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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

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Archive for the ‘Connecticut Vineyards’ Category


A Late Season Visit To Taylor Brooke Vineyard/Winery

Monday, December 8th, 2014

On Labor Day weekend my wife, Tricia, and I headed for northeast Connecticut to explore a seasonal favorite, The Woodstock Fair. Unfortunately, we had a late start. By the time we arrived at the fairgrounds, the line of cars waiting to park was over a mile long. Down the road from the fairgrounds is a popular farm winery that we had planned to visit on the way home. Fortunately, Taylor Brooke Winery was open and their parking lot was invitingly empty.

The owners of this winery, Dick and Linda Auger, began making wine as a hobby in 1993. Their love of the craft led to the official establishment of this winery in 1999, after hand-planting their first 300 vines. They have continued planting additional vines every year since then. Today, I estimate that they have over 2000 vines contributing to at least half of their wine production. During my visit I photographed a large field of new vines, which I believe will significantly increase my estimate of that number.

They received a Connecticut Farm Winery permit in November of 1999, and opened the tasting room (pictured below) in June of 1994. Currently, Taylor Brooke produces 16 small batch wines, which include dry estate-grown whites and reds, fruit-infused Rieslings and dessert wines.

Dick and Linda have transformed one of the  largest and oldest farms in this area into one of Connecticut’s most popular and respected farm wineries.


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Dick enjoys greeting visitors during tasting sessions. At these meet and greet sessions, he enthusiastically shares his extensive knowledge of every aspect of wine, from planting vines to producing quality wines from the grapes. As the winemaker, he manages the production of about 2500 cases of wine a year.

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There are two outside tasting areas for guests to enjoy their wine when the weather permits.

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The bottle of wine in the photo below is a Riesling infused with a natural raspberry essence. I usually prefer the crisp, clean brightness of Sauvignon Blanc when I drink or cook with a white wine. However, after a brief conversation with another visitor in the tasting room, I decided to try this seasonal wine. I was surprised to discover an intense brightness in this wine without the cloying sweetness found in other wines of this type. After tasting it and preparing two of my favorite braised chicken and herb recipes, I used this wine in the reduction sauce, with great success. I am now curious to see how it will pair with some of my favorite Asian recipes.

The grapes in the background are Cayuga White; a hardy hybrid grape developed at Cornell University. This grape is one of the mainstays of wineries in Connecticut.

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Pictured below are several mature Cayuga White vines producing an impressive yield. This grape variety answers the question, “Which hybrid grape is easy to grow and make quality wine from?”

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This spacious vineyard allows visitors to take unguided tours of the various fields, and also provides comfortable areas to relax and enjoy the view.

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Below is what I believe is the latest field being prepared for planting in the spring.

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Passing up a large and very popular fair to take a relaxing and informative tour of a first class vineyard like Taylor Brooke was time well spent.


Connecticut Wine Festival Joins The Durham Fair

Monday, October 6th, 2014

The Durham Fair was first held on the last weekend of September in 1916, and has been held on this same weekend for the past 95 years. Over the years the fair has only been cancelled twice and delayed once. During the World War II years of 1942, 1943 and 1944, limited resources forced cancellation. A hurricane passed through the area in 1938 forcing the second cancellation, and Hurricane Gloria in 1985 prevented the fair from opening on its first day (Friday). However, the dedicated efforts of hundreds of volunteers made it possible for the fair to open on schedule for the weekend. Unlike many other large agricultural fairs that have replaced volunteers with paid staff and management, the Durham Fair remains 100 percent volunteer run. I believe it one of only two agricultural fairs in the country to maintain this tradition. This  fair also takes pride in distributing all profits to provide academic scholarships and a variety of support services to the  town of Durham

Fair activities include livestock exhibits, pulling contests, agricultural exhibits, and craft events. The draft horse and tractor pulls are my favorites. This year, the weather was gorgeous during the three-day event, and an estimated 200,000 people were expected to attend. If someone told me that half of those folks were there on Sunday with me and my wife Tricia, I would have no trouble believing it.

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Here is the main stage tent, which this year featured popular entertainers like Tower of Power, a group with more than 20 successful albums to their credit. Other entertainers included: Montgomery Gentry, featuring Troy Gentry and Eddie Montgomery, who together have celebrated multiple awards for their music, and Jo Dee Messina, a talented, award winning country western singer. Past entertainers on the main stage have included Justin Moore, Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn, the Guess Who and KC and the Sunshine Band.

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A view of the fair from the top of the Town Green not far from The Wine Festival Tent.

This is a reincarnation of food sold by an old Boston fast food chain that thrived in the ’50s and ’60s. During our high school years, Dave Duffy and I commuted to school on public transportation. The final leg of that journey was on an elevated train that ran from Forest Hill Station, where Dave jumped on. The next stop was Green Street, then it rolled into Egleston Station where I got on. Two stops later we arrived at Kneeland Street Station where Dave and I got off and walked from there to Cathedral High School. Keep in mind that this commute was taking place at around 7 in the morning. At the bottom of the stairs leading from the station was a fast food shop called Joe and Nemo’s. And they sold? You guessed it!  Steamed burgers and hot dogs, already on the bun with only mustard for a garnish. If you ever talk to Dave, please don’t tell him that you heard this from me. We didn’t make a regular habit of it, but there were days when a steamed cheeseburger or hot dog tasted pretty good at 7 in the morning. Joe and Nemo’s was a Boston original, with at least 40 stores in various neighborhoods around Boston and Cambridge. Judging from the line at the counter, steamed burgers and dogs are still popular — at least in Connecticut. I was tempted to order one, but 6 dollars was out of my price range. At Joe and Nemo’s they cost us less than a dollar each. Of course, that was back in 1960.

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A blast from the past

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The Connecticut Wine Festival returned to the Durham Fair for a second year to showcase Connecticut wines. The popularity of this event is a reflection of the growing enthusiasm in this country for local wines. This is especially true here in Connecticut where local wines continue to win fans and impress connoisseurs from around the world.

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Entrance to the Wine Festival tent. That is Tricia in background entering the tent. Her enthusiasm for this event was  obvious here. Like many of the woman that I met at the festival, she has an educated palette for certain wines and is eager to share her knowledge with others.

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The Wine Institute of New England was conducting a free wine appreciation seminar, covering wine tasting techniques, varietal information and debunking common wine myths.


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I was very impressed with the wine knowledge and sophisticated taste preferences of young women that I met while at the festival.

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Michael Blunt (in the middle) starring as Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This performance, accompanied by a full symphony orchestra and young choral group, was a true testament to how much determination and effort my youngest has devoted to developing a career in a very demanding profession. The attending audience loved the performance, and demonstrated it with a standing ovation at its conclusion.


Vineyards in my backyard

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Before setting sail for the new world, English Pilgrims carefully calculated what items would fit into their trunks. Necessities such as: a Bible, a good knife, some warm winter clothing and a bottle or two of wine, usually a French Bordeaux, were included. Some kind of alcohol was considered a necessity because water had a bad reputation in seventeenth century Europe, where much of the water was polluted. The colonists believed that the same situation existed in the the new world. So, before setting sail they stocked their ships with as much alcohol, of various kinds, as possible. It was not unusual for a Pilgrim ship, setting sail for America, to be stocked with three times as much beer as water, along with several thousand gallons of wine, and whatever hard liquor the passengers packed in their trunks.

When these thirsty pioneers reached the Connecticut shores, they were surprised to find that the water was drinkable, and that wild grapes, red and white, thrived throughout their new home territory. As settlements in this state grew, wine made from these wild grapes became a staple beverage. It was presented hot and mulled to preachers during long sermons, given to children as medicine, and often served to funeral home visitors during wakes. This sweet homemade brew sustained many families during the long winter nights.

As the 17th century advanced, the popularity of wine was challenged by a variety of other beverages. Shiploads of rum from the West Indies, along with a variety of wines from France appeared. As apple orchards were flourishing, families began drinking hard apple cider with every meal. Despite all of this competition, enough people were still growing grapes in large enough quantities to keep the grape culture alive in the state, and new vineyards continued to spring up all over Connecticut. However, the Temperance Movement was slowly gaining influence. Laws were being passed that threatened to kill the retail wine sales that wineries depended on for survival. In 1922, the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act were passed. These two laws made the production, sale, and distribution of most alcoholic beverages, including wine, illegal in this country. Wine vineyards in Connecticut went into a steep decline and started to vanish from the landscape. Even after the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed in 1933, local laws in Connecticut made commercial wine making impossible. Finally, in 1978, Governor Ella T. Grasso signed the Farm Wine Act into law, which allowed the production and sale of wine to be legal in this state. By 1979, several vineyards were distilling and selling wine to the public. Today, there are about 33 farm wineries in this state. They all produce a variety of distinctive quality wines that have captured the interest of wine lovers here. It is difficult to drive for 45 minutes in any direction in this state without driving by a thriving vineyard. It would not be a stretch to say everyone living in Connecticut has a vineyard in their backyard.

Last month, my wife Tricia and I spent a weekend in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, where farm wineries have been thriving for many years. I returned to Connecticut with a renewed interest in local wines, especially those produced by the 33 farm vineyards here in Connecticut. My first choice for a visit to a local vineyard was by chance. I was hiking along the Talcott Mountain Ridge, searching the skies for bald eagles riding the thermals rising up from the valley floor. When I got to the Heublein Tower to the west, I stopped to rest. While panning the valley floor to the east with my binoculars, I caught sight of a large red barn with two fields of grape vines in front of it. I hurried back to my car and headed in that direction. My first visit to a Connecticut farm vineyard had begun.

2014-08-10 001 001 copy_edited-1My starting point — The Heublein Tower

2014-09-04 001 001In the shadow of Talcott Mountain — Rosedale Vineyards


2014-08-10 001 003 copyThe main entrance to the vineyard

Rosedale Farm and Vineyards is my first stop on the Connecticut Wine Trail. It has been a successful farm since 1920, offering Farmington Valley residents a wide variety of high-quality fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Inspired by a talented and innovative local winemaker with over 20 years of wine making experience, the owners established a four-acre vineyard, accompanied by a wine bar offering free tastings. Their first vintage was available in 2005. Since then their wines have captured medals in several prestigious wine competitions. Their red wines are very popular throughout the valley, so for my first purchase from a Connecticut winery I chose Lou’s Red. This is a medium body red table wine which is juice from Merlot and Marechal Foch grapes. I gave this bottle to my son Michael to taste. He was impressed with how smooth and easy to drink it was. That is a special compliment, especially from a man who favors more robust wines like Zinfandel.

Lou’s Red


2014-08-10 001 001The wines in this small section of their wine rack were featured the day I visited.


 2014-08-10 001 005 copyThe outside wine tasting area

2014-08-11 002 002 copyThe visitors sampling wine here were also treated to a majestic view of the vineyard and its fruit-heavy vines.


2014-08-10 001 008 copy_edited-1This sign invites visitors to a short and very pleasant hike from farm store to one of my favorite places — the Farmington River


2014-08-11 002 003 copy_edited-1After crossing the bridge indicated on the trail map, I was rewarded with a scenic view of cornfields and Talcott Mountain. If you look to the right side of the mountain, you will see Heublein Tower.


2014-08-11 002 007 copyThis is the prize for taking this pleasant and short walk on a warm summer afternoon.

Jerram Winery

A few days after visiting Rosedale, I headed north to visit a small vineyard in New Hartford. The winery was founded in 1998 and is owned and operated by Jim Jerram, a man with extensive experience in the food and beverage industry. The winery sits close the vineyards and gardens with patios and decks for guests to relax and enjoy a glass of wine on a warm sunny afternoon.


2014-08-25 006 001_edited-1I purchased a light and fruity wine made with Chardonnay grapes. My wife and I enjoyed it with glazed salmon, cooked on the grill that night. The match was perfect, even though it was by chance.

2014-08-11 003 003 copyThe vineyards are alongside the tasting room where guests are invited to sample featured wines.

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2014-08-17 001 004 copy_edited-1Jim Jerram serving guests and sharing his knowledge of wine and wine culture with his guests


2014-08-17 001 008The atmosphere is warm, friendly, and relaxed at this winery. In the photo above my wife is having a conversation with a couple that live in the valley a few miles from us.

McLaughlin Vineyards features an afternoon of Shakespeare

McLaughlin Vineyards is a family owned and operated vineyard located on a 160-acre farm in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. The farm shares land with the Upper Paugussett State Forest where bald eagles can be sighted on a cold winter day. This was one of the first farms to establish a winery after the state made it legal to make wine commercially. This vineyard produces over 2,500 cases of grapes from about 15 acres of vines. My visit was prompted by more than an opportunity to tour the winery and vineyards. My son Michael is a member of a professional theater group that tours New England performing the works of Shakespeare. On this day, the group was presenting the tragedy King Lear at the vineyard. Michael portrays the rich and clueless son of Gloucester, one of the kingdom’s most powerful men. Edgar survives being convicted of plotting to kill his father by disguising himself as Tom O’Bedlam, a crazy man who wanders around begging for food. Near the end of the play, Edgar is crowned King.

2014-08-25 004 001This light and fruity Chardonnay was a featured wine on the day of my visit.

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2014-08-23 001 012 copy_edited-1The country store


Mc FieldsThe vines in this photo are part of an experiment to produce organic grapes.


2014-08-23 001 013 copyAn attentive audience enjoying the King Lear production


2014-08-23 001 003Edgar as Poor Tom caring for his blind father


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The 2nd Annual Connecticut Wine Festival will be celebrated at the Durham State Fair later this month. In attendance will be seven of the state’s established wineries. We will also be there to record and share the excitement with you.




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