Sharpe Hill Vineyard may sit in the sleepy town of Pomfret, but that hasn't done anything to diminish the winery's international profile. Its wines have racked up more than 250 medals over the years, and with good reason. The Ballet of Angels vintage alone has won 15 awards; critics far and wide have spoken highly of the semi-dry white's citrusy blend with notes of peach, pear, and grapefruit.
But that's just one of the vintages crafted by winemaster Howard Burnsen, who draws on 25 years of experience to create an eclectic variety of wines. The rich Cabernet Franc, for instance, pairs nicely with chocolate desserts and chocolate-covered vegetables, while the St. Croix, a dry red, pairs best with beef and lamb. Try out any of these pairings at the winery's own Fireside Tavern restaurant.
Small plates have become more and more ubiquitous in all types of American restaurants, but Bocado Tapas Wine Bar stays true to the dining style's Spanish roots, using recipes and ingredients traditionally found in Mediterranean kitchens.
As Bocado's menu explains, some of their tapas are very simple, and some are decidedly more sophisticated. The frias, or cold dishes, include everything from marinated olives to raw tuna with lemon-basil crema, sweet-potato chips, and chili avocado. The calientes, or hot dishes, are equally diverse, counting both pork meatballs and piquillo peppers stuffed with veal, mahon cheese, basil, and pine nuts among them. To try a little bit of everything, order the Bocado Experience, a meal for up to eight people that includes a choice of charcuterie, tapas, paella, and desserts, with the option to add sangria.
Besides sangria, the restaurant serves a lengthy list of exclusively Spanish wines. Most are available by the pour, glass, or bottle, which means guests never have to sip them from a big vat in the back.
Amidst cocktails and noshing, 35 to 40 students of all skill sets recreate classic works of art within hours at Drink and Dabble under the tutelage of comedian and RISD graduate Charlie Hall or his similarly talented staff members. He supplies classes with artistic gear including a blank 16" x 20" stretched canvas, water-based acrylics, and aprons. Charlie selects the evening?s canvas from his own collection or sometimes from famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh and his ?The Starry Night.? He and his assistants guide the class through every layer step-by-step, circling the room to dispense individual tips. During short breaks, he and his students eat, drink, and make merry along to a soundtrack of party tunes. By class? end, the acrylics dry into a new version of a priceless canvas that you can take home.
At ShelaLara Vineyards & Winery, vintners work with modern equipment to produce more than 20 different wines. Using grapes and fruit imported from California and other sun-soaked regions, the enophiles fill tanks with sweet elixirs including their in-house specialty wine slush. The glacier wines, fruit essences, and vintage wines run a colorful gamut from the off purple of the sky just after sunset to the hue of warm honey. ShelaLara?s winemaking process, including fermentation, bottling, and 21-gun salutes following spills, all takes place in Rhode Island.
Sea Dog Steak & Ale's menu catalogs hearty pub food and a deep well of beer. Every item on the menu pairs almost perfectly with one of the pub's 10 locally crafted brews served on tap, whether it's the milky Sea Dog Stout and the marinated grilled steak tips, the malty Winter Ale to wash down the chorizo-crusted haddock, or the crisp flavor of the Raspberry Wheat Ale as a palate cleanser after dinner. Sea Dog's chefs also grill 8-ounce filets mignons, which are as heavy as Willy Wonka minus his candy weight. The patties of seven specialty burgers blend ground beef, short rib, chuck, and brisket, all piled with toppings ranging from balsamic-marinated onions to root-beer barbecue sauce.
The alehouse's nightly crowd adds to the convivial ambiance of the pub by sharing drinks on its outdoor patio or in its rustic wood-paneled, chocolate- and almond-colored dining room. Frequent visitors can join the wine or mug clubs, which toss in benefits such as personalized mugs, T-shirts, and a spiritual connection with America's most famous beer drinker: Benjamin Franlin, the inventor of both mugs and T-shirts.
In addition to introducing customers to the intricacies of brewing beer and wine with instructional books and DVDs, Strange Brew can actually train customers in the fine art of making booze from scratch during its monthly in-store classes. During these small-group sessions, brewers divulge the necessary pieces of equipment, explore the core ingredients, discuss their roles in the brewing and fermentation processes, and lead a tasting of the final product. Even when they aren't applying this hands-on approach, the staff excel at helping customers ready their first batch, whether for a party or as a way to make taking a bath more fun. Starter kits for beer and wine include essential tools, such as fermenting and bottling buckets, siphon hoses, and hydrometers. To help customers fill these components with the requisite ingredients, a range of basic and specialized recipe kits feature pre-measured selections of hops and malts or juices and yeasts. Other kits are suited to more specialty brewing projects, such as mead or sake. For the more serious craft-brewers, Strange Brew also carries heavy-duty stainless-steel instruments by Blichmann.