Nappa Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chianti - these are the places that come to mind when one thinks "winery." When I say "winery", odds are your first thought will *not* be ... Wallingford, Connecticut. And I can't say I blame you ... Connecticut wines aren't exactly well known. And yet, there's actually such a thing as the Connecticut Wine Trail, which includes nineteen different vineyards. Who knew?!
When my sister in law suggested a Diva family field trip to Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford recently, I was skeptical to say the least. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not exactly an oenophile. When it comes to wine my tastes are my own - I like what I like and its a fairly narrow range. Italian wines are generally my favorite, I enjoy some French and, honestly, very few Americans. Much like Papa Diva, I find American Chardonnay to be overly-oaked and entirely intolerable. I have yet to find an American Chardonnay, California or otherwise, that is acceptable. To say that I approached our trip to Gouveia with some apprehension would not be an understatement. While I was looking forward to the experience, I was pretty sure the wine would be forgettable.
Happily, I was wrong! Both the wine and the vineyard are worth remembering ... and recommending! Located on 140 acres of picturesque farmland in Southern, Connecticut, Gouveia Vineyard is owned and operated by Joe and Lucy Gouveia who bought the property in 1999, seeking to bring a touch of old world Portugal to this lovely little corner of New England. Joe's grandfather was a vintner in Portugal and his dream of carrying on his family's tradition has been realized in this lovely operation. They completed their first harvest in 2003 and opened the winery to the public in 2004.
Due to their increasing popularity, they have recently expanded their tasting facilities and I must say they are magnificent. You enter the space through the beautiful stone building pictured above, and are immediately charmed by the warm and cozy atmosphere. The space is anchored by a gorgeous, double-sided stone fireplace and the anterior room is truly spectacular. With its high ceilings and wall to wall windows - that afford astounding views of the surrounding farms and hills - this is the perfect setting in which to enjoy the company of one's friends and family and some really good wine.
We quickly commanded a large table by one of the windows and then bellied up to the tasting bar to see what this Connecticut wine was all about. For a mere five dollars, you can taste five wines and take home a souvenir glass. On offer for tasting that day were the following:
Seyval Blanc - "A crisp white with a hint of fruit." ~ We detected notes of apple and pear, with a slight oily finish. A pleasant drinking wine, excellent for pairing with fruit and cheese.
Chardonnay Oak - "A traditional varietal, aged 8 months in American oak barrels." ~ My least favorite by far. While I appreciated its flinty notes, this Chardonnay tasted too strongly of oak for me ... and for most of the Diva family as well. My bro said it had "an old drawer finish." Ick.
Whirlwind Rose - "A semi-sweet, crisp blend of both vinifera and hybrid grapes. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay." ~ I enjoyed this Rose. It has a light body and, contrary to the vineyard's description, I found it to be more dry than sweet ... which is a good thing. Its not as bold as the French and Spanish Rose that I prefer, but it was very drinkable. My second favorite of the day.
Stone House Red - "A careful blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon." ~ This was by far my favorite of Gouveia's wines. It was a bit chewy and pleasantly dry, with notes of black cherry on the finish and a bit of leather in the nose. In short, I loved this wine. I'm not sure its bold enough to serve with a strongly flavored dish, but it was a perfect match for the fruit and cheese we'd brought along for the tasting. We liked it enough that we bought a bottle to drink while at the winery and another to take home with us. Delicious!
Merlot - "A deep purple colored wine with complex aromas and a touch of spiciness and blackberry." ~ Hmm, I'm not sure about that description. I didn't find it to be as complex as their description suggests, but then again I'm not a huge fan of Merlot. I will say this wine was dry ... very dry, like drinking suede ... if you can imagine that. I did appreciate its peppery notes, but in general I found it a bit underwhelming.
Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed three out of the five wines and would happily drink all three of them again. More than that, I would gleefully visit the vineyard again and plan to do so often. The entire experience was delightful. Clearly, it is a popular destination because both of the large rooms were completely full by the time we left. They have no kitchen at the winery, so patrons are encouraged to bring their own food and most of the visitors brought quite a spread. One of the tables near us had literally everything from soup to nuts ... seriously, they'd brought a terrine of soup! What fun!
My advice for the day: if you're anywhere near Wallingford, CT, round up your nearest and dearest, pack-up a wonderful picnic, and spend an afternoon at Gouveia Vineyards. The wine is delicious, and reasonably priced, and the location is so magical and stunning you won't ever want to leave. What a terrific find this was - and who knew it was right in our own backyard?! Thanks for tipping us off, K, I loved it!