R Dee Winery, Enfield
It has been almost five full years since I’ve visited a Connecticut winery. So I’m going to need some help getting back into this stuff…
R Dee Winery is a family owned winery with a focus on grape to glass by utilizing grapes from regions that grow them best. Our grandfather, Richard Dee, taught us to put family first and always follow your dreams. He has inspired us to continue to make wine as he did for years creating many wonderful memories. We hope to one day own our own vineyard and continue to make great wine in Connecticut. Pour a glass and create your story.
Cool. That’s exactly what I’ll do. After all, that’s exactly what I always do. (Creating my story, that is. It’s not like I’m always drinking wine while I do so – even if it always appears that I’m drunk-writing.) R Dee Winery is located in the unlikely place of an old factory in Enfield. It is attached to Powder Hollow Brewery. In fact, the two businesses share the same space. Although the consumer space is roughly 80% Powder Hollow, 20% R Dee, you can walk freely from one to the other. In other words, if you want a beer and your friend wants a glass of wine, you can each order about 20-feet apart and then sit together. It’s all quite lovely.
This closeness came about from familial closeness. The winery’s owner, Michele McAuliffe is the sister of the brewery’s owner. Mike McManus. A McDouble if you will. To add to the cute factor, R Dee is named after the McSibling’s grandfather, Richard Dee Allbright, who introduced the kids to winemaking. Mike rebelled a bit, Michele honored the man. And here we are. At a winery in Enfield, Connecticut.
I wonder if the winemaking grandfather was also a chef? As in, Chef Boy R … oh never mind. Especially since I’m going for a different theme here: Sweet Dee. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was one of the funniest shows on television for several of its years. Sweet Dee, who’s actually a bird, is one of the main characters on the show. Sweet Dee is awesome:
And during my visit and tasting, she’s all I could think about. (Spoiler alert: if you like sweet wine, R Dee is for you.) I ordered a bunch of samples and watched as the owner’s husband, Mark McAuliffe (who married Michele McAulliffe, sister of Michael McManus… does this family have rules or what?) poured the wines into nice little glasses and placed them in one of the most awkward little wine glass tree things I’ve ever seen. I’m sure these things looked cool in the catalog, but in practice, they are ridiculous.
No matter, I was stone sober and wide awake, so I made like a circus performer and carried the precarious contraption 10-feet over to my table. The winery’s space is nice. Lots of stained wood and generally comfortable seating surround a bar with stools. Most Connecticut wineries are located on meadowed hillsides overlooking rows of vines. Here, again, you’re in an old factory in Enfield. But they make the most of their location and I must give them credit for doing so. I’ve often said that the main draw of our wineries is location because locally grown wine isn’t all that great. R Dee doesn’t have that going for it, but I’m cool with that. Not sure who decided all wineries need to be a Hallmark card.
I listened to Mark give the spiel to other patrons, so I got a good gist of the wines’ backstories. The key here, and I’m happy they don’t try to dance around it, is that R Dee Winery is a winery and not a vineyard. They have no vineyard.
We work with small family owned and operated farms and vineyards to import our grapes directly from the regions that grow them best! We currently work with multiple vineyards in the Finger Lakes region and in California with future hopes to also import from South Africa and Chile. We have whites, reds and a rose!
Almost every Connecticut winery sources grapes from elsewhere. Some source huge majorities of their grapes from elsewhere. Many don’t want you to know that. It’s a whole thing. So shout out to R Dee for just laying it out there honestly. Let’s taste!
Up first was The Falls, a white blend. Holy heck, this wine was like pure, sweet grape juice. Cheek-sucking sweet. I went to a conservative Protestant church as a child and in such churches, they don’t serve wine with communion. They serve cheap, store brand grape juice. The second I sipped this wine, I was taste-memoried back to being bored out of my skull on a Sunday morning in church, counting the minutes until freedom… wishing it wasn’t a dang communion Sunday, and drinking that thimbleful of sweet juice. Good times.
Next I drank the Take Time wine, made from Niagara grapes. Now, I don’t know anything about wine-making or much about what grapes do what, but I overheard Mark excitedly explain that these Niagaras are difficult to procure. They are fleeting and only grown in upstate New York and are in high demand. Two women arrived and immediately bought a bottle of the Take Time, saying how much they loved the wine.
I did not love the wine. If the last glass I had was “cloyingly sweet,” this glass was “abundantly sweet.” It tasted of those wild grapes we used to suck on as kids in our grandparents’ back yards. Turns out, that seems to the point with this wine. The description reads, “Commonly known as ‘White Concord,’ this wine presents with strong grape aromas on the nose, sweet on the taste, and smells like grapes in a glass!” I get it. It smells like grapes – and it does, in fact, smell like grapes. Little kids would like this wine, as it tastes like a juice box. Cripes. Let’s move to the reds.
Actually, before I do, I should mention that R Dee drew patrons on a rainy weekday afternoon, right at opening. My sample size is very small, but the 6 other Groupon-loving patrons were all women in their 50’s or 60’s with leopard print pants, hair sprayed hair, and long press-on nails. Granted, this was Enfield and that’s how they roll up there, but it was uncanny how they were all the same – and they were not together. I learned what type of people like super sweet wines. And even the descriptions play to this a bit, as the notes said that “The Falls” wine pairs well with “sushi during girls night.” There is no mention of “boys poker night” or whatever clichéd thing men do.
Also, I’ve written that Powder Hollow Brewery is not one of my favorite breweries in the state. I want to make it clear that all the people associated with the brewery and winery have always been very nice and I’m sure the family who owns these places is lovely. The tap room and winery space are really well done. They appear successful in business and I hope they continue to be. They are just not to my own particular taste.
“Oh Miss Agnes!” That’s R Dee’s red blend. There’s no need to discuss the grapes involved here, as it doesn’t matter. Partly because I’ve never heard of them, but mostly because their characteristics were mostly lacking. This was a very thin, fairly bland red wine. Now, to be fair, that could be a result of my palate being destroyed by sugar five minutes ago. The last wine I had was a Petit Sirah called “Slainte.” I initially thought this was a misspelling on the menu, but I was wrong. From VinePair:
Before we get into what Petite Sirah is, let’s debunk one very common confusion, Petite Sirah is NOT baby Syrah (Shiraz). The grapes are related — botanists actually think Syrah was one of the parent grapes of the new Petite Sirah grape — but it is not a young version of Syrah (it also is not spelled ‘Petite Syrah’). We can see how this is incredibly confusing, given that they both have a very similar sounding name. For that, we can thank the California wine industry and marketing.
I guess this was the best wine of the day. No, I know it was. The grapes, as implied above, are from California and as a lusty red, it was the only wine that tasted like… wine. That is my ringing endorsement for your visit to R Dee. That, and conversation with Mark is good. Very professional and he’s from Philly, so that’s a bonus. Speaking of Philly, the whole gang may live in Always Sunny Philadelphia, but only Sweet, Sweet Dee has made it up to Enfield.
The R Dee model isn’t unique to Connecticut, as there are a couple other wineries that openly purchase all their grapes from afar. And they are located in urban(ish) settings. I have no issue with that – after all, all breweries purchase (the vast majority) of their hops and grains from around the world – but I do have an issue with wine that doesn’t suit my taste. But perhaps I’m the weird one, so go there yourselves.