Saturday, April 13, 2019

Connecticut is The New North Fork

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There are five wineries in the North Fork region that are not technically on the North Fork, But they share the same sound, the same general geographic location, and are only minutes away. They were the wineries in and near Stonington, CT. And if your looking for a great day drive, you must go!

The Cross Sound Ferry operates out of Orient Point, Long Island. It takes approximately $60-70 for a car and passenger and one hour to get you to New London, Connecticut. Here, you will discover the newest beneficiaries of the micro-climates of Long Island Sound. Here, you will find the New North Fork.

Here you will drive the craggy, rock wall laden roads of back country Connecticut. Old fashion New England charm with a twist - fantastic wine!

Wineries like Salt Water Farm, Jonathan Edwards, Stonington Vineyards and just a little further out Preston Ridge Vineyards and then Sharpe Hill Vineyards in Connecticut are making sensational wines, and are an easy day trip for Long Islanders looking for a new experience or just a lovely and delicious day trip. The first three are an easy single day trip from the island to Connecticut and back. If you're going for the weekend, then you can add the other two.

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The Orient Point ferry will leave you on the shores of New London, a stone's throw from Stonington Connecticut! My recommendation is to start with Saltwater Farm Vineyards.

Saltwater Farm is the brainchild of Michael and Merrily Connor. They bought an old airstrip right by the water side and absolutely transformed the place. The air strip was ripped out and they planted fabulous vinifera along the water. They aren't just near the sound, they are ON the sound! Then they turned the old air hanger into a state of the art winery and wedding facility!

They make fantastic estate Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and a lovely rose'! They also make a lovely Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Connecticut grapes!

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Next should be Jonathan Edwards Edwards Winery. Edwards is bi-coastal, making wines in California as well as in Connecticut. The tasting room is gorgeous, and reeks of refreshed old world charm. The tasting room is friendly, and there you can taste both his California wines as well as his Connecticut estate wines. The Connecticut estate wines are fantastic! Terrific Cabernet Franc, Gewuztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris are absolutely outstanding!

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Edwards and his family bought an old vineyard in 2000, rehabbed the vineyards, and increased the size and scope of their plantings, and totally reinvented the place. He's been making terrific wine ever since.

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(photo courtesy of Trip Advisor)
Stonington Vineyards would be next!

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The vineyards were established in 1987 by newly wed couple Nick Smith (a long time international banker) and his wife Happy, but a killer frost thwarted their endeavors. On July 4th, 1987, Mike McAndrew came on board as winemaker. The wines were nice, and drinkable. Always a pleasant stop.

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But better things were on the horizon. The winery proved to be a breeding grown of wonderful wine, and some serious wine was being made in the region. Around 2002 or 2003 the winery made one of it's best decisions when it hired Linda Mason as the vineyard manager. She reports to Mike, but her presence was felt, and better yet tasted, within two or three years time. It was a commitment Stonington needed to make to keep pace in the improving Connecticut wine world. And it paid off handsomely!

In the last five or six years the Smiths updated the 29 year old tasting room, and upgraded their labels as well as make outstanding wine. The Seaport White is their popular summer sipper, but their Gewurztraminer, Sheer Chardonnay, Chardonnay, Rieslings, and Cabernet Franc, all made from Connecticut fruit, are terrific! A must stop.

So, if you're adventurous and staying over night, then you can make a quick visit to the other two wineries. First is Preston Ridge Vineyards.

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The winery began in 2008 when two families came together. After a great deal of time spent planning, digging, planting and picking, they finally opened the doors in October of 2012.

Preston Ridge is situated on 60 bucolic acres just 15 miles from the Long Island Sound, and located where the peak of a ridge provides breathtaking views of the Connecticut countryside for over 20 miles. Pretty spectacular stuff.

Preston Ridge makes lovely estate Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and Rose'! The Riesling sells out almost instantly.

The last is a bit of an outlier, but well worth it - little Sharpe Hill Vineyards. 25-year veteran winemaker, Howard Bursten, makes some absolutely incredible wines. While Howard has won more than 450 awards, he's also created one of the most iconic wines in New England (Ballet of Angels) and has the undying respect of his peers from throughout New England and New York.

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Sharpe HIll Vineyard is located in Connecticut's Quiet Corner... the little town of Pomfret - just minutes from scenic Route 169 and from the Putnam Antiques District. This is old fashioned New England. The grounds contain vineyards, tasting room, and fine dining.

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Of course, you must try Ballet of Angels, because if you've ever shopped in New England wine shops, you've seen the label everywhere. It is possibly the most widely distributed single wine in all of New England. But more than this wine, you must try the Reserve Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Dry Summer Rose; and their estate St. Croix. Fantastic stuff! 

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