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.”
Energy Fitness's certified personal trainers help clients capture elusive muscles by leading exercisers over savannahs of workout machines and weight equipment in a 15,000-square-foot facility. A personal training session gets clients off on the right foot by helping them design a fitness regimen tailored to their goals. Trainers have four lines of weight machines at their disposal with which they can personalize workouts for exercisers of all ages and fitness levels. The center's 45 cardio workout machines occupy both limbs and eyes, as personal televisions attached to each machine broadcast news stories about local squirrels who made good. In the weight room, dumbbells clamor to be hoisted.
Within the stately Litchfield Inn, Bantam Bistro's executive chef Jonathan Gyles lends Italian flair to gourmet American dishes crafted from local and organic ingredients, such as mushrooms from Mountaintop Mushrooms and cheese from Cato Corner Farm. The expansive menu includes dazzling charcuterie platters, fillets of Atlantic salmon and tails of Maine lobster, and pastas such as bucatini and agnolotti. Barkeeps pour sips of more than 118 wines and muddle peaches into Bantam's signature take on the classic old fashioned, whose amber tones glow in the flickering light of tabletop candles in leaf-etched votives. The dining room’s brick-lined fireplace gives chefs a cozy place to store canapés shaped like Christmas stockings, and sparkling chandeliers twinkle above Sunday brunch dishes nestled inside pristine silver chafing dishes.
Warner Theatre serves as profound evidence that grassroots efforts can make a difference in the arts. Opened by Warner Brothers Studios in 1931, the Thomas Lamb?designed cinema house served for more than 20 years as the area's top venue to gawk at the silver screen. Yet business declined with the rise of the television, and in 1955 a flood left the venue severely damaged. It was hardly a surprise, then, when the Warner faced foreclosure in 1981. But a non-profit, citizen-run group called the Northwest Connecticut Association for the Arts raised the $275,000 needed to rescue the theatre, and repaired the years' damages to the art-deco design. Today, more than 800 volunteer actors, musicians, designers, and crew members bask in the applause and gleefully thrown lorgnettes of an estimated 35,000-plus patrons each season.
Behind the exhibits at KidsPlay Children's Museum is a simple philosophy: children learn best through hands-on activities. There’s plenty of that at KidsPlay, from enclosing yourself in a giant bubble to designing glowing, 3-D shapes on a magnetic light table. Children can grace the museum’s stage in costumes and with props, imagine doing donuts in a racecar, or dash to pretend fires in a fire truck. Those are stored in the museum’s firehouse, part of a small-town play area complete with a grocery.
Marbling daubs of paint, smudging charcoal lines, even springing off a gymnast's mat?the ways students challenge themselves at Renaissance Arts Center are as diverse as the students themselves. Classes are available for students aged three weeks to adult, and focus on visual arts, fitness, music, and literary arts programs. Curricula are designed to be comprehensive, incorporating a broad base of concepts, from fundamentals to techniques for specific mediums.