Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Land of Nod

For our last stop of the season on the Connecticut Wine Trail, we visited a young winery in Canaan, Conn., called Land of Nod. There's no doubt it's quite modest compared to some of the state's more accomplished wineries, but suprising things can sometimes come from simple, unpretentious sources. Sometimes, but not often.

The Facilities
Just four years old, Land of Nod resembles a garage operation more than a full-fledged winery. Of course, garage wineries in some parts of the world are regarded with awe for the outstanding, high-quality wines they produce in an unassuming, no frills environment. That is not the case here.

Don't get me wrong. Land of Nod has done a nice job decorating with handcrafted vines and antique phonographs, for example, but we're still talking about your basic garage with little in the way of tasting room conveniences to create a nice ambience that helps make the experience fun. The tasting bar is small, and there are no tables at which to sit and sip inside -- there are a few outside. I give the facilities a 3 out of 5 score.

The Staff
Our pourer was the mom of the winemaker. Affable and knowledgable, she was a very pleasant host who was able and ready to answer many of our questions. Only in a couple of instances was she stumped. And, she had a knack for making you feel really welcome.

Overall, we had an enjoyable conversation with our pourer, if not a truly illuminating one. I give the staff a 4 out of 5 score.

The Wines
The lineup at Land of Nod is limited, and the wines demonstrate some of the awkwardness that comes from youth and inexperience. Evaluating the winery's potential was made more difficult for us by the fact that their white wines are sold-out for the season. So, we tasted only reds, which are the most challenging wines for Connecticut wineries to make.

2005 Pinot Noir -- I was initially tickled by the red cherry and licorice nose, but a heavy dose of residual sweetness made this a disappointment. This wine lacked balance, making it a poor food wine, in my opinion. I wondered how they are able to do pinot noir at all in the Northwest part of the state, until I learned that they are able, as a young winery, to purchase up to 75 percent of their grapes from somewhere else.

2004 Cabernet Franc -- I thought this wine was truer as a varietal, though it was a bit thin and underripe. It had a slight raspberry nose and a bit of spice, but little body.

Raspberry Dessert Wine -- Made entirely from flash-frozen raspberry fruit, this was a simple sticky that could be nice over ice cream but was a little cloying as an after-dinner drink.

The wines in general lacked the sophistication and the range to compare favorably with many of the state's more accomplished wineries. As a young winery, they have a chance to grow and mature, but a tasting experience here presently leaves a little to be desired. I give the wines a 4 out of 10 score.

A visit to Land of Nod can be a pleasant outing for anyone in the area anxious to get a taste of what local farms can do. But more seasoned winetasters will probably find more to offer elsewhere. Land of Nod's overall score comes to 11 out of 20.

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.


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