Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wine Country Connecticut: Saltwater Farm Vineyard

The Nutmeg State’s wine industry - in the modern era - started with the passage of the Connecticut Winery Act in 1978. Wine goes back a lot further than that, of course.  The early colonists loved wine, and there were plenty of native grapes around, but they weren’t very good at growing wine grapes. They relied mainly on European imports. In the 19th century, some progress was made in the area of viticulture, but production remained rather small until more than a hundred years later.

There are two American Viticultural Areas in the state, which are home to about three dozen vineyards and wineries. There’s the Western Connecticut Highlands AVA in the west and the Southeastern New England AVA toward the eastern part of the state, which is where you will find Saltwater Farm Vineyard.

Saltwater Farm is in the sleepy seaside town of Stonington, and its owners look to preserve the history of their property as "coastal Connecticut farmland and a WWII-era private airport." It is a beautiful property that overlooks the tidal salt marshes of Wequetequock Cove and traces its agrarian roots back more than 350 years to the founding of Stonington in the mid-1600s, according to the winery.

Rhode Island native Michael M. Connery bought the property in 2001 and refurbished the old hangar into a striking winery facility. The vineyard is split by a grassy landing strip and the estate is a part of the Coastal Wine Trail. The property is under vines on 15 of its 100 acres and it offers some nice vistas of Long Island Sound

Winemaker Gilles Martin is a Frenchman who lives and works in Long Island, New York. He is also the winemaker at several vineyards on the island’s North Fork

They have a lot of weddings at Saltwater Farm, like many wineries, but Bride’s Magazine voted Saltwater Farm as one of the most romantic wedding venues in the U.S. The winery should be open for the season by now.  If you will be in the area this summer, check out the Connecticut Wine Festival in July.

2013 Gold Arc Chardonnay

The wine has a lovely golden color, showing some age and oak. The nose is somewhat muted, but fascinating, nonetheless. An earthy tone drapes over some Meyer lemon, oak spice and a beautiful caramel note.  The palate is great, not too oaky - just enough - and a very clean and full mouth. The citrus note advances first, followed by that incredible earth with a creme brulee finish. And the acidity is zippy, too. I could hardly ask for more from a Chardonnay than what is delivered here.

2013 Merlot

It’s a fairly dark wine, with a nose showing cherry, mocha, just a hint of oak, a slight trace of earthy salinity and a smoky element that often makes its way out of a glass of Merlot. It's not an extremely forceful nose, but there’s quite a lot going on in it. Some of that has to do with 16 months of oak aging. The taste of this 100% Merlot is what I expect from a cool climate red wine, restrained and food-friendly, with a nice acidity and a flavor that leans more towards tart than ripe, although it isn't far from the midpoint of that scale. It's a great wine to have with food, that's for sure. Coffee notes are a great find on the finish.