Monday, July 05, 2010

Saltwater Farm Vineyards an Important New Find in Connecticut

So we took the kids in the morning to Mystic Seaport, one of the most fascinating museums on the east coast. We boarded the last wooden whaling ship extent in the world. We boarded the replica of the Amistad, and boarded many other ships and boats as well.

After all the fun and games we decided to visit a few local wineries....surprise, surprise. The first we decided to visit was an absolutely brand new one - Saltwater Farm Vineyards. This is an old airport and hanger turned into a winery. The vines were planted some time ago, but the winery and tasting room were just opened in April, 2010.

Saltwater Farm Vineyard is set on more than 100 panoramic acres - 15 of which are planted with six varieties of grapes, and bordered by tidal marshes, a cove and vistas of Long Island Sound, near the historic New England coastal village of Stonington, Connecticut.
The centerpiece of the bucolic property, which has a small private airport dating to the late 1930s, is a World War II - vintage hangar, designed by the late architect John W. Lincoln, a colleague of Walter Gropius. The hangar, opening onto terraces and the vineyard, has been preserved and converted into a winery. The seamlessly renovated building showcases a vaulting roof, silvery milled aluminum exterior, the original interior wood sheathing and, dominating the airy room and gathering places, handsome and massive timber trusses.

In the late 1930s, William J. Foster opened a small community airport on the property. Foster built a hangar there, designed by John W. Lincoln, an architect and engineer living in Stonington and a man credited with sharing in the creation of the modern Quonset Hut. Foster Field, also known as Westone Airport, functioned as an airport for several years before the U.S. entry into World War II, when the government closed such airports for public use. In 1945, as the war was ending, Foster leased the property to Henry R. Palmer Jr. of Stonington, who offered commercial air service and flight training there. Palmer opened Aero-Marine Service at Foster Flying Field in February 1946. Palmer’s venture lasted only a couple of years and the hangar was used variously, and haphazardly, through the subsequent decades as warehouse, restaurant, light manufacturing facility and home to squatters.
In 2001, Michael M. Connery, a former partner at the New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and a Rhode Island native, bought the long-dormant property. In all, Connery purchased 108 acres and made the decision to convert the old airfield into a vineyard, at the same time maintaining a grassy landing strip. The vintage hangar was preserved and reimagined as a winery, largely through the design efforts of Stephen Lloyd, an architect in Chester, Connecticut. The building now showcases a vaulting roof, a milled aluminum exterior, original wood sheathing and, dominating the airy interior, massive timber trusses.
With a preservationist’s bent, and with a keen appreciation of Stonington’s past, the goal has been to sustain, in contemporary function and fashion, the two foundations of the property’s place in Stonington history: coastal farmland and a WWII-era private airport.

The old hanger has been converted, offering a grand space for weddings and events, with a spectacular view of vineyards and the water. The interior also features a second floor tasting room bar with large windows affording excellent views.

The winery was lavished upon with money and excellent taste. It's state of the art, and focused on quality. They only make four things right now - Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. I must state right now that this is an exciting winery. Their goal is to make first rate wines - and their first salvo is an exceptional one.

The Merlot 2006 was big, dark cherry wine, with big tannins, and nice acids. Hints of dark raspberry and a nice vanilla aroma. The Cabernet Franc was lighter, more bright cherries, with a a slight hint of mocha, with hints of vanilla. A medium-bodied, smooth dry red. A very nice example of this varietal. Wonderful red.

The Chardonnay was light, clean, with touches of green apple and hints of melon and a whiff of oak. Lovely, dry, and excellent.

The Sauvignon Blanc is light, dry, with a big citrus finish. Refreshing. This is minerally, lemony, and dry. An excellent example of Sauvingnon Blanc.

Paul was our tasting room man. He was pleasant and polite. Knowledgeable about wine as well as wine in the area. And he was well attired.
The winery was an excellent new addition to Connecticut. And also an exceptional addition to the east coast as well. This is not a winery to watch - it will shine brightly all by itself. It is a winery to follow, and tell all your friends about. If you don't tell them, don't worry - pretty soon, they'll be telling you about it!