I’ve discovered through my visits to wineries on the wine trail that each one is unique and it’s usually hard to tell through their websites what the experience will be like. One of the things I really set out to accomplish with these reviews is to give my readers an idea of the personal feel of the wineries and what to expect if you want to plan a day trip and get a chance to soak in everything each place has to offer. I know some people just want to do a tasting, get their passport stamped and move on to the next one. But for me it’s really more of planning an enjoyable day trip and getting to take in some tastes and scenery.
I visited three wineries in one day, which was a bit ambitious, but I had mike along to keep me in line. That weekend happened to be the same day as the Goshen wine fest, and I lucked out because all of the tasting rooms were less busy, and each still had someone very informative and knowledgeable about their products available to talk with me without the usual crazy distractions of a normal weekend on the wine trail as most of the regular wine trail tourists were over at the festival. This meant I got in a lot of good face to face interview time and probably more of a tour than I would have on a normal weekend.
First on the list: White Silo — it was definitely a long trek from Branford, but I am so glad that I made it. This one definitely fills the unique bill. One of the things I am really enjoying about this whole process is the people that I get to meet and talk with. In my experience it’s always interesting when the topic is one that the person is passionate about. At White Silo I met with Ralph, the current owner of the winery/farm.
Ralph was a unique character himself, and loaded with information about the winery and its history. He used to work as an engineer, and bought the farm in 1985 after retiring from a community college teaching position. The farm started out as a pick-your-own type, but that proved to be less economical ,and he was about to pack it all in 12 years ago when he got a call from Cornell University about a program working with small scale fruit farmers to set up wineries.
The winery has evolved a lot since its inception but it is still a fairly simple “three man operation” as he describes it. They make mostly fruit wines, and have the only rhubarb wine I’ve encountered so far on the trail. I got a close up view of it as he invited Mike and me in to see view the product in its various stages of fermentation. The final product was crystal clear and made for a very enjoyable and drinkable table wine.
We got quite a tour and a definite education on the wine making process before we stared the tasting. He showed Mike and me around the fermentation room, encouraging other visitors to take a look as well, mentioning that they had no secrets — everything is done by hand. It is definitely a family operation. Ralph talked excitably about his son’s plans to start growing more grapes and including some more traditional wines in the future.
The winery allows outside food for picnics and has tables fitted with umbrellas set up in their outdoor garden overlooking the winery. If you don’t want to bring your own food, boxed lunches are available but must be purchased in advance. However cheese plates are available for those who didn’t plan ahead.
As we walked outside to view some of the crops, Ralph gestured to picnickers on the hillside above. He noticed they were swatting flies away and let them know he had a supply of straw hats available and promised they would keep away the bugs as they did not like flying underneath the brim.
The farm is small and has had various incarnations dating back to 1935, when it was a dairy farm. Ralph remains committed to keeping the farm growing no matter what Mother Nature has to through at him. He talked about pest control and remains committed to using as little chemical as possible, as he put it, “It can’t be good for the person spraying, and it can’t be good for the people eating”. He proudly showed me the thorn-less blackberries bushes, and encouraged us to come back on August 17TH for their annual blackberry festival.
On to the wine tasting; the tasting room features beautiful handcrafted wood tables form a local carpenter and displays pieces by a number of local artists. Ralph personally poured our tasting but took care not give Mike too much as he was driving. I was pretty charmed by the personal consideration. They make a dry and semi-sweet version of each of their fruit wines, rhubarb, blackberry, raspberry and black current. They also make two dry grape wines, the Upland Red, and Ralph’s personal favorite the Upland White. They also feature a sparkling raspberry wine and a White Silo Sangria, a mixture of either the dry Rhubarb or Upland White, and the Sweet Blackberry. You can purchase a glass to enjoy at the winery, or the two wines are sold as a set to mixed together at your convenience as Ralph feels that the Sangria is best when made fresh.
My favorites were the dry rhubarb; which was a very refreshing summertime wine. I also liked the semi-sweet variety of the black currant. The Cassis, which Ralph mentioned was popular with his European customers as a digestive or Aperitif. Being a fan of all things that sparkle, I also enjoyed the Sparkling Raspberry which was like drinking a fizzy fresh raspberry and not all overly sweet.
On our way out Mike and I purchased a bottle of the sparkling wine, which Ralph encouraged us to save for a romantic evening as once it was open, it would be best to finish off the bottle to keep it from going flat. Not that finishing off a bottle of sparkling wine is something with which I have a problem.