our winery has been the latest addition here at Arrowhead Acres with our grand opening in the fall of 2018. We make all of our wines on-site and use a combination of grapes we grow here on our vineyard as well as some we bring in from California. Our current wine list for 2019 includes seven different wines – two whites, a rose, and four reds. We also offer wine slushies and sangria!
And props for being up front about sourcing grapes from California. It’s funny, the wineries who get the bulk of their grapes from Chile like to hide that fact. But the ones who source from California are a bit more open about it. It’s also no accident that the wines here are better than the average Connecticut winery. Granted, the wine-maker needs to know what he or she is doing, but good grapes do make a difference.
I didn’t have any of the slushies, which seem to be the new thing at wineries. That just seems cornball to me, but I’m sure they sell well. (I think the first Connecticut winery to do this was the aforementioned Sunset Meadow in Goshen, but I’m not positive.)
I can’t pretend I’m going to drive to nowheresville Franklin to drink wine here on purpose. But for those of you who live near Nowheresville, go for it. It might be your best option in the area.