For more tourist locations in the state, visit the Connecticut Day Trip Facebook page.
Even on a rainy day, a romantic getaway for a gourmet lunch with wine at Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret soothed a couple already missing their son away at music camp. And when the husband learned that the special was a 2½-pound lobster with the meat already removed from the shell, he almost drooled. It spawned a trip down memory lane, a time when he created a lobster dinner at his little lake house for her during their courtship. As if such a lovely memory was needed to make the afternoon better.
During a recent trip to the vineyard’s Fireside Tavern restaurant, upstairs in the beautiful red barn, an attentive and knowledgeable young waiter, with a down-to-earth manner about him, brought us a delightful introductory nibble to the table. He suggested the meals we had chosen would best go with Sharpe Hill's Ballet of Angels, a New England favorite. We love that wine but hesitated, thinking of the bottle we had chilling in the fridge at home. So, he then proposed that the Riesling, a nice dry one, would fit the bill for our seafood choices. We were not disappointed. (It won a Gold Medal at the Big E Northeast Gold Wine Competition, the Web site reports.)
In May, Connecticut Magazine included Sharpe Hill's Creole Shrimp as one of “Fifty Dishes to Try Before you Die.” Even if you're feeling pretty far away from the end, you should try it sooner rather than later. A handful of large shrimp, marinated in Louisiana Creole sauce and wood grilled, is served with rice seasoned with lemon and thyme alongside a fresh mango chutney. You want to make it last, and will find it challenging to leave a polite spoonful on the plate.
The room is lovely. The slope of the roof creates a cozy intimacy at the comfortable tables surrounding a central fireplace. The restaurant area is new but it looks antique and is furnished as such. On a nice day, many diners opt to sit at tree-shaded tables outside, but on rainy, cold or 100-degree days, this is the spot.
Lunch is available in late summer and fall on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with seatings at noon, 12:30, 3 and 3:30. Dinner is served, in lieu of lunch, on the second Friday of the month at 6:30 or 7 p.m. But you must call ahead for reservations, and they usually fill up a few weeks in advance. We were lucky to capitalize on a cancellation.
After our dessert of the house favorite Key Lime Tart, we decided to stay for a tasting. They can be done Friday through Sunday, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. You have options, but we chose to taste five wines for $7 a person.
Helpful staff poured samples and offer details about the labels and varieties as we worked our way through the whites and reds. After hearing a lively table of women next to us at lunch exclaim over the Cuvee Ammi Phillips Chardonnay the bottle easily made the list. And why shouldn't it? That wine received a 90 from the Wine Spectator in 2007. “This is the highest scoring American wine east of the three West Coast states,” Sharpe Hill manager Kate Wetzel said in an e-mail to me.
Sharpe Hill Vineyard began selling wine in 1997 and has received more than 250 medals in tastings internationally. Its winemaker, Howard Bursen, has more than 25 years experience and a part in those honors. Unlike most small wineries, 90 percent of Sharpe Hill's wine is sold in retail shops and distributed in 17 states and the Republic of Ireland.
Sharpe Hill is family owned, by Catherine and Steven Vollweiler and children Jill and David Vollweiler. Steven is president, Catherine is vice president, Jill is secretary, and David is shareholder.
The beautiful rural setting in the Quiet Corner invites you to saunter through its grounds and gardens, pre- or post-consumption. Browse among the dried flowers, pewter and gift items on the first floor or just eavesdrop and take it easy in the tasting room.
Whatever your day at Sharpe Hill holds for you, it slows you down and fills you up, just the way an afternoon with the one you love should.
Sharpe Hill Vineyard is located at 108 Wade Rd. in Pomfret, about an hour and a half from New Haven. Wine prices range from $12.50 for Ballet of Angels to $35 for its port-style Pontefract (the Old English name for Pomfret). For information and reservations, call 860-974-3549 or visit its website.