Sunday, January 31, 2010


Furnace Brook Winery is located at Hilltop Orchards, a 100 year-old farm set on 200 bucolic acres in the Berkshires. It is a family owned farm. It's tastingroom is rustic and inviting. You can relax inside near the fireplace with a glass of wine, hot cider and/or snacks. You can also venture out to cross country ski or snowshoe on our groomed trails through the orchard and pristine back country during winter. This is easily the most unique tastingroom in all of New England. When we arrived on Saturday, the tasting room was a buzz with activity. People were busy at the pie and baked goods counter. There were a half dozen people at the tasting bar (more than a dozen by the time I left 40 minutes later), and another good half-dozen people watching television, sitting in front of the fire, drinking wine and eating cheese.

John Vittori, the owner, and his wife, Julie, have always produced one of the best ciders in all New England, Johnny Mash. It's a great cider, filled with fresh apples, just a touch of sweetness, and nice acidity. And after this weekend's tasting, that opinion did not change. In fact, I think they've enhanced their reputation.
In all the winery makes fourteen wines (including two ciders), ranging from bright whites to smooth, clean reds. Their wines are made from select Northeast varietal grapes and their ciders from their own apples which are grown right there at Hilltop Orchards.

The first three wines were stunners! The JOhannisberg Riesling, the Dry Riesling, and the mead were all great! The Johannisberg was slightly sweet, but still had a slight twitch of sour apple at the end to pull you through. The dry Riesling was a light,, bright fabulous fruity wine, with nice aromatics, that finished clean and bright and dry. A wonderful, subtle dry Riesling. The last of the whites was the mead. Light, bright, with just a hint of honey and yeast to the nose, but a light, fresh, delicate white wine with just a hint of sweetness at the end. These were some of the best white wines I've had from Massachusetts.

They had two nice, light bodied reds available when I went for my tasting - Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve, and the Merlot Special Reserve. Both were light-to-medium-bodied. Both had a very nice light-garnet color. They were very much like young claret. Both were fruity up front, with only a small amount of tannin, and a nice, clean, smooth, dry finish. Very drinkable!

And then we went to the bubbly stuff. The first was the Sparkling Muscato. This was a semi-sweet, crisp bubbly. Light and refreshing. A great celebration wine. Very, very nice! A lively surprise.
And of course there were the ciders. The first was the French Cidre Special Reserve. It dry to slightly off-dry. Very much an attempt to be like a real champagne styled, French styled cider. They largely succeeded. And the final product is an elegant French cider great with food, for sipping from a pint glass, but this is refined enough it would taste best served chilled in a champagne flute.
And then there's Johnny Mash. Still a great quaffing cider. Bright, crisp, clean, and refreshing. Down straight from the bottle with your favorite game time snacks, bbq, or perfect with steamed clams.

Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards is a great experience, winter, sprint, summer or fall.