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Jonathan Edwards Wine Festival


About a month ago a few friends and I made our way to the Jonathan Edwards Wine Festival, which was of course at Jonathan Edwards Winery. The wine festival was so much fun!! For $20 you get a glass and a tasting ticket which was good for a variety of different wines.  At the festival there was live music, a wine-themed arts and crafts fair, and tons of great food.  We walked around for a while, saw the sights, got delicious caprese sandwiches from the food truck, had lots of wine, and finished off our day with some fresh oysters from the Behan Family Farm.  Though it was a HOT HOT day, it was lovely inside the tent.  The live music was fantastic and we had a wonderful time relaxing!

Address: 74 Chester Main Rd  North Stonington, CT 06359

Cost For Tasting: I’m not sure how expensive the tasting is, but the Wine Festival was $20, which included live music, and the tasting.  food was extra, but it was delicious, and I found it quite worth it.

Ranking:  8 –  I feel like I’d really have to go back for just a tasting to get a feel for the vineyard in a more laid back setting.  The festival was awesome, and I enjoyed the wine but I wasn’t able to get a feed for the inside of the winery.  I’d definitely like to go back again!

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New Hartford Wineries 2 of 2: Connecticut Valley Winery


The Connecticut Valley Winery was the third stop on our 3 stop wine tour a few weeks ago. The tasting station was pretty busy, and we had already done a couple earlier in the day, so we decided to just get a bottle of wine and enjoy it with our snacks.

Address: 1480 Litchfield Turnpike New Hartford, CT 06057

Cost For Tasting: $8, however we just purchased a bottle for about $14.

Ranking: 6 – wine was good, however the tasting room was small and there was limited seating outside. It also seemed that there was a large banquet area. So, it may be a nice place for a wedding reception or large party, but for a small intimate setting..ehh…

Tastings are offered on Saturday and Sunday from 12–5 pm. During Wine Trail Season (May–November), tastings are offered Thursday–Sunday from 12–5 pm. We chose one of their red wines: Black Tie Cabernet Francm which as stated on their website, is “an elegant and sophisticated red table wine, robust with a dry, silky finish”.

CT Valley Winery

winning wines

Kate

the spread

the vineyard

Beef Stew on a Snowy Winter Night


So one of my best friends came over for dinner last night, which I was pretty pumped about, but was also stressing a little bit because (as usual) I had too many things to do and not enough time to do them in.  So I opted for a crock pot meal.  I had some steaks in my freezer so I figured I’d grab some veggies and and make beef stew…and of course what goes better with a homemade soup/stew than a bread bowl.  Come on,  you know you love bread bowls, everyone loves bread bowls!  (Some people just have enough constraint not to actually eat them.  Luckily for the purposes of this recipe, I am not “some people”).  I tried out a new recipe, so I wasn’t all the way sure it was going to work, but it’s always fun to try out something new.

Here’s what you need:

  • A bunch of beef.  I used strip steaks because that’s what I had in my freezer.  I used somewhere between 1.5 – 2lbs.
  • You also need beef bouillon cubes
  • A bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • A can of diced tomatoes with onions in it
  • 2 cups of water.
  • about a teaspoon of salt, pepper, dried basil, and one bay leaf.

And that’s it!  Then there’s the best part of crock-pot-cooking:   you just literally throw everything in there and leave.  In my case, I went to work, then ran some errands, and was home right in time for dinner.  Walking up the stairwell to my apartment and smelling the delicious aroma of a homecooked dinner was amazing, especially when I realized that it was coming from MY apartment, for once!!

First add the beef to your crock pot.  Make sure you cut it into bite-sized chunks.

beef

Add in 2 cups of water.

Pour in Water

Add diced tomatoes.

Diced Tomatoes

Add the diced onions, potatoes, and seasonings (including the salt, pepper, basil, and bouillon cubes).

onions and potatoesThrow the whole bag of frozen veggies on top of everything.

frozen veggies

Let it sit on the low in the crock pot for 8 – 10 hours, or until you get your desired thickness

cooking

Enjoy it with your favorite red wine!  Liz brought over Root:1, a Cabernet Sauvignon, which I never had before, but is very tasty!

meal

This makes 6 hearty portions, which roll in at about 420 calories each containing approximately 25 grams of protein.  This nutrition information is obviously not including the wine or bread bowls, which would tack on about 1,000 calories…whoops!  This is a filling “meat & potatoes” meal!  We each had a helping and then I portioned off the rest and froze them for future dinners!  I live alone and cooking for one can be annoying, so any time I can make a meal that is easily freezable in single serving portions I’m all over!  The company, the wine, and the food made for a great night, and the best part about crock-pot-cooking is the easy clean up!  Only one cooking dish to clean and our plates!  Sweet!

Walks and Wines


This weekend has been absolutely GORGEOUS!  This is unusual for me to say in the middle of January, since it’s cold and I’m a huge wimp when it comes to anything under 50 degrees, but I was definitely able to see the bright side this weekend as I did lots of walks, hikes, and wine tastes!  Yesterday was an all-out adventure day for me and Taz and we had a fabulous time!  We decided to knock of some Bucket List tasks, and I thought I could use some alone time.  With the holidays, traveling and working a ton I don’t get too much of it.  Trust me, I’m not complaining in the least – I LOVE being around people, but sometimes it’s nice to have a day for yourself!

Mount Tom:

We started out at Mount Tom, in New Preston, CT.  This is, obviously, one of the hikes in my “50 Hikes in Connecticut” book, and I haven’t been there yet mainly because it’s about an hour and a half from where I live.  I got there, and was shocked that I was the only one there (come on people!  get off your couch and enjoy the wilderness!)!  The trails were covered in snow and there wasn’t great markings on the trees, so after taking one trail to a dead ends, I decided to roll the dice and follow the path that had footsteps on it in the snow, hoping that it would lead to the famous tower at the top of the mountain.  Though this hike was very short (just over a mile long) I thought it was great because  of the 35 ft tower at the top that is open for people to climb and see amazing views of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York!  As can you can (kind of ) see from my picture below, the wooden steps inside the tower are narrow and extremely steep.  Taz, who was not on a leash hung out at the bottom while I climbed to the top to snap a few pics, but got impatient quickly and climbed his way to the top as well…big mistake.  Once he got to the top, he was terrified to try to go back down, and I can’t really say I blame him.  I’m afraid of heights and wasn’t crazy about the idea myself.  The top 4 steps are exposed and in addition to being very steep, they were also covered with about an inch of packed down snow and ice.  After about 15 minutes of a pep talk, he finally agreed to carefully make his way down the steps.  He was very brave.  In addition to the actual hike, there is also a pond on the premise, Mt Tom Pond, where there was an ice fishing derby going on!  I’m not an avid ice fisher or anything, but I have been ice fishing a couple times with my bestie Stef and her crew in VT and I got excited seeing this derby because I know just how fun ice fishing can be!

Mount Tom Tower, and Me and Taz at the top with the view!

Mount Tom Tower, and Me and Taz at the top with the view!

 

see how steep the stairs are?  And also Taz was thirsty after the hike so indulged in some snowballs!

see how steep the stairs are? And also Taz was thirsty after the hike so indulged in some snowballs!

Hopkins Vineyard Winery:

From Mount Tom, our next stop was Hopkins Vineyard Winery.  This was a predetermined stop because both this winery and Mount Tom are close to each other, but not near anything else…literally.  I figured, while I’m out in the boonies I mineaswell kill two birds with one stone, right?

Address:  25 Hopkins Road  Warren, CT 06777 (860) 868-7954

Cost for a tasting:  $7.50 for a regular tasting of 7 wines (6 are already chosen, and you get to choose you’re 7th), then for an additional $2.50, you can sample their “ice wine”. (this also includes their signature glass).

Ranking:  8 (in addition to the tasting room, there is also outdoor seating and an “wine bar” upstairs from the vineyard!  Awesome!

I really enjoyed this vineyard.  The inside is very nice, and the staff was extremely nice and knowledgable.  Most of their wines are “Estate Bottled” which means that the grapes are grown on the premise and the entire wine making process happens there!  The one wine that I loved was “Peach Wine”.  The wine itself was made from fermented peaches, whereas most wines are made from grapes.  I thought this was really interesting…and even more delicious!  And, at $13.50, I thought it was only right to buy a bottle for a later date!  As far as my tasting, of course I had upgraded to the “ice wine”.  I’ve never had it before, and since this specific ice wine has won multiple international medals, including the “Finger Lakes International Wine Competition” (the Finger Lakes area has a HUGE wine country, so this is a big deal), I thought I better cover my bases and try it.  My wine connoisseur also had me try a sip of their “Night Owl Dessert Wine”.  It was probably because he was bored because no one else was there, but hey, I’ll take it.  While we were talking, he mentioned to me the Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail.  Its similar to the Wine Passport Program, but there is only 6 vineyards on it and it has to be completed between December 1 – April 1.  Cool, I’m sold on the idea!  After the tasting, Taz and I took a nice long walk around the vineyard.  It was a gorgeous day, and the vineyard was beautiful, so we walked around their 38 acres for about and hour and took in the fresh air and magnificent views.

Hopkinds Vinyard2

Hopkinds Vinyard1

Haight-Brown Vineyard:

After Hopkins, we were on our way home, when I saw a blue “CT Wine Trail” sign.  I thought to myself…I would be stupid NOT to stop.  Afterall, it was only about 3:30PM and I had no immediate plans to tend to!  So I followed the sign, not knowing where it would take me, and before I knew it I landed at Haight-Brown Vineyard.

Address:  29 Chestnut Hill Rd  Litchfield, CT 06759 (860) 567-4045

Cost for a tasting:  $9, which includes 9 wines and a signature glass.

Ranking:  6.5 (this vineyard was overly crowded and does not allow outside food to come in.)

I walked into the vineyard and was initally turned off.  To be honest, I almost walked right back out.  It was very pretty insides, but it was so packed you couldn’t even more. In fact, I had to put my name on the waiting list!!  Since I was alone, they were able to squeeze me in at the counter pretty quickly, but sheesh!  Once the tasting started, my wine connoisseur was telling me about the wines and about the vineyard itself.  Haight-Brown, founded in 1976 is actually the first vineyard/winery in Connecticut, and the ONLY one that has stools to sit on while you do the tasting.  The reason for this is that they got grandfathered in with the stools.  Other wineries cannot have them because it changes the winery from a “wine tasting” to a “bar”…details, details.  As I started observing my surroundings, I noticed something that caught my eye, the “Honey Nut Apple” wine.  Over the summer one of my best friends went to the vineyard and brought this bottle home and we drank it together as a regular white wine, where it really should be drank in small quantities as a dessert wine…whoops! haha.  I enjoyed the wine here, but more than that I enjoyed the people I met!  Carol and David, who found this winery the same way I did, were from New York and were probably in their late 50’s.  They were super nice and we chatted for about an hour, until I was ready to go.    Again after this vineyard, Taz and I took a walk around their beautiful property (which included plenty of outdoor seating for the warmer wether, and enjoyed the last bit of daylight before our trek home.

Haight Brown Vineyard

I guess all in all you can say it was a successful day!  Not only did I cross THREE items off my bucket list, but I also spent a beautiful day outside enjoying the nice weather, with my dog, and got to try some amazing wine while I was at it!    I’m pretty sure Taz had a great time too, minus the heart attack at the top of the Mount Tom Tower, because when I was ready to leave my parent’s house last night, he was sitting outside in the dark cold next to my car hoping I’d bring him home with me! 🙂

 

 

Sunday Winery


Yesterday  my mom, my sister and I went outlet shopping and since we were already in Clinton I thought it would be a great idea to cross off the vineyard in Clinton since it’s on my bucket list and is literally about a stone throw away from the Clinton Crossing Outlets.  So – down to the reason of this post:  Charmard Vineyards.

Address:  115 Cow Hill Road  Clinton, CT 06413 (860) 664-0299

Cost for a tasting:  $15 for a 6 wine tasting (includes a white wine glass) $25 for a 8 glass tasting (includes a red wine glass)

Ranking:  2 (NOTE:  this is my personal ranking, so please feel free to make your own personal judgement)

OK, so here’s the deal:  usually when you go to a vineyard, it’s $5-7 per tasting and you make an afternoon of it.  You do the tasting with a few friends, buy a bottle of wine, and then post up at a table where you can eat all the munchables you brought with, sit, relax and chit chat.  This winery, however, is different.  Though a few years ago they allowed you to bring in outside food, they no longer do.  Now if you’d like to eat you have to purchase food from the vineyard itself.  Since this tasting was so expensive you’d think that the wine would be spectacular.  It wasn’t horrible, however there wasn’t any that I was willing to pay $22 – $30 a bottle for.  The vineyard itself is very pretty, but since it’s winter we only got to enjoy the inside, not the beautiful outdoor property.  The inside was cozy with exposed wood, high top tables, a fireplace and cool wall architecture to hold the wine bottles.  It would have been a bit nicer if the fire place was actually lit, but even without the inside had a nice cozy feel.  Overall, I’m glad that we went (heck, it’s wine, I’m always glad that we went!), however, I’m also glad that we did it the way we did:  On the way home from shopping, rather than making a whole hour trip down there for some very expensive mediocre wine.

Check out our pics from the day!

Vineyard truck at the entrance

Vineyard truck at the entrance

Me and Kate in the vineyard.  (this would be much nicer if it was 40 degrees warmer)

Me and Kate in the vineyard. (this would be much nicer if it was 40 degrees warmer)

Inside architecture / design.  very cool

Inside architecture / design. very cool

A New Way To Enjoy Winter: Wallingford Wineries


Though I technically made this trip at the end of December, since it was within 2 weeks of January 1, I’m going to count this as a winery on my 2013 Bucket List!  Kate and I decided to spend our Sunday down in Wallingford, CT at the two wineries there.  It was an amazing day!  Since it was a very cold and rainy day there wasn’t much else to do anyways except complain about how cold and rainy it was, so it was really the perfect way to spend out sunday.  We went to two vineyards:  Gouveia and Paradise HillsEach of them had their own separate strengths and weaknesses, but both were really fun!  Here’s my breakdown:

Paradise Hills

Location:  15 Wind Swept Hill Road  Wallingford, CT 06492, 203-284-0123

Cost of Tasting:  $5 (this includes 5 pre-seleceted wines only)

Hours: hours change, but the winter hours are Thurs 11-8, Fri 11-9, Sat 11-8, Sun 11-6

Rating:  5.5

This was the first stop on our Sunday wine tour.  This was actually my first time ever going to this specific vineyard and upon arrival I was pleased!  You walk in, and the atmosphere is incredible.  That is really the only reason I gave them a 5.5.  It was very small, which was nice.  On one side there was a couple of large tables, and on the other was a few small tables surrounding a cozy wood-burning stove.  The tasting itself was very informative!  Rich Ruggierio, one of the family members at this family owned and operated vineyard was our wine connoisseur and besides being incredible nice, he was also extremely knowledgeable.   We tried 5 wines, 3 whites and 2 reds.  Though none of the wines really stuck out to us as amazing, but we ended up getting a bottle of the Washington Trail White Wine anyways and having a glass there while we chatted by the fire.  Since this vineyard is so small, I assume the only reason they have such long winter hours is because they wanted to hold the same hours as Gouveia, which is only about a mile away.  It was really fun, but we were ready to get out of there and move on to Gouveia, where we knew the wine would be delicious.

Nothing like some cold wine, and a hot fire!!

Nothing like some cold wine, and a hot fire!!

Gouveia

Location:  1339 Whirlwind Hill Road  Wallingford, CT 06492, 203-265-5526

Cost of Tasting:  $8 (this includes 4 pre-seleceted wines and one of your own choice.  It also includes an etched keepsake glass to bring home with you.)

Hours: YEAR ROUND!  Thurs 11-8, Fri 11-9, Sat 11-8, Sun 11-6.

Rating:  7.5

This vineyard is one that people typically enjoy because it’s set atop a huge hill and gives gorgeous views.  I have been there twice and the first time I was in LOVE, but that was probably because it was in the middle of summer and I could sit outside and watch the sun set over the horizon.  Today, however, since its late December, very cold, not to mention raining, was different.  We were cooped up inside.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the inside of Gouveia is absolutely gorgeous.  There is 30 foot ceilings, a couple of fire places, exposed wood interior, tons of tables, and even some cute games on top of wine barrels.  But, I felt that the atmosphere was almost too loud.  Because its so big inside, and the tables are so long, many people use it almost as a party spot.  To me, wine tasting is a bit more intimate and I personally prefer to go with a small group of people so that we can sit and chat after our tasting.  Gouveia had so much going on that it was very loud inside.  I did, however, LOVE that there was games!  I love games and after about a half hour of begging I was finally able to get my sister to join in on a game of checkers…After I won and she didn’t even jump one of my men, I realized why she didn’t want to play! haha.

Our awesome checker board next to one of the fire places!

Our awesome checker board next to one of the fire places!

The wine at this vineyard was really good.  We ended up buying a bottle of the Cayuga White, pic below, and had a glass there before heading home for our private “pizza party” haha.

This bottle was totally worth the $20!  We had a glass at the vineyard, and then some more later with dinner! YUM!

This bottle was totally worth the $20! We had a glass at the vineyard, and then some more later with dinner! YUM!

These vineyards are literally 1 mile and 3 streets from each other, so if you aren’t from the immediate area, I definitely recommend knocking them both out in one shot if you’re trying to fill out your passport!  Both vineyards were fun, and now I can honestly say that I have found something that I truly like to do in the summer!  Yay!

Make Your Own Labels for Home Brews or Store Bought Beverages!!


This post is SOOOO late, but you know what the say, “better late than never”! Over a year ago one of my best friends got engaged, and about a year later this resulted in an amahhhzing batchelorette party, and eventually an absolutely goegeous wedding. Today I want to talk about something I did for the batchelorette party that was a great hits. I got each guest’s favorite wine, and got personalized labels made that were within the theme of the wedding. It was super easy and the girls loved it. Since the holiday season is coming on quick I wanted to share with you this easy process. Seriously, it’s so simple, and it is a great gift idea for holiday gifts for co-workers or friends or even a great thing to bring to holiday parties!

So, where to start….

Step 1: Visit The Studio Pub and choose the label of your choice and go buck wild personalizing it. The Studio Pub is an amahhhzing website that allows regular folks like you and me create customized labels for store bought beer snd soda bottles, wine bottles, and especially home brewed beers! I think those doing the home brews (or even homemade wine) can definitely agree that having some personal labels is the way to go!!
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When you’re on The Studio Pub, remember that there are different size labels. Some are for beer bottles, others are for wine. I ended up choosing a nautically themed wine label because that was the basic theme of the wedding, and I knew the bride would appreciate the anchors!

Step 2: Purchase your beverage of choice. Whether its beer, bottled soda, wine or champagne, whatever you choose will taste even better with your awesome personalized labels. Word from the wise (aka me), if you’re planning on purchasing wine, make sure you ask the package store about a discount. Most local package stores will offer a discount if you purchase a case or more, even if you are choosing all different wines! This is a lesser known fact, and often times not advertised or offered if you, as the customer, don’t ask, but in my personal experience, I’ve never been turned down when I’ve asked for this special treatment.

Step 3: Make sure you have the means to remove the labels off each of the bottles you purchased. **Make sure that you add a post-it or piece of tape to each bottle before removing the label because merlot and cabernet look exactly the same once there are no distinguisting labels…trust me.

I recommend getting goof off or goo gone. Nail polish can also be useful and a butter knife can help with some of the stubborn labels. I’ve found that each bottle can be different. Some labels peel right off, and others have to soak in warm water and goo gone before there is any chance of getting them off. The nail polish remover helps with any residual stickiness that is left on the bottle after the label is history.

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Step 4: Wash and dry each of the bottles. You want to make sure to get each bottle lean and dry before adding on the new label. you don’t need to wash them with anything special, just rince with water.

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Step 5: place the labels onto the bottle. From personal experience I recommend that you do not remove the label completely from the backing before placing it on the bottle. A best practice would be to peel just one side, left or right, and stick it to the bottle and then roll the rest of the label on while simultaneously peeling off the backing. This will be the best way to make sure that you don’t end up with any bubbles.

Step 6: Gift away! all your family and friends will certainly be impressed with your craftiness and to make things even better, in my case at least, you can enjoy some delicious wine! Hooray!

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Remember to contact Ben Quinn at ben@thestudiopub.com or checkout the website HERE!!

Seneca Harbor Wine Center, Another Wakings Glen Gem


On our way out of NY a few weekends ago, we walked around the down town area.  As we were walking I saw the Seneca Harbor Wine Center.  I thought “hey I’ll go in and grab a bottle of wine from the Finger Lakes Region since I wasn’t able to do any tasting this weekend.

So I go inside and walk around looking for the perfect bottle to bring home as a souvenir.  I came across this one bottle called “Chocolate Lab”.  Instantly I was drawn to that because A). I’m a HUGE dog lover and the puppy on the label was adorable, and B). My parents have 2 labs, yellow labs, but labs none the less.  It wasn’t two seconds after I saw that bottle that I noticed they had a sign up that said “Tastings all Day”.  So I asked the woman how much the tastings were .  “Free”.  Free?!?  Are you kidding me?  I’ve been to probably a dozen wine tastings in my life and all of them cost something…most were only $5 or $7, but they cost something for the 3-5 wines you were sampling.  So, when this woman said the tasting was free, I figured it was less like a traditional wine tasting where they tell you about the wine and swish it all around etc etc, and more like when you’re at the deli and the deli clerk gives you a slice of cheese, so I tell her I’d like to try the Chocolate Lab.  She replies with “Ok, would you just like to try the Chocolate Lab or would you like a full tasting?”  Ummm does a bear shit in the woods, OF COURSE I’d love the full FREE tasting!

It was at this point that Ben made his way inside, I thought maybe I could sneak this one under the radar (since he doesn’t drink wine and would be bored while this whole hoopla is going on) but no such luck.  Thankfully though, he was a good sport and even partook in part of the tasting with me.  Yes, only part.  Why?  well one of us had to drive home…for the full tasting, they gave us 14 different wines!  I couldn’t believe it!  I mean that was even a better deal than shopping at Kohls!

After all was said and done we ended up purchasing not one, but three bottles of wine!  Trust me, we didn’t want to get so many, but they were all so good it was honestly hard to limit it at that!  The three we got were :

-Chocolate Lab
-Peach Chardonnay
-Blackberry Merlot

I’m not usually a Chardonnay drinker, normally it makes me feel like smacking my lips like that little blonde girl that used to be in the grape juice commercials, but this one is quite delightful!  We also go the Chocolate Lab to mix with the Blackberry Merlot!

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