Rose Colored Glasses
Rose Vineyards and Winery, North Branford
I was in a very good mood before visiting this winery. I had on Rose colored glasses. The weather was lovely, the evening’s plans were lovelier, and my date was the loveliest. So, really, I was going to enjoy my visit almost no matter what. Fortunately, our visit was as good as any other local winery visit has ever been.
And in some respects, Rose Vineyards and Winery provides a better experience than the large majority of Connecticut wineries.
If you, like me, are a little confused… yes, there is a Rosabianca Vineyards also in North Branford but it has nothing to do with this place, Rose Vineyards. Here’s how you remember which is which: Rosabianca is named after the founder and owner, whose last name is Rosabianca. Rose Vineyards is named after the Rose family. Simple.
They’re about eight miles apart, so you’ll be fine. The whole name thing is just a weird coincidence. And hey, if anyone’s going to claim the Rose name, I believe this place would “win.”
Originally settled in 1644, the Rose family farm is one of the oldest, family-run farms in the country. Over the years, the Rose farm evolved from a traditional New England farm, meant to serve a young, thriving family, to an operating orchard allowing patrons to purchase the freshly farmed produce. However, in 1938 a powerful, category 3 hurricane, also known as the Great New England Hurricane destroyed most of Long Island, southern New England, as well as the Rose Farm.
Whoa. I’m not sure that it “destroyed” Long Island and southern New England. Let’s be a little more realistic guys…
This hurricane was considered the most destructive storm to strike this region in the 20th Century but with a farmer’s tenacity, the family farm continued to operate but changed their practices to a dairy farm instead of the orchard it once was before the storm. In 1975, tragedy struck the farm once again, but this time from an electrical fire that destroyed the many barns on the property, including one dating back to the 1700’s. Again, the Rose family farm regrouped and continued to farm the land. In 1981, the family decided a farm market would be a great opportunity to sell their produce as well as other farm commodities and the farm market off Route 139 was constructed. The farm market still remains to this day with the twelfth generation of the Rose family running the day to day operations.
Whoa. That’s impressive to say the least. Of course, the Rose family has continued to innovate their business and in 2017 they planted their first wine grapes. Since then, they’ve expanded their vineyard and went all-in on the wine-making, tasting barn, patio, and kitchen.
After driving up the Alpine driveway, only rivaled in state by the similar set-up at Taylor Brook Winery in Woodstock, we parked and took in the scene. In nice weather, this place is great. There’s a large outdoor patio with comfortable seating.
Since the late summer evening was perfect for us, literally every customer was outside. The indoor space is quite large as well, so don’t fret when the weather is fretful.
Rose has an army of servers. You sit and they take your order. No matter who you are or what you want. I’d bet that this service model will change at some point, as it just seems unsustainable. Perhaps it’s just seasonal? Or maybe this venture has been so wildly successful that it works for them. It worked fine for us, but just seemed prohibitively expensive for the owners.
We were given menus and initially had no plans to get any food here at all. We had dinner reservations at Olea in New Haven and we were both prepared to gorge ourselves there. But I couldn’t stop looking at the food here… unique grilled cheeses, a cheese plate featuring Arethusa, a legit charcuterie board, a “rustic baguette sandwich,” and a bread basket.
I figured that since I don’t drink much anymore, getting some bread wouldn’t be the worst idea. As it turned out, it was the best idea; the basket comes with a large assortment of styles and they’re all excellent. The “everything bagel seasoning” butter it comes with is even better. (There are more choices, much of it seasonal, but from what I could tell from other tables, it’s all pretty good.)
The vast majority of wines available here use grapes from California or Chile. I’m happy that our local wineries seem to now all be up front about this – especially those like Rose Winery who are still building up their own vines. I appreciate honesty.
I had a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc and Hoang had a glass of “Symphony,” which was a much sweeter white. Both used California grapes and both were pretty good. Usually I like to try a white and a red, but literally every single red on offer here spent time in oak barrels. And I absolutely hate oak in my wine. So I stuck with what I knew and got another glass of the same Sauv Blanc and Hoang had an even sweeter peach wine thing. She loved it and I didn’t hate it, which is the highest compliment I’ll ever give sweet fruit wines.
The army of servers were ever-present but not over-bearing. The sun set on us, but this isn’t a “sunset view” type of place. It’s nice, sure, but that’s not how the patio is set up. Neither of us could stop eating the massive basket of bread we got, but as it turned out, the food at Olea was so darn good it didn’t matter.
Rose Vineyards and Winery was a great place to start my first overnight date with my wife in… 15+ years. We were staying at the Hotel Marcel in New Haven as a “test” of a respite caregiver for our older son – in preparation for a longer overseas trip a couple months later. Everything went perfectly and I’ll always remember Rose Winery as the place that started a new chapter in our lives.
I’d like to keep these rose colored glasses on for as long as possible.