Friday, August 16, 2013

Local Wine

As one of our vacation-week adventures, Seth and I decided to visit two local wineries today.

Our first stop was Black Birch in Southampton, about a forty minute drive from Amherst.

The tasting room and store was in a cute little building. There was also a lovely area in the fields outback where you could sit in a chair, relax with a glass of wine, and enjoy a view of the grapes they have planted all around.

We ended up getting to do the tasting with one of the men who actually makes the wine. He attended college in California specifically to learn how to make wine. He and his three other business partners opened Black Birch two years ago on the farm that a couple of the co-owners own.

The winery has been experimenting with growing their own grapes and is having some good luck. In the meantime, they are sourcing their grapes from local regions: Massachusetts, Southern Connecticut, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.

We got to try a half dozen wines at the tasting, four whites and two reds.

Vidal Blanc

Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon

Here's a picture of the menu with descriptions. They don't list their available wines on their website, so this is the only way I can share the information with you. 

Overall the wines were fairly on the drier side, which I definitely enjoy. The Riesling and Vidal Blanc were my personal favorites. The Cabernet Sauvignon had just been bottled and wasn't even settled enough for resale, but the winery owner gave us a taste anyway. It was quite good. 

I had never had Traminette or Cabernet Franc before. The Traminette was a bit spicy for my taste for a white. The Cabernet Franc was extremely dry, but very interesting. The winery owners had blended 80% Cabernet Franc with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon to give this wine a slightly less dry flavor and add a hint of fruit. I think that this wine would definitely be an acquired taste; I could imagine really enjoying a wine this full bodied in the winter. 

After the tasting, we were able to go down to below the tasting room where they store the wine. You can see they have wine in both stainless and oak.

I picked up a bottle of the Riesling before we headed out to our next stop. I also took note that in addition to selling their wine on location at the farm, you can get it at Provisions in downtown Northampton. I might be able to stop by and pick up a bottle after work.

Our next stop was Mineral Hills Winery at Godard's Farm in nearby Florence, about a five minute drive away. When we arrived, it was clear that Mineral Hills is a slightly larger operation. They had a farm store that stocked not just wine but other also honey and some seasonal produce, mainly apples and blueberries.

I had actually been able to get a bottle of Mineral Hills wine before at Atkins. I had tried the Frontenac, a full bodied red wine and found it very nice.

Mineral Hills offered an extensive tasting menu of around a dozen wines, including two fruit wines and a mead. Seth and I tried the following.

Gold Cap Chardonnay
Seyval Blanc
Noho Blush
Cayuga White
May Wine
Apple Wine
Mead (Honey Wine)

Cabernet Sauvignon
Wicked Blue

Most of the grapes were again sourced locally, though the Chardonnay was created with grapes from California. The whites were slightly sweeter overall than the wines were had at Black Birch. The wine at both locations was delightful, just a bit different. The Cayuga White and May Wine were both very very sweet for me. Seth, who prefers sweeter wines, really enjoyed them, especially the May Wine. For the Cayuga White, the grapes were sourced from the Finger Lakes. The May Wine got its grapes from Newport.

The Noho Blush was a standout for me for the whites, which is a surprise since I normally am not so into blush wines. The Noho Blush combined the Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay with a few other grapes with excellent results.

This was also my first experience with mead. I thought I would find it much too sweet, but it was actually really exciting. The wine list describes the mead as, "A medium dry honey wine [. . .] that exposes the flavor of the honey in a dry finish." This would be a fun wine to have on it's own. Bonus: Getting to feel like you're Beowulf.

Seth was excited to try the Apple Wine and the Wicked Blue, a blueberry wine. These were both good, though less fruity than the wines we get at the Amherst Farms Winery. They were quite sweet, but not as sweet as the fruit infused wine from Amherst, which Seth says he prefers. 

My favorite of the wines at Mineral Hills was the Chambourcin. Some of the grapes in this wine (and in the Frontenac that I'd gotten from Atkins) were sourced from UMass, some were grown at the farm, and the rest were from New York.

At the end of the tasting, Seth and I decided to pick up two bottles of wine; I got the Chambourcin and he got the Mead. Since I know that I can get this wine at Atkins, we can conveniently pick up more whenever we want.

Seth and I had a fantastic day exploring some local wineries beyond our neighborhood winery, Amherst Farms Winery. We will definitely be enjoying the wines we picked up with some nice dinners at home soon.

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