Sunset Meadow Vineyards is nestled in the scenic and beautiful Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. Family owned and operated, they grow 14 different varieties of grapes spread over 50 acres of sloping hills. It is the ideal setting for the prime sun exposure and constant airflow required to breed healthy vines. The soil in the area is similar to that in New Zealand and Australia. This gives the wines a different character than wines you find in other regions of the United States. Sunset Meadow embraces and celebrates these differences, resulting in truly unique wines.
Last year the vineyard produced 5000 cases of wine, putting them into the top five percent in the country in terms of production. The majority of their wines have won multiple awards.
The vineyard admirably tries to operate as sustainably as possible out of respect for the beauty of nature and health of the environment. They don’t use any pesticides and opt for the all-natural alternative of just apple cider vinegar. The vines are hand-pruned and hand-harvested by their staff. Fortunately, this year’s drought didn’t affect the quality of their grapes, but they did get a smaller yield.
The winery is located in a quaint barn from the 1800s that is bursting with character. The tasting room at Sunset Meadow is open year-round, every day of the week and most holidays. They do host events and group tastings, but ask that you call ahead for groups of 8 or more. It is also worth noting, especially for a dog owner like myself, that the vineyard is 100% dog friendly.
The staff is warm, friendly, and knowledgeable, which makes for a fully-rounded and wonderful experience. They are happy to chat all about wine and the vineyard with you. They offer helpful insights about each wine that the vineyard offers, including food pairing suggestions and the entire winemaking process.
The vineyard offers a wide selection of both red and white wines varying in sweetness; none of them contain added sugar, so there is a wine to fit everybody’s taste. This makes for a great experience for everyone, from the wine connoisseur to the casual wine drinker. Rest assured, you can feel comfortable coming with a group of people that have varying wine preferences.
A tasting will run you $9 with a souvenir glass, or $7 without (if this isn’t your first time visiting or you prefer not to take one home). The tasting includes your choice of any five of their 21 wines (some limited and are an additional cost, or available as bottle only), allowing you to try new wines every time you come back if you choose. Wine is also available to purchase by the glass, and of course by the bottle and the case.
Whites & Rosé
The Chardonnay is dry and well-balanced. It is aged in American oak and offers a buttery and luscious full-fruit taste. The Riesling is dry with just a hint of green apple. This wine is aged in stainless steel to give it that clean and crisp finish. They also offer a Cayuga, which won the Best Wine in Connecticut 4 years in a row… until another one of their wines beat it out! It is crisp, clear, and refreshing. Its fruity taste has flavors of grapefruit, melon, and peach. The Vidal Blanc is a mix of Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc, which they also used to make their Ice Wine. It is crisp, clear and smooth, and has a buttery taste with a hint of oak and a slight sweetness on the finish. It is 100% estate-grown and barrel-aged in American Oak. Their French-style Rosé is elegant and crisp. It’s a dry wine with hints of strawberry and apricot. This one pairs well with a wide range of cuisines. Moving on to something a little sweeter, their Blustery Blend is composed of Cayuga White and Seyval Blanc. This refreshing blend has a distinct fruity aroma. It’s aged in stainless steel for a crisp finish and fermented at a lower temperature. Sunset Meadow also offers an apple wine, which they call Enchanted Apple. It is a blend of four apple varieties that come from Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford, Connecticut; they also have a winery that is part of the CT Wine Trail. The apple wine is rich, balanced and refreshing with a hint of honey. This wine gets better as it sits.
The red wines bring some distinctive offerings. The St. Croix is a smooth and dry wine with aromas of cherry with a spice and pepper finish. The New Dawn is a unique blend of estate grown Frontenac, St. Croix, and Merlot. It is smooth, oaky, and intensely fruit forward with hints of plum, raspberry, cranberry, and black currant. The Twisted Red is a fuller-bodied Bordeaux style wine. It is an exquisite blend of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Limburger, and Chamborcin. This one has hints of spice, blackberry, black cherry, plum and vanilla. Root 63 is the vineyard’s most popular wine. It is a versatile semi-sweet red wine with flavors of strawberry, pomegranate and raspberry, made from a proprietary blend of estate-grown grapes. It is their only red wine that is aged in stainless steel. It pairs well with everything, from fresh fruit and dessert to pizza and burgers. Shades of Risqué is Sunset Meadow’s sparkling wine. It is a fruity, pomegranate-hued wine bursting with flavors of bright berry and pomegranate. It’s great to substitute for cranberry juice in a cosmopolitan or to use in a mimosa.
Dessert & Reserve Wines
The vineyard also has two dessert, and four reserve wines. Pyrrha’s Passion is a rich Port-style dessert wine with berry flavors and caramel overtones. Midnight Ice is a tropical delight with flavors of mango, papaya, and passion fruit. Both of these wines can be added to a tasting for an additional cost. Big Lab Cab is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 4 years. It is named for the vineyard’s rescued Labrador Retriever, Churchill. A portion of the proceeds from this wine go to a local animal shelter. There is also a Merlot Reserve, Twisted Red Reserve, and Cabernet Franc Reserve, that have all been aged for 3 years. These are all available for purchase as a bottle only.
This winery offers a fascinating taste of very delicious and unique wines. A visit to Sunset Meadow would pair well with a great day-trip from just about anywhere in the New England area, and could be combined with any seasonal activity including: leaf-peeping, skiing, antiquing or just a weekend get-away. Stop in and enjoy Sunset Meadow.
Featured image and porch image by Winter Caplanson. Other photos contributed by author.