Partnered with a ground crew predominately made up of fellow pilots, Dick Guisto, Mike Florio, and Vinnie Melling harness their commercial-pilot expertise for each Aerostat Promotions flight. After a half-hour of balloon inflation and preparation, up to four guests join their pilot at sunrise or 2.5 hours before sunset for an hour-long flight that affords aerial views of the Pioneer Valley’s breathtaking landscapes, abundant wildlife, and residential homes. Meanwhile, a chase team tracks the balloon from terra firma as it traverses approximately 10 miles of sky. Once visitors and their pilot rendezvous with the team, balloons are packed into a truck or twisted into to-scale elephant balloon animals before the group shares a champagne toast and appetizers.
Established to draw awareness to the growing industry of craft wines created in Massachusetts, Massachusetts Farm Wineries & Growers Association has represented more than 20 local wineries since 2007. In the warmer months, wineries are featured at local famers markets, and two summer events showcase all the wineries under one roofless roof.
Set on 400 acres of boreal forest along the Williams Fork River, Aspen Canyon Ranch cultivates a laid-back atmosphere centered on outdoor activities. Hiking, horseback riding, and fishing are popular in the warmer months, and winters at Aspen Canyon are met with snowmobile tours. One-room cabins are attached to private bathrooms and come with wraparound decks topped with a pair of hot tubs overlooking the river. A short walk away, the fully wood-furnished main lodge is decorated with hanging gas lamps, horse saddles, and a stuffed elk head. After (optional) communal chuck-wagon meals of pulled pork, elk, baked beans, and corn on the cob, guests can curl up by the massive stone fireplace. Much of western Colorado is composed of protected national forest, making the region a mecca for coyotes on the run from the law and all kinds of high-altitude outdoor activities. The ranch lies within easy driving distance of a handful of top-tier ski resorts, including Winter Park, Breckenridge, and Arapahoe Basin. To the north, US Route 34 wends through Rocky Mountain National Park, filled with vistas overlooking pine-covered valleys, and occasionally, herds of elk and bighorn sheep.
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.
More than 13,000 grapevines coil along fences at Sunset Meadow Vineyards, spanning more than 50 acres of rolling fields atop Litchfield Hills. The vineyard's keepers prune those vines by hand, harvesting grapes to make award-winning wines such as a chardonnay that took home a gold medal in 2012's International Eastern Wine Competition. Visitors can drop by to sample pours paired with cheese, smoked meats, and chocolate, or attend one of the vineyard's many events, such as the annual Harvest Festival. While the vineyard does not allow outside beverages, it does welcome outside snacks to complement purchases of its wines, and picnickers will be happy to discover that the breathtaking hillsides face west, giving a clear view of the sunset as well as the cowboys who ride off into it.