So in trying to keep up with the many domestic wines that I've amassed since about February, feeding the itch that quality wine has to exist outside of the now known regions that we take for granted in this country, I hopped into two wines by Hopkins Vineyard.
Hopkins Vineyard is located in the Western Connecticut Highlands AVA and encompasses all of Litchfield, parts of Fairfield, New Haven and Hartford counties -so for those of you not aware as to where this is, this area mostly entails the north-western side of the state. This happens to be the second winery I've had the pleasure to experience, the first being DiGrazia Vineyards, however, this winery and farm is a little bit ahead.
Hopkins Vineyards has essentially existed as a farm since 1787, purchased from Elijah Hopkins following the Revolutionary War it went to pass through many generations as a boarding house and an inn, growing tobacco and raising sheep, horses and as an operational dairy farm. It wasn't until 1979 that the farm turned itself over to the vine via Bill Hopkins, following the passage of the farm winery act in 1978. Initially they grew native and hybrid varietals but it wasn't until the late 1980's that they planted Chardonnay specifically for sparkling wine and then Cabernet Franc. Like DiGrazia, Bill Hopkins promoted experimentation with their wine making and it certainly shows.
Since every state produces some grape wine, the internet and specifically the All About Wine podcast, set me on the labyrinth-like hunt to discover which wineries would ship to New York. If you've never tried to have wine shipped to you, it might surprise you to learn how hard it is at times to find states and wineries that have the licensing or paperwork to ship out of state, it's literally ridiculous. But I settled at some point I came across Hopkins Vineyard as my second Connecticut winery and quickly learning they had a sparkling wine, purchased a bottle of their Silver Label Sparkling Wine and the Lady Rose (because rose rocks... simple as that).
The Lady Rose was the first of the two I tried and no doubt set the pace for how I would interpret the sparkling wine. The Lady Rose is a blend of Dornfelder, Lemberger (Blaufrankisch), and Pinot Noir, which in-and-of itself is kind of an oddity. First off Lemberger is a widely used grape in parts of Germany and mostly Austria, in fact many Blaufrankisch (Blue Frankisch) wines from Austria are often delicate and rich, full and spicy and whose parcels have been spread to many countries outside its homeland. Interestingly enough Dornfelder is a sort of great-grandchild of Lemberger, product of a crossing of two vitis vinifera grapes that neither you nor I will ever need to know, and is also grown sporadically across the globe. It's known for it's high yields and darker colored wines. Pinot Noir on the other hand needs no introduction, it's virtually the golden child of wine: hard to grow and cultivate but if done well can create transcendent wines (so I hear as I have yet to find this level of zen but I'm on the hunt. Perhaps the idea of a winery in the northeast growing Pinot Noir seems fallacious, almost crazy... I mean, can a single vineyard variety of this type be made in this climate? Where are they, I must find one!). So to have a winery nearby using two fairly obscure grapes -lets face it, unless you drink Austrian red wine you probably don't know or go hunting for a Blauerzweigelt or Blaufrankisch- and then blending them as a rose wine with Pinot Noir- came off as unique and bitten by the rose bug I had to try.
I like rose no matter the season, in fact I'm drinking a second bottle of Prieure de Montezargues Tavel 2006 at the moment and it's about 35 degrees outside right now but a toasty 65 indoors. I take my roses like I take all other wines, with a dash of seriousness and expecting a different personality even if it's another one from Provence (actually I had to toss the Provence rose out because it was corked). So in choosing this one I felt like I was testing the waters, perhaps it's a bit early or naive to say, but can a rose, like a Chinese fast-food joint's wonton soup, be the litmus test for the quality of all their other wine? I don't mean to put this winery down, but I can't say I liked the rose or found it terribly palatable; it was strange, the nose had this certain kind of scent that reminded me of DiGrazia, an almost polluted candy quality mixed with enough spice and indistinguishable grapiness traits that I was left a detective, slightly interested because of trade, determined because it's me but dissuaded from continuing to inspect because it's not pleasing. Now I know what you're probably saying, 'well what did you expect from a winery from nowhere-land,' and I parry your point by saying that I've had a red Beaujolais from a fairly well known producer that had the very same funk found in both these wines - this overly candied, kind of cringe worthy acidic combination and not so delicate nose. The body of the wine was rather nonexistent, less existent than the Domaine de Bellevue Miam Miam Rose which is surprising.
On the flip side, the Silver Label Sparkling was popped open a day or so later and is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made in the champagne method and is surely something to try; the wine is medium bodied with a tinge of weighty, almost unctuousness on the palate with a nose of a sultry summer field of freshly cut grasses with a dash of fluid heavy wetness that seeps out and swells the air with peaches, over ripened apples and pears. Though this sparkling is weightier than I expected, the bubbles are virtually fizzy enabling a lift that sets the fruits afloat and draws you past the fullness and into a enticing place that calls you back every time. It's a wine that, in the short while it was around, I wished I had a second bottle. There was a nagging oddity I couldn't quite figure out and though I wish it were a bit lighter in weight, it wasn't a deal breaker. The odd hint of a scent was similar to that from the DiGrazia Fieldstone Reserve, passed through the Lady Rose and showed up this wine as well albeit somewhere skimming in the background of the nose. This may not be quite like any that you've had before but it's similar in feel to a Cava or Prosecco and stands on its own (maybe a bit more acidity and we're golden!). I certainly would love to try their gold label, next order soon to come.