Connecticut Wine Trail Part 1

If you’ve been around here for a while, follow me on Instagram, or have seen even one Instastory, you are well aware I like my wine. In California, I did my fair share of visiting wineries and vineyards… and joined maybe one too many wine clubs. I absolutely love wine country and because of my visits to Temecula, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, and Willamette Valley in Oregon, my friends in Connecticut have dubbed me a little bit of a wine snob.

Now let me be the first to say, I know nothing about wine. Ok, I know a little but in no way am I any type of expert. Just a little bratty when it comes to taste and setting.

So, when I got back to Connecticut I decided I needed to visit all of the wineries out little state has to offer. Wine is defiantly different here. For one thing, I’ve never tried so much fruit wine in my life. And yikes! I don’t know how I feel about it.

Hopkins Vineyard

I went to Hopkins Vineyard during my girl’s weekend up in Litchfield County. We didn’t realize it when booking the B&B but it is owned by the family with the same name and literally right across the street from the B&B in an old 19th century barn. When we first got there, we went upstairs to grab a bite to eat. They had a small selection of only cheese and meats but a charcuterie board and a glass of rose was just what we needed. When we finally got downstairs, there was a little confusion about what time they actually closed. Long story short, they told us we had 2 hours when we sat down upstairs and when we came down an hour later they told us we were closed and couldn’t do a tasting. After way too much debate, they finally let us pay for a tasting, which we completed in about 7 minutes. The wines were ehh. The Lady Rose was definitely my favorite and then they had a summer red called Sachem’s Picnic that I actually bought a bottle of. Served cold on a summer day, it was a good change from the normal Rose I was drinking all summer.

Saltwater Farm Vineyard

This was vineyard was the first of three on a little day trip out to eastern Connecticut this summer. Saltwater Farm’s building is a converted WWII era hanger and the runway of vines outside lead straight to the mouth of the Wequetequock River, which is perfect for the Connecticut coast line. We took a walk down to the water and back, but there is nowhere to sit down there. They should definitely take advantage of the view and put some picnic benches and Adirondack chairs. I would have loved to take a bottle of wine out there. Once we got upstairs, we realized that the tasting room is pretty small. It is in a loft of the hanger, and the main floor is actually where they do a lot of weddings and special events. There were no tables or space at the bar for our group of 5 so we hand to rely on the pourer to come out and bring us our next tasting. Lucky for us she was absolutely amazing and remember what tasting we each were having, and was super informative. My favorite was definitely their Rose (so basic, I know) and their Cabernet Franc Merlot blend. I love a red wine and even though you could taste the blackcurrant for sweetness, there was still an earthiness and smokiness to it that made me want fall… ASAP.

Stonington Vineyard

Stonington Vineyard was stop number two that day and I actually really enjoyed it. The building is absolutely stunning even though there isn’t an actual view. The property is surrounded by trees which definitely made it feel pretty secluded and quaint. You could tell the building is either pretty new or recently renovated because it defiantly had that clean, cookie cutter feel, and just didn’t make me want to stay and get comfortable there. On the other hand, I feel like out of the three wineries we went to this day, here had the biggest variety that I liked. I tend to lean toward drier wines, usually reds, and NEVER Chardonnays. A few different wineries in Connecticut have told me that their Chardonnay is Sauvignon Blanc inspired. Out of the wines I have tried so far, this one is the only one that I could actually say is. It didn’t have that buttery taste that I am used to with California Chardonnays, which is actually what I hate about it. This was much lighter and crisper. They also had an amazing Riesling that I enjoyed, but it was defiantly a wine you just want a small class of because it is very fruity and sweet.

Hawk Ridge Winery

Ohh my new favorite place! I don’t know why, but I just love me a farm house and farming landscape. I mean take away all of those nasty animal smells and I am in love. This winery was just absolutely amazing because it definitely has that farm feel. I love visiting vineyards during the week because the pourers get to actually talk to you about the wine making process, history of the wine and you get a lot more than the typical here is our two-sentence description of what you’re tasting. My sister, friend and I all had the same day off one Wednesday and headed up north to check out two wineries.  Hawk Ridge had two options for Rose, I preferred All Day Rose over the Rose Bublé, although both were really good. The Talon Red was my favorite because of its equally earthy and fruity flavor. I will definitely be back for more of this.

Next month I plan on doing another round up of some more of the Connecticut wineries so if you are from Connecticut or going to be visiting, check it out. I’d love to try some vineyards out for you.

Litchfield County and the New England Hot Air Balloon Festival

Ok, lets be real. I am pretty picky when it comes to heights. I can do rollercoasters, for the most part. But put me on the swings at a fair and I’m losing my mind. Mickey’s Fun Wheel at Disney’s California Adventure… I pretty much lost my shit. But when it comes to looking at views, the higher the better. In my early 20s my friends and I went to Punta Cana and we parasailed. The entire time I kept asking my tandem parasailer: “what if the ropes break?” A little morbid, I know. She still gets mad when I bring it up.

Hot air balloons? I just don’t know if I can do it, but from the ground… I am all about that view. A few months ago I watched the Bucketlist Family go to Cappadocia and now I am obsessed. I need to get there and see the balloons over the desert sky. It looks absolutely amazing. But for now, I will spend a weekend in upstate Connecticut at the hot air balloon festival.

My friend and I went up on a Saturday afternoon to Litchfield County where we checked into the cutest little bed and breakfast. This was our first B&B experience. The old house at the Hopkins Inn was a 19th century country home overlooking Lake Waramaug in Warren, CT. We were lucky enough to get one of the front bedrooms and have a lake view room. Also lucky for us was that no one else was in the room that shared the semi-private bathroom with us.

One thing that I learned about B&B life is there are no frills. You just get the bare bones compared to the fancy hotel I was staying in earlier in the week for my work trip. Our kitschy little room was a pretty good size and simply just had one king sized bed, a chair in the corner and a dresser.

We had no idea when booking the bed and breakfast but it was right across the street from a winery with the same name, which ended up being the perfect hiding spot when it spontaneously down poured for about an hour before we headed over to the Hot Air Balloon Festival. We headed over to Goshen Fairgrounds but unfortunately because of the unpredictable weather, the balloons weren’t able to go up. But they blew up and in front of the stormy sky, the views were absolutely stunning.

The next morning we woke up at 5am and headed back over to the fairgrounds. (You see why we needed a place to crash up there?) Anyone who has been in a hot air balloon knows that most of the launches are at a crazy godforsaken hour. But we literally rolled out of bed in our PJs and headed over and up they went. There was about 9 balloons and they blew up and launched one by one. It was gorgeous. My only complaint: where was the coffee trucks!!

We zoomed back to the inn to crash for a few hours and when we got up we headed down for breakfast. Amazing. And when you eat any meal with my bestie, Michelle, you know you are going to get one of everything, so that’s what we did. We got pancakes, hash browns, toast, an omelet and eggs. I wasn’t complaining. Everything was delicious and sitting outside on the front porch of the house, overlooking the lake was a great way to wake up.

CA to CT Road Trip… Days 3, 4 and 5

When I was looking for places to stop along the way for my move from Orange County to Connecticut, I really didn’t even know where to begin. It got to the point for our second night on the road where I just picked the town with the biggest font on the map. And I was I was joking even a little bit, but would you know where to stay between Oklahoma City and Nashville?

Day 3: Ft. Smith to Nashville, Tennessee

We woke up on day three in Ft. Smith, AK and what I thought would be a random town, turned out to be absolutely beautiful. This town is a Midwesterner hipster’s heaven. We woke up at our Courtyard Marriott in downtown Ft. Smith not knowing really what we drove into the night before but we did a little googling and found out that Ft. Smith had 19 murals painted throughout the town by one artist. We loved it! So we started our morning off at the brand new Ft. Smith Coffee Company which had just opened 3 weeks prior. Too cute! And then we took our coffees on a morning stroll throughout the town. Coffee in one hand, cameras in the other. We found about half of the 19 pieces of art. Definitely such a random town that I’d love to go back and visit. There were tons of restaurants, breweries and little mom and pop shops.

But we got on the road and headed toward Tennessee because we knew we wanted to have lunch at a BBQ spot in Memphis and be in Nashville by the start of the Stanley Cup playoff game, which was in downtown Nashville.

Until I locked my keys in the car at a gas station. Oh Arkansas, your people are amazingly beautiful people. Just about an hour, and small little rain storm later, we were back on the road and lunch turned into a 4pm stop in Memphis. Not going to lie, next time we will have to do a little more research on the whole BBQ stop. The food was good but definitely not what I was expecting to get in the best city for BBQ in the country. Also, the setting was not what I was expecting. I wanted picnic benches and beer, not downtown Memphis. By the way, many of the mom and pop BBQ restaurants are closed on Mondays, and guest what! It was Monday.

So moving onto Nashville, TN. We ended up stopping at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel a little later than expected thanks to our extended stay at the gas station back in Arkansas. A whole post will come later this month about this amazing hotel, but because we arrived later than expected, we debating on going out or staying at one of the many hotel bars. We were traveling right in the middle of the hockey playoffs and that Monday night just happened to be the night Predators beat the Penguins at home. So celebrating the home team’s victory a block from where the game was played definitely trumped staying at the hotel.

So we headed out to Broadway and let me tell you… this night was the icing on the cake that was our cross country adventure. We stopped at a few bars including Tin Roof, the Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar and Honky Tonk Central and really there were so many options, but besides Tin Roof which was a recommendation, we stumbling into the others. Honky Tonk Central was definitely a favorite of the night.

We ended the night eating at the Diner Nashville which is a 24 hour diner with 6 floors of amazing views of downtown Nashville. Besides normal diner food, they also had a full bar, sushi, oysters and small bites. Hello foodie lover’s paradise. Oh and they serve alcohol for 23 hours of the day, but if you’re not done with your drink at 3am they will take it from you. But don’t worry, you can order another one at 4am. That was defiantly our sign that we had to go home.

Day 4: Nashville to Knoxville, Tennessee

Yes you saw that right. We drove a measly 3 hours on day 4 simply because we were recovering from our 4am return to the hotel. Like I said, I’m going to do a whole post on this amazing resort but we spent the entire day at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort and then headed through Tennessee to Knoxville where we had a good old fashioned sleepover. We knew it was our last night of our drive and the next day would be our longest driving day so we ordered way too much pizza, got wine and watched HGTV until we fell asleep. Mellow Mushroom, for picking a random pizza place off of google, these girls who grew up on New Haven pizza were pretty impressed. My favorite was the Holy Shiitake Pie, but we also got the Loaded Potato Pie and the Great White. All of them were amazing.

Day 5: Knoxville to Connecticut

When I tell you I never thought we were going to get out of Virginia, I mean it. Ok, so we stopped at a winery for two hours for a tasting and lunch, and then also detoured onto the Blue Ridge Parkway but damn, Virginia is big! We stopped at WhiteBarrel winery in Christiansburg and it was well worth it. The wine was fantastic, food was delicious and the views were absolutely breathtaking. I had never thought of Shenadoah Valley as a place to go for wineries but was I mistaken. Definitely much smaller than the California and Oregon wine countries I am used to but beautiful. I did a tasting of just reds and loved every single one, but the Cabernet Franc was my favorite. We left with a case of wine and orders from the owner of the winery to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way home.

So we took an hour long detour off of Route 81 and headed into Shenadoah National Park. Just a warning this is a super windy, narrow drive for much of it. And also there is no quick way out. This route is definitely a commitment, so if you’re in a rush I wouldn’t recommend it.

Six hours later we were finally out of Virginia and on our way straight through New York City and home into Connecticut.

This trip was the therapy I needed to spend time with my sister and best friend before heading home after seven years. We had such an amazing time and got to see so many areas of the country that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see. It gave me a lot of respect for the middle of the country. I never knew how beautiful Oklahoma, Arkensas, Tennessee and Virginia were and I am so glad I didn’t just fly over these amazing parts of our country like I have so many times in the past.