Saturday, July 01, 2006

Connecticut Valley Winery

If Northwest Connecticut is home to the state's oldest winery, it is also home to one of the newest, the Connecticut Valley Winery. Opening its doors in October 2005, the winery is still going through some growing pains. But judging by the enthusiasm of the Ferraro family, who own and operate CT Valley, there's reason to be optimistic about the future.

At first glance, CT Valley does not look like a particulary inviting winetasting environment. The tasting room is located in the winery itself, which looks more or less like an industrial-size, gray barn with dormers. But they actually did a nice job inside creating a Mediterranean style tasting room with a fireplace and a couple of tables, at which you can leisurely enjoy a glass of wine.

Though located on a busy road, you're in a country setting out here. While we stood at the wine bar sampling wines, we could see a deer feeding near the edge of a grassy field behind the buillding. It was quaint, but deer are not necesarily a good thing around vineyards full of ripe grapes. I give the overall ambience a score of 3 out of 5.

Our pourer was Judy Ferraro, wife of the winemaker and co-owner. Judy is a gregarious host who enjoys talking about the wines. And, since the winery is still fairly new, she gave us great insight into what it's like to open a winery -- a "retirement" project for Judy and her husband, Anthony.

First, there's securing the approval of local officials. Difficulties in another nearby town led the Ferraros to choose New Hartford, in the end, as the home of their new winery. Then, there's the state approvals required for just about everything, including the labels for some new varietals that are still waiting to get out of the starting gate. And, there's the ever-present difficulties of growing grapes in our humid weather.

All of this was conveyed philosophically, with enough conviviality to keep the winetasting experience upbeat. Definitely good ambience. Judy was stumped by a couple of questions, but not a big deal. I give the staff 4 out 5.

The Wines
Unfortunately, as a relatively new winery, CT Valley currently is showing only three wines -- $2 to taste all three. Other varietals are waiting in the wings and are expected to debut in the near future, so I felt pained having to judge the wines overall by the three before us.

The first wine we tasted was a chardonel, a hybrid grape that Judy described as something between a chardonnay and a seyval. I don't know exactly what to expect from seyval, but
I definitely got some spicy apple flavors and a touch of oak (oak chips are used in aging). Lighter in style than most chards, this nonetheless was an enjoyable wine.

Next was a wine they have chosen to call chianti. If you think there's sangiovese growing in them thar hills, forget it. Judy said they call the wine chianti because the word means blend. I had not heard that before, so I looked it up. While chianti does principally refer to dry red table wines from the Chianti area of Tuscany, turns out it does mean also a blended wine.

But this particular blend of grapes such as fauche and frontenac, bolstered with some California fruit, misses the mark. It's a bit thin and unsophisticated, lacking in any kind of complexity. I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm for it.

Same goes for the final wine, called ruby lite. There just isn't enough body in the red grapes to justify blending them with white wine grapes. It is essentially a blend of the first two wines and it falls victim to the shortcomings of the chianti. Final review on the wines, 5 out of 10. However, I definitely would like to come back in a year and see what else they have up their sleeves.

Final score for this winery is 12 0ut of 20. I probably would not recommend these wines to anybody at the moment (maybe the chardonel), but I think it definitely warrants investigation again down the road. They have designed a nice tasting facility, and their passion for wine is evident. Hopefully, all that's missing is more experience and a dry harvest.

NOTE: While most reviews tend to look only at the wines, I believe visiting wineries is as much about an "experience" as it is about the quality of wines. Wineries probably get more tourists than wine geeks for visitors, and I think they're looking for a combination of comfortable, wine-focused facilities, knowledgable and passionate staff, and enjoyable wines. So, I'm assigning scores to each winery on a 20-point scale. 5 potential points for enjoyable, mood-enhancing ambience; 5 for knowledgable, enthusiastic staff; and 10 for quality wines. The scores are purely a result of my personal judgment; I have no relationship to any of the wineries.


Anonymous Mark Fisher said...

JD: One of your fellow bloggers, Jeff at Good Grape, suggested I contact you about writing a one-time guest column for Wine Sediments ( Jeff and I write for the page regularly, as do four other bloggers (Lenn at Lenndevours, Tom from Fermentation, Jamie from the Wine Chicks and Andrew from Spittoon), and I serve as editor. Send me an email at and I can tell you more about it ... Thanks!

Mark Fisher

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Connecticut Valley Winery has some of the best wines I have ever tasted! I dont know where you have been, but Ct Valley Winery produces 11 wines. 2 of there wines are sparkling wines (might I add the only sparkling wines made in Ct). They have won many awards including The Grand Harvest Awards which is a worldwide competition, and several at the big E. They also make the best peach and rasperry wine in the world, hands down. You should revisit the winery and see whats really going on!!!!!!!

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, Connecticut Valley Winery makes the best tasting wines in Connecticut. Owner Anthony Ferraro and his winemaking son Jason Ferraro formulate untouchable blends!!!

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