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.
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.
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.”
Manny Miranda learned the art of winemaking from his father and grandfather, who hand-pressed their grapes in the courtyard of his childhood home in Portugal. Fifty years later, with the help of his wife Maria, Manny finally opened his own winery, Miranda Vineyard, and began fermenting delicately balanced vintages. In the past few years, wine-competition judges have taken notice: Miranda’s seyval blanc earned a 2010 Gran Harvester Award silver medal for its fruity taste, as light and crisp as a helium-filled apple. In addition, the Vinho Fino collected a 2010 Amenti del Vino International Wine Competition gold medal. The sprawling grounds of the winery play host to soft picnic blankets topped with lunching visitors, live concerts, Shakespearean performances, and tour groups of parched raisins.
Casa Di Lisa enchants eaters with a broad steak-and-seafood driven menu of authentic Italian cuisine. For starters, keep temperamental taste buds from shouting fashion advice to strangers with a distracting starter of beef carpaccio ($8), plated with capers and reggiano parmesan, or opt to begin with an order of clams casino ($7), cousin of the less-refined three-card-Monte oysters. Deep-sea divers can recapture the freshness of ocean-floor feasts with dishes such as swordfish au poivre and baked Atlantic cod (both $18) or lobster fra diavolo ($26). Inch-and-a-half-thick bone-in pork chops ($17) and a 24 oz. Italian-style rib eye ($26) inflame protein-powered passions; optional add-ons to the grilled goodies—such as jumbo stuffed shrimp ($8) and scallop and shrimp scampi ($10)—bring the opposing forces of surf and turf together for an appetizing armistice.
A fountain's mists drift over a cool, quiet water outside the windows of Vito's By the Water, where chefs have been cooking up traditional Italian food for many years. Following recipes that have been in the owner's family for years, they craft traditional entrees such as New York strip steak with demi-glace or lobster ravioli with vodka-cream sauce. They also adorn thin and Chicago-style deep-dish stuffed crusts with quality toppings such as baby clams, breaded eggplant, and seasoned ricotta.
Vito’s has also sponsored a “So You Think You Can Cook” competition, handing the kitchen over to nine aspiring chefs for a three-day cook-off. Like many timed cooking competitions, this one required the chefs to create a dish using a mystery ingredient, such as bacon or love. The winner received a farm-to-table dinner for 10.