For more than 90 years, the same soft morning sunlight has poured over the fields of yellow sunflowers, tasseled stalks of sweet corn, and rows of grapevines growing at Rosedale Farms & Vineyards. In that span of time, five generations of Rosedales have tended to the farm’s fresh vegetables, fruits, and flowers, sharing them with the Simsbury community and even earning a nod in the Washington Post. It wasn’t until 2005, however, that the family produced its first vintage from its 4-acre vineyard of French hybrid grapes. Since then, the winery’s estate-grown vintages have earned several awards, including a double gold at the 2010 Vineyard & Winery International Eastern Wine Competition. Today, at the winery’s onsite bar, staff members pour samples of varieties such as the Simsbury Celebration, which distinguishes itself with a creamy structure, mineral overtones, and a penchant for hiding beneath lampshades. Additional events include fall farm fests that include free hayrides and corn mazes. Partnering with the Max Restaurant Group, Rosedale Farms & Vineyards also features chef-to-farm dinners, during which chefs prepare four- to six-course banquets using ingredients plucked straight from the fields.
Since opening in 1975, Haight-Brown Vineyard has churned out 2,000 cases of grape-based libations each year from its nearly 10-acre vineyard and welcomed visitors into its rustic, cottage-like wine house. Emphasizing vinifera and French hybrid grapes, the state’s first-established winery creates a selection of wines that include the Big Red, a bold syrah; the Morning Harvest, a rich malbec; and Honey Nut Apple, a traditional apple wine that incorporates local honey and cinnamon. Vintners share their time-tested expertise during regular classes that teach aspiring oenophiles about a variety of vintages and techniques for cheese and chocolate pairing. Amid the tasting room’s wood accents and crackling stone fireplace, customers sample vintages and attempt to describe taste sensations with adjectives such as “silky” or “very different from milk.”
As a boy, Manny Miranda participated in father-son bonding activities that were a lot cooler than catch. He worked alongside his father and grandfather at their family's winery in Portugal, where he busied himself each Autumn crushing and pressing the grapes, then preparing and casking the juices that would transform into wine.
As an adult, he hoped to recreate the verdant hills of Portugal in the states. That dream led to Miranda Vineyard, where Manny worked with his own sons to perfect the old-world techniques he remembered from his childhood. The vineyard is now the birthplace of hand-crafted and complex wines, from the bright, summery ros? to the lush, full-bodied farmhouse wine. What's more, every single varietal in the Miranda Vineyard family boasts at least one award, and many can lay claim to three or more.
Soft breezes skip off the shores of Amos Lake, rustling through trees and across the grassy acreage that surrounds Dalice Elizabeth Winery, where second-, third-, and fourth-generation Italian Americans share the secrets of their polished craft. Having dispersed its all-natural specialty foods and wines internationally, the winery's founding family continually impresses the palates of casual indulgers and contest judges alike, churning out grape-to-bottle chardonnays, merlots, and sauvignons that cannot be found on the shelves of local stores. In addition to tastings, the winery hosts winemaking and cooking classes, during which glasses clink between aspiring chefs and vintners as they learn to entertain houseguests or polite burglars with style and ease.
Glasses lift into a treble-laden symphony of toasts and from a distance, many of the elixirs they contain seem nearly the same. Up close, 28 wines by the glass and more than 75 unique varietals by the bottle span a rainbow of hues, from reds deep and earthy enough to appear almost black to white wines barely kissed with a delicate straw color. In The Hidden Vine Wine Bar and Lounge's dedicated room for tastings and classes, guests further hone noses and taste buds to make nearly imperceptible distinctions in flavor and bouquet.
Drawing upon family recipes held close to their hearts, culinarians fill two dining areas with inventive dishes including bruschetta draped in paper-thin soppressata, peach honey, and hanger steak. Beneath diamond-shaped burgundy paintings, forks chatter against plates of fresh pasta and patrons sidle up to the marble bar for a chilly cocktail. A patio begs diners to let the warm sun aid in digestion or in calming outraged bulls delivering pamphlets to the eatery's crimson ceilings.
If you had passed by in 1978, you probably would have missed Vito's Pizzeria. The storefront was completely invisible from the street, an unfortunate reality that might have been the death knell for a lesser business. But the 600-square-foot, strictly-take-out pizzeria managed to survive and even thrive based solely on word of mouth.
It's been more than 30 years, and people are still talking. Thankfully, the pizzeria has expanded quite a bit in terms of space and menu. Today, Vito's chefs craft everything from deep-dish pies to Italian grinders, which, as their name suggests, taste just as good when ground up and served with a straw.