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Friday, October 22, 2010

Sandwich, MA Wine Tasting Features Connecticut Wines

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ing 

Do you think I can find wines in New England to serve to guest at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast? Is a wonderful Connecticut wine an oxymoron? I almost didn’t go to the Wednesday wine tasting at the Belfry Bistro here in Sandwich because it was the Jonathan Edwards Winery from North Stonington Connecticut. I was pleasantly surprised by the wines and intrigued by the story behind the wines. Mark, representing the winery, told the story well and the Belfry pared wonderful appetizers with each of the four wines served.

Often, the story behind a wine is as much fun as the wine. Mark did declare up front that this winery has no connection to the past North Carolina senator and twice presidential candidate John Edwards. Now that would be an interesting story. This Jonathan Edwards’ website declares “New England Charm. Napa Style.”  What does that mean? The Edwards’ family approach includes a state-of-the-art winery on a bucolic New England farm near the Connecticut sea-coast, where select varieties of grapes are grown and processed into Estate Wines, and another line of wines that are made with grapes from Napa Valley.

Jonathan Edwards lived and worked as a winemaker in Napa Valley and established relationships with select growers of different grape varietals. Through long-term contracts, the Connecticut winery has a consistent supply of some great Napa grapes. Jonathan Edwards was not at the Wednesday tasting because he was in Napa directing the hand picking of their grapes. The Napa grapes will start their fermentation in California and then the young wine is brought to New England in refrigerated trucks where it is barrel aged and finally bottled.

 We started the night with a 2009 Jonathan Edwards Chardonnay. It is Estate Grown, meaning the chardonnay grapes are from New England: grown here, picked here, fermented here, aged and bottled in Connecticut. Only certain varietals do well in New England. In addition to the Chardonnay, the Estate Wines include Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Cabernet Franc.

We next tasted three reds, all from Napa Valley grapes: the 2007 Jonathan Edwards Zinfandel, the 2008 Jonathan Edwards Merlot, and the 2007 Jonathan Edwards Cabernet Sauvignon. In each case, the young wine was shipped from California and barrel aged for 18 months in either American or French oak. All were bottled in Connecticut. I particularly liked the Merlot and will be calling on my friends at Cellar 55 Wine Merchants, who carry these wines in Sandwich.
We only tried these three reds, but Jonathan Edwards Winery also features Napa Valley Syrah and Petite Sirah. I look forward to trying the Petite Sirah since I learned Jonathan worked for a time at Vincent Arroyo Winery in Calistoga, CA. Vincent Arroyo Petite Sirah is Jan’s all time favorite wine and we have been very lucky to receive an annual allotment, which we nurse and enjoy all year with some very special friends.

I want to try all of these wines when we visit the winery in North Stonington, Connecticut, which is near Foxwoods Resort Casino. This sounds like a fun road trip and necessary to find more great wines for guests at our Sandwich Bed and Breakfast.

Happy wine-ing,

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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