Unusual Wines home > article menu > New England Triangle


New England Triangle
Three New England Wineries

by Peter May

W  ineries are not plentiful in New England and thereís quite a drive between them, but the scenery is pleasant with wooded hills, rivers, ponds and villages of white wooden houses. A weekend near Boston, Massachusetts in April 2004 gave me the opportunity to visit three wineries in three different states.

Sharpe Hill
Pomfret, Connecticut.

    Sharpe Hill has a reputation for its gourmet restaurant which needs reservations long in advance. It is hidden in a forest in the north-east corner of Connecticut, close to the I395 freeway at its junction with Route 44. The winery is housed in red wood barns and the tasting room is decorated in country knick-knacks. There was a $5 fee to taste the following wines.

Ballet of Angels NV 12% alc $10.99
This wine has a most attractive label and the contents do not disappoint. A pear like nose, crisp with a slightly oily mid palate, light bodied with an off dry finish. Itís an ideal aperitif wine and most enjoyable. Made from Vignole grapes. Said to be Connecticutís most popular wine.
Chardonnay 2001 $12.99
Fermented in American oak barrels, this wine is water-white without much nose, but with a crisp inviting attack, dry and light bodied. Elegant. Half the grapes were grown at Sharpe Hill.
Chardonnay Reserve 2001 $15.99
Matured in French and American oak, this wine had a clear water-white colour, again not much nose and quite light bodied, crisp with a clean finish and a fruity aftertaste. Contains 25% Melon de Bourgogne.
Red Seraph NV 12% alc $11.99
Bright clear ruby red, spicy nose, light bodied with a good fruity cherry flavour; dry with soft tannins and a delicious tang on the finish. This delightful wine is a blend of St Croix grown on the farm and Merlot from Long Island. I was very impressed by this wine , had a bottle with my dinner the following night and brought home some bottles to the UK with me.
Cabernet Franc 2001 $17.49
A Loire style Franc from grapes grown on the farm; dry with mintiness underscored by a green stalkiness and a long but slightly sour finish.
Select Late Harvest 2002
A dessert wine made from botrytised Vignole grapes, golden colour and rich sweetness, and lingering apricot finish, clean not cloying. $19.99 half bottle.

    I was most impressed with Shape Hillís wines which exhibit a European restraint and seemed designed to accompany food. I liked their Burgundian style Chardonnays, crisp and clean without the butteryness prevalent in so much new world Chardonnays and the Cabernet Franc could have been from the Loire but much to my surprise I am tantalised by the delicious Red Seraph, and I really wanted to taste their varietal St Croix but it was sold out. I brought home two Red Seraphs, a present from wine.about.comís Lisa Shea and two Ballet of Angels which I will be showing in a Central London Wine Society tasting.

    Driving due west I came to Diamond Hill Winery, located in the top right corner of Rhode Island.

Diamond Hill Vineyards
Cumberland, Rhode Island

    If you are going to grow only one red vinifera grape variety in an area thatís hostile to vines, why would you pick the worlds most demanding one? Owner Claire Berntson told me they chose Pinot Noir because they wanted to make fine wine and the summer is too short for Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Diamond Hill has been growing vinifera vines since 1976, longer than anyone else in the state. They found European trained vine stems would crack in cold winters, so they cut down the stem so the head is no more than a foot off the ground and before winter they bank the stem with earth for protection.

    Four and a half acres of Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1980 and produce just 300 cases of wine which is eagerly sought by enthusiasts. But they have to wait, for the wine is matured for one year in a French oak cask and bottle matured for a further two years before release.

Pinot Noir 1999 $22
Dark garnet colour with orange rim, cabbage nose, completely dry with gentle strawberry and violet flavours soft tannins and a medium finish. This is the most perfect Burgundy like American Pinot Noir Iíve tasted.

    Diamond Hill is a real find for lovers of Pinot Noir, with perfectionist winemaking making excellent wine in small quantities from mature vines at a price considerably lower than California.

    Up north on the I495 east of Boston to Bolton to Nashoba Valley Winery. This offers everything to the wine lover Ė a large tasting room packed with souvenirs, a tour by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff and a restaurant. Everything indeed except wine if, like me, you consider wine is the product of fermenting grapes. Nashoba claim to make over 20 varieties of wine but most of these are fruit based, and the few grape wines made here are from bought in grapes. Tour and tasting is $3

Nashoba Valley Winery
Bolton, Massachusetts

Chardonnay 2001 11%
Pale gold colour, buttery nose, rounded full bodied wine with residual sugar and apple crispness Ė and a touch of alcohol - on the finish. Aged in American oak; grapes from Massachusetts.
Vidal Blanc 2002 11%
Pale straw colour, crisp tangy medium bodied wine with a refreshing Bramley apple sharpness. Off-dry with a short finish.
Dry Perry NV 11%
Strong pear bouquet, dryish and delicate, but its one dimensional pear flavour meant I donít want to drink any more of this pear wine.
Dry Blueberry NV 11%
They buy small berries and treat them like grapes. It is a beautiful silky red/blue colour with a berry nose. Surprisingly dry and light bodied, but lacking depth and complexity and no finish.
Blueberry/Merlot 11%
The addition of Merlot makes this more like a real (grape) wine with some complexity in the mid palate.
Chrysleton 11%
A blend of elderberries and apples this has a summery flowery nose but is acidic, sour and horrible.

    Nashoba are successful and obviously know their customerís tastes which they tempt with a range of fruit wines, beers, and spirits. I am impressed with their husbanding of rare apples; their orchard has over 100 varieties. Iíd like to see them use their horticultural skills to grow grape vines, looking beyond the usual suspects and planting Lemberger, which does so well in New York and perhaps looking at some cold weather vinifera varieties like Rkatsiteli or Switzerlandís Petite Arvine. When they make grape wine, they do it well. The Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay were very good.

More information
Connecticut Wine Trail Ė www.ctwine.com
Massachusetts wineries - www.wineintro.com/wineries/ma/
Rhode Island Wineries - www.wineintro.com/wineries/ri/


Other articles on this site are listed by clicking

U n u s u a l
Unusual Wine Varieties Wine from Strange Places Funny and Weird labels
Unusual Wines Links Please sign my Guestbook
Articles Index of labels and articles Back to Home Page
about me

1 May 2004
links updated 27/11/04