Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nashoba Valley Winery and Distillery Staking a Claim in Eastern Massachusetts

Located in the heart of Massachusetts’ apple country, Nashoba Valley Winery is a stunning hilltop orchard overlooking the charming town of Bolton. They first started producing fruit wines in 1978, and since then have gone to produce fine food wines, beers, and fine spirits. The family-owned orchard and farm, not only boasts all of those, but a restaurant as well.

Nashoba Vallley Winery has won more than 100 national and international medals, and the has received accolades from such noteworthy publications as “Boston Magazine”, “Wine Enthusiast,” “Cooking Light,” ”Food & Wine,” and “The Yankee Magazine.”

We arrived on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and the tasting room was buzzing. Dominique and I sidled up to the bar only to find out you have to buy your tasting tickets in advance at the cash register across the room, but we were back in a flash with the appropriate tabs.

They make many wines here, fruit wines, dry wines, as well as dessert wines, beers, and spirits, so we had to choose carefully with our five tasting tickets each, especially since I also wanted to taste the whiskey and the beer. Here’s a few of the wines, beers, and spirits we tried:

Vidal Blanc
Vidal Blanc is a French-American hybrid grape variety that is as versatile a wine grape as there is. From elegant dry whites to sweet dessert wines, this is a workhorse grape of the northeast. The grapes were whole cluster pressed and the juice is settled overnight. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks with Lalvin 71B yeast to accentuate the fruit and reduce the acidity. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks, cold stabilized, then bottled with about 1% residual reducing sugar. The result is a cold, crisp wine, with lots of fruit up front, and a nice level of acidity. A really clean, zesty white wine. Very refreshing. Very nice.

This wine is made with a combination of Massachusetts and Rhode Island chardonnay grapes. The chadonnay grapes are pressed, chilled and cold settled. Clarified juice is inoculated and fermentation is started in stainless tanks, and is then transferred to oak barrels for final fermentation. A secondary, malolactic fermentation is induced giving the wine a creamy texture. Aromas of pear and green apples, with a whiff of vanilla greet you when you first taste the wine. The wine is a light, golden color. The fruit is fresh and clean, and the acidity is well balanced. A nice smooth, creamy finish makes this a delightful chardonnay.

This was a light white refreshing wine. Slightly off dry white with a flowery, spicy nose. Hints of honeysuckle, mango, apricot, and white peach. Varietally correct. Very nice.

Strawberry Rhubarb
This was a surprise. The first surprise is how much Dominique liked it. It’s a concoction of west coast rhubarb and local strawberries. They press the fruit separately but ferment the must together without settling. The finished wine has 2.75% residual sugar. It’s got a nice big nose of strawberries in white wine, with just enough tartness to make this a refreshing, nicely balanced wine. A very nice fruit wine. Remarkable for a great, fun sipper, and could make a fabulous sangria!

St. Croix
This was a deep, deep dark purple wine with a big nose and even deeper flavor. An interesting varietal choice, which is still finding it’s way from the University of Minnesota. One of the better St. Croix I have had.

Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a medium-bodied, more Burgundian-styled Cabernet Sauvignon, with a nice garnet color, popping with raspberry and plum, and a touch of smokiness. Lovely in the glass, we savored this a bit, and the wine definitely opened up once it hada chance to expand in the glass. Very nice.

This was easily, hands down, my favorite red wine at Nashoba Valley. Renaissance is their signature blend of oak aged Cabernet Franc, Lemberger and Merlot, aged in American and Eastern European Oak for 12 months. 40 % Lemberger, 40% Cabernet Franc & 20% Merlot, Renaissance is the premiere dry red wine of the future for Nashoba Valley – and it’s a great bet. With over an acre of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger planted at the winery, this says great things about what the estate wine might be capable of. Wonderful fruit up front, with hints of violets and raspberries, laced with ripe blackberry and black pepper, and some lovely plum. Nice acidity. Great tannins. Fantastic mouthfeel. If this estate matures as we hope it will, Renaissance will be among the premiere reds of the east coast...not just New England as it is now. Fantatsic!

Bolt 117 Lager
We then tried one of the beers. I let Dominique make the choice. This is an American version of the German Dortmunder Export Style lager. This beer is fermented cold and aged cold to provide a clean and crisp flavor. It is hopped with traditional “Noble” hop varieties to provide a subtle spicy hop flavor, complimenting a malty finish. It’s a bright, refreshing beer with great flavor and great finish. Definitely brought home a few bottles of this.

Northern Comfort
This is Nashoba Valley’s take on cognac. A unique blend of brandy, oak, maple and lemon. It’s a well balanced and complex liquor. I’m not a spirits expert, but many aromas swirl around in the glass - spices and floral notes rise up. A slightly sweet end. Very, very nice.

Stimulus is Nashoba’s take on single malt whiskey. This whiskey is 100 percent barley malt oak aged for a minimum of 5 years in new and used oak casks. There’s a slight hint of fruit and generous oak flavors in this big flavored whiskey. This is their very first bottling, which dates back to December 2005. It has the rich golden color and subtle smooth flavors of a fine American Whiskey.

We had a tremendous time at Nashoba Valley Winery and Distillery. It has grown from a small farm orchard winery to a complex of winery, brewery, and distillery that far out stripped what I remembered it to be from years ago. It is easily one of the biggest and better wineries in the state, that is certainly aiming higher. A great pleasure to go there. A lot of fun. A great stuff to try! One of the bigger and better wineries of New England.

I borrowed one of the photos above, of the tasting room from the outside, from Tina at Carrots’n’Cake. Check out her review of Nashoba Valley Winery here: