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.

Fall Bucket List

Happy first day of fall ya’ll! This is what I’ve been waiting for. Fall in New England, literally is there anything more cliché? I don’t think so. I love the change of season, the changes of color from Mother Nature, bundling up in fall clothes, the cooler weather and even though it terrifies me, I am super into learning about hauntings and anything paranormal. AKA I love fall.

This is the first time in seven years that I am back in my hometown for Halloween and celebrate the fall season the way you’re supposed to. Last year we went apple picking and the nastolgia was real. This year I am so excited I get to do it here in Connecticut. So I made myself a little fall bucket list of all of the things I want to do this fall to celebrate the season.

  1. Take a ride to see the fall foliage
  2. Visit some of Connecticut’s covered bridges
  3. Go apple picking
  4. Bake a pie
  5. Watch a high school football game (my best friend coaches high school cheerleading and I love supporting my friends)
  6. Have a scary movie girls night
  7. Pick a pumpkin
  8. Finish one book per month
  9. Visit four new wineries
  10. Have a soup and wine night
  11. Explore Salem!!

Ironically, I am currently boarding a flight to Atlanta where it will be in the mid to upper 80s and mostly sunny.This weekend my mom sister and I are visiting my older sister and her family. Follow along on my Instastories for the weekend.

Bachelorette Vegas Dos and Don’ts

Back in the spring my girlfriends and I took the ultimate girls trip to Las Vegas to shower our friend Amy before she got hitched. This bachelorette party was the perfect, quintessential Vegas girls trip done in a very classy, “were entering our 30s” type of way.

I’ve been to Las Vegas for a lot of different celebrations. I’ve gone for my birthday before, friend’s birthdays, to see concerts and shows, but this was my first bachelorette in Vegas. We had a few first timers to sin city, including the bride, and it was so much fun to show them around and do everything Las Vegas.

What we did:
Friday we got in and hung out in our suite for the day and just relaxed. Like I said, we are all pushing 30 and my visits to Vegas now have been a little different than when I first started going 7 years ago. (Grandma’s got to take a nap!) We got ready and grabbed some drinks and appetizers before heading out to a club. Saturday, we woke up early and went down to the Mandalay Bay pool where we split our time between our cabana and the lazy river. Saturday night was our nice dinner out, but more on that later on.

After we had food we did what every, and any bachelorette party in Vegas should do. Thunder From Down Under. And wow ladies, that was an experience. Not something I need to do again but done, complete, checked off the bucket list. After the show, we went up to the Foundation Room in Mandalay Bay which has amazing views of the strop. Oh my goodness. Defiantly one of my favorite spots to get drinks in Las Vegas. You are 62 floors above the strip with panoramic views all the way down to the Stratosphere.

Sunday morning was another early morning, since we had to get up early to get ready for a pool party. We should have known better but it took us a little bit to get moving and we actually didn’t make it to Encore Beach Club to see David Guetta until about 2. Which, honestly, was perfect because I am not sure if we’d all be living if we were there much longer.

Needless to say after day 3 we were all in bed and asleep by 10pm.

Monday morning, since we all had flights at different times, we packed up our room, left our luggage at the bell hop’s desk and headed down to finally explore the strip. This may have been my favorite day because exploring is my favorite part of Vegas. This town is constantly changing. There is always a new show, or restaurant popping up and it had been about 8 months since I’ve been to Las Vegas. Lots had changed.

We got to check out all of the casinos, eat some noodles (which was a big goal on the trip), and watch the water show outside of the Bellagio. I had to head out early to catch my flight, but some of the girls were even able to catch and early Cirque du Soleil show.

Where we ate:

A lot of our weekend, and I mean a lot, was centered around our snacking. We are all big time foodies and defiantly love a good meal. Here are my favorites from the weekend.

Holsteins was our apps and drinks place the first night we got there. I am pretty sure we just ordered one of everything at this cute little place in the Cosmopolitan. We kind of just stumbled upon it while exploring the beautiful Chandelier Bar inside of the Cosmo, and Holsteins had no wait so we decide why not. The lobster mac and cheese was hands down my favorite. But the philly steak egg roll and buffalo chicken dip both came in a close second.

We knew we wanted to do some type of nice, sit down dinner for the night before the male review and when the maid of honor read the reviews for Crush, she knew she had to try it. This MGM restaurant defiantly did not disappoint! Their prefixed, sharable menu was absolutely fantastic. We had arugula salad, veggie risotto, stead, salmon and gnocchi to feed an army. (Thank God for the vegetarians that allowed for that gnocchi to be possible!) Literally not one thing that I did not love. I cannot wait to go back there for dinner again.

The bride did have one major request for the weekend. Noodles on the last day. (You know, so we didn’t have to get in a bathing suit again.) We ate at Noodle in the Bellagio and while the service was a little on the slower side, the food was definitely worth the wait. I was a little basic and ordered their Pad Thai, dim sum and miso soup. A-mazing!

Where we stayed:

Mandalay Bay is by far one of my favorite hotels on the strip that is pretty budget friendly. This four diamond hotel is at the very south end of the strip, just by the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and across from the airport. We had a panoramic queen, two bedroom suite for 8 of us and it was comfortable. With one girl on a rollaway and one on the couch, getting ready defiantly had to be organized and planned out but otherwise, we had plenty of space. I had stayed in one of these rooms before with a big group, and I would definitely recommend it. There is two living areas, that are a little bit separated from each other, two bedrooms sleeping 6, and most importantly, two bathrooms. And our view of the strip didn’t hurt either.

To me, the amenities at Mandalay Bay are really what makes me love it. I love their pool area. With a lazy river, wave pool, adults only area, and Jacuzzis there is something for everyone. Whether you are taking a girls trip, family trip, or couples getaway, everyone will be happy. Last time I went to this pool was in October and there were significantly less families than this time, but that’s what you get around spring break or during the summer in Las Vegas.

How we survived:

So surviving Vegas was something we actually had a discussion about. Actually, a few discussions. We know our limits (well sometimes) and we definitely cannot hang like we used to. We wanted to be able to do everything there is to do, while not draining ourselves so we had built in relaxation time. The first day we got there, everyone was a little woozy from the crazy wind during the landing and waking up on the east coast super early in the morning. So we grabbed some food and laid on the couched in the suite and just hung out. Super teenage girl sleep over status but we needed it before going out that night.

Splurging for a cabana was WELL worth it for Saturday when we just laid by the pool. We had a server for drinks and food, and plenty of food. Water and sleep were also our friends! Best friends. Since I had drove from California I brought a case of water bottles from Costco and we drank every last one.

A lot of people have a weird preconceived notion that Vegas is just clubs and strippers but it really isn’t true. I love Vegas, and I hate clubs… and strippers… Anyone can really have a great time in Vegas.

Nashville: Gaylord Opryland Resort

A few weeks ago I told you about my drive across country. I knew I wanted to make Nashville more than just a late stop, like the other cities. We planned to only drive about 7 hours the day we end up in Nashville and we didn’t really have a plan for the following day. Unfortunately our plans got a little postponed.

We planned to have a late lunch in Memphis on our way from Arkansas but then somebody (this girl) locked her keys in the car and we spent the better part of an hour and a half sitting at a random gas station in the middle of nowhere. So we ended up in Memphis for dinner and three hours later we were in Nashville just in time to watch the last quarter of the Predator’s playoff game as we got ready for the night. It was a Monday night so we really didn’t know what to expect, but we ended up having an amazing time and stumbling back to the hotel at 4:30 in the morning.

So after a very unpredictable day, and a long night, we decided it would be best to stay at the resort and explore what it had to offer.

When I was looking at hotels to stop at along the way, one of my travel agent co-workers told me we had to stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. This is a man that has been around the world, twice, and he was insistent that we needed to stop here. You listen to someone like that. This Tuesday it was raining like crazy but luckily, Gaylord Opryland Hotel, just like all of the other Gaylord properties, is built around huge atrium making most of the activities in doors.

What we did:

When it was raining all day on Tuesday we were a little concerned about what we were going to do in Nashville in the rain so we decided it was probably best to spend the day exploring the resort. One of the first things we noticed when we got there was that there was a little riverboat ride throughout the Delta Atrium. For something like $10 we hoped on for a little 20 minute ride throughout the largest area of the property. Think of Jungle Cruise in Disneyland with a little bit of history about the resort thrown in there. The guide told us about how a flood ruined the entire area that we were in and they had to remodel the majority of the hotel because of it. They also sent out hundreds of Jack Daniels bottles to different countries for them to return to the resort, and that is the water that is in their river, which is pretty awesome.

After the Delta Riverboat we walked around to all of the different shops. There are shops where you can get your simple travel necessities, country music memorabilia, Tennessee honey and BBQ sauce, and even a cute little toy store. Since it was a weekday we were pretty lucky and it wasn’t too crowded.

Where we ate:

By the time we rolled out of bed, it was lunch time and we were craving greasy pub food to soak up the alcohol that we had over indulged in the night before. Findey Irish Pub was exactly what we needed. Unfortunately, it didn’t really impress our hung over hungriness but it did its job. Not sure if I’d try here again to be honest though.

When you first walk into the main entrance of the resort, you can’t miss the Falls restaurant. Set right in the middle of the Cascades atrium was the property’s lobby bar which appropriately had waterfalls falling alongside the restaurant. 3pm came around and we decided it was time for a little happy hour. The three of us split a charcuterie board, the girls had wine and I had to try their Jameson Mule. The ambiance was amazing, and it started to pick up as we sat there longer. It was a great place to just sit around, people watch, and enjoy the good food and drinks.

Before we headed out we were craving a little something sweet, and definitely a midday coffee pick me up was needed so we headed over to the Conservatory Café and Christie Cookies for some gelato and coffee. These two little cafes are right across the hall from each other and we took our gelato and coffee to a little sitting spot that over looked the Garden Conservatory.

Where we stayed:

The hotel is broken into different areas which are all named. We stayed in the largest section, the Delta. They were remodeling parts of the hotel and we ended up getting lost a few times (including 4:30 in the morning when we got home). But otherwise I liked staying in this area because we were facing the outside of the resort. Our view wasn’t so great but it was much quieter than if we were staying on the inside of the areas. All of the inside rooms have balconies that overlook the different atriums, which can get pretty noisy if you are trying to sleep in, which we clearly were that day. Also some of the atriums have little sky walks and if you are at eye level to a sky walk, people can see right into your room, which is a little weird.

This little gem of a resort is definitely worth checking out if you visit Nashville. There is so much to do and explore, we were only able to scrape of the top of what they had to offer before we had to head on to our next hotel.

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.