Connecticut Wine Trail 2011: Paradise Hills Vineyards
As some of our readers may remember, we made it a point to visit as many of Connecticut’s wineries as we could last year, and got a little more than half-way through the 29 stops on the Wine Trail. During our travels we kept hearing about a new winery that was to open in Wallingford last Spring, Paradise Hills Vineyards. We waited and watched, but the highly anticipated opening never occurred, and we were very much disappointed. Wallingford already has a fantastic winery, Gouveia Vineyards, on the trail and we visit it often, but there’s nothing wrong with having two great wine destinations so close by to spend a relaxing day drinking some great wine.
So, when we heard from a friend on Facebook that the new vineyard had opened for business on May 1st, we made plans to visit at our first opportunity. And we were not disappointed.
Located at the end of a cul-de-sac at 15 Wind Swept Hill Road, the winery is set back from the road on 65 acres of verdant Wallingford farmland. Upon approaching the yellow stucco building the newness of the facility is still apparent, with construction equipment and cleared trees scattered at the rear of the property. As we entered the tasting room, we were greeted by the aroma of fresh paint and bright sunlight streaming in through the windows and skylights. We sat at the bar and were soon greeted by Richard Ruggiero, Paradise Hills founder, and he set us up for our eagerly awaited wine tasting, which was reasonably priced at $6.00 per person.
Paradise Hills carries six wines on its menu, but today one of the wines (Vino Blanco del Paradiso) was unavailable for tasting, so we started with the Washington Trail White, a medium bodied wine with apple and citrus flavors. It was quite refreshing, tasting like a dry to off-dry Riesling, and would be very nice served chilled on a hot summer day. Next up was the Chardonnay, their signature white wine. The grapes for this wine are 100% estate grown and aged in stainless steel, giving the wine a pure, clean bouquet and traces of straw and citrus on the palate. Unfortunately, this was our least favorite of the whites we tasted, which is strange since we generally like Chardonnays. Well, you can’t like them ALL, I suppose!
Next up was the Washington Trail Red, a rather light wine which tended to lean towards the Merlot side of the grapes that make it up. It would certainly not be out of place at the dinner table or just as something to sip while watching TV or on the patio. Next, we tried Paradise Hills’ premier red, named President’s Choice. It had one of the most unique tastes for a red I’ve encountered in a long time, full bodied and rich, with blackberry among the predominant flavors on the palate. The finish was long and smooth, and as someone who is biased more towards white wines than red, I found it a very enjoyable surprising wine, and highly recommended.
Last on the menu is what emerged as my personal favorite of all the wines, the estate grown Cayuga White. As a confirmed Riesling lover, I found this wonderful white to be comparable to some of my favorite German or Washington State Rieslings. Bright and on the sweet side, melon and honeysuckle overtones play along both nose and tongue in a delightful dance I wished didn’t have to end. This wine will find a place in my cooler for sure! All in all, our wait for the opening of Paradise Hills was well worth it, and we can’t wait for warmer, drier weather so we can go back and have lunch on the covered patio with a bottle of Cayuga White!
Paradise Hills Vineyards is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 AM to 8 PM, and Sundays from 11 AM to 6 PM. They can be reached by phone at (203) 284-0123. In addition to the tastings for $6.00, they also have very nice branded wine glasses you can purchase for $5.00 each, and the wines can be had by the bottle ranging in price from $13.99 for the Vino Blanco del Paradiso to $23.99 for the excellent President’s Choice. A visit to Wallingford should not be complete without stopping by this great new addition to the Connecticut Wine Trail. Oh, and bring your 2011 Wine Trail passports too, and they’ll be happy to stamp it for you, or provide you with one if you don’t have one yet.