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.
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.
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.”
Southington Wine and Spirits stocks its cellar with an extensive array of reds and whites dispensed to consuming clientele by a brigade of knowledgeable staffers during cranium-packing classes. Taught by Court of Master Sommeliers member Matteo Fagin, Wine 101 classes guide novices through an overview of the evening's sampled wines, bestow pointers on advanced techniques for discerning each concoction's flavors, and disproves the theory that wine is made by tricking raisins into taking a bath. Subsequent tastings pair pours of six wines culled from myriad regions with abundant appetizers. Courses commence at Pagliacci's Restaurant on Monday or Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. or in students’ minds as soon as they master astral projection.
Inside Cork & Brew, a husband-and-wife team infects customers with their passion for brewing, judging, and, of course, drinking wines and beers. Primarily, they hope to de-mystify home brewing and winemaking with classes, winemaking parties, and even homebrew get-togethers at a residence or office. They stock all the necessary equipment, including fresh hops, grain, and malt, as well as wine must from all over the world. The duo’s hookup with a custom-labeling source allows their clients to brighten up bottles before giving them away as gifts, displaying them on wine racks, or using them to christen newly-purchased ocean liners. Guests also may mingle through the newly opened banquet and party facility, which hosts soirees of 10–80 people.
Shebeen is the Irish Gaelic word for illegal brewhouse, or speakeasy. But for Irish-born head brewer Rich, Shebeen Brewing is the formalization of 25 years of homebrewing. That's 25 years experimenting with unique flavors and ingredients; so in addition to classic styles such as irish pale ales and rye porters, Shebeen offers a rotating roster of specialty beers.
The brewery's most famous is the cannoli beer, made with vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and served with a dusting of powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Like the cannoli beer, many of Rich's creations focus on sweeter or spicier ingredients as opposed to aggressive use of hops. This results in concoctions such as the bacon Kona stout, or the wine-like saison made with concord-grape extracts. But Rich doesn't shy away from bolder flavors?one slightly green-hued brew pairs the cooling flavor of cucumbers with hot wasabi. Customers can sample the range of creative beers during tastings or tours, or carry home growlers for a more fun, rewarding alternative to lifting weights.