Grab your Passport and head to Walker Road Vineyards in Woodbury!
Walker Road Vineyards is worth the drive through the quaint and scenic roads of southern Litchfield County. Winemakers and owners Jim and Bruce Elizabeth Frey greet visitors in their tasting room, a beautifully restored barn.
The Property and Vineyard
You’ll turn onto Walker Road and see the property right away. Follow the signs and you will loop behind a blue house and find the tasting room and parking. The tasting room is a post and beam barn original to the property with a few upgrades for its new purpose. The original floorboards were replaced, but this wood has been reused for the walls you’ll see behind and to the right of the bar, plus partitioning for a new bathroom.
In the main tasting room one of the hallmarks is an open air window overlooking the vineyard. The Frey’s own 13 acres with 2.5 planted with grapes currently including St. Croix, Marquette, Seyval Blanc and others.
A private room is located on the left side of the barn, which can be used for events or small parties or groups. Called the bottling room, this is where much of their wines are bottled and some are stored.
Seating within the barn and outside is available for your enjoyment and the winery is picnic friendly. Arrive early if you want to snag the most popular seats up the hill at the shed, a shady spot with great views of the vineyard.
The Frey’s have lived all over the United States from Chicago to Dallas to California. The couple has always had a love for wine and when settling in Woodbury over ten years ago, Jim set out to make wine on the property.
Not only are they great winemakers, but they are also great collectors. If you look around the tasting room you’ll find photos of family or antiques preserving times passed. For example, the Dallas newspaper headlining “Men Walk on Moon”, and a top-of-the-line rifle sold out of the Sears catalog back in the early 1900’s. Keep your eyes peeled and ask about anything you see as there seems to be a great story behind everything!
Your tasting at Walker Roads will include two wines, a white and a red, and occasionally a few others added to the rotation. The tasting is $10 and includes a logo glass.
Gertrude’s Garden is a white blend of Seyval Blanc and Traminette from the property and a Sauvingon Blanc from a partner in California. The story behind the naming and the label is unique. An annual festive dinner in Woodbury honors Gertrude Jekyll, an esteemed garden designer from the United Kingdom. Walker Roads was asked to provide wine for the event with a special label to honor Gertrude. Rather than creating a label for just this event, Jim and Bruce Elizabeth got creative. Jim’s mother was also named Gertrude. The woman in the yellow dress on the bottle is in fact his mother, superimposed from a real photo taken in the 30’s. The original photo hangs in the winery if you’d like to compare!
The red is a blend of St. Croix, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese grapes from a partner in California. This ‘Red Table Wine’ is medium bodied and very balanced.
On my visit I was also offered a 2015 Marquette to taste. This dry red wine was just recently completed and is going to be aged longer before it is officially added to the tasting rotation.
Winemaking & Blending
Named Connecticut Winemaker of the year in 2016, Jim Frey sure does know what he’s doing. The lower level of the barn is where the magic happens.
“My favorite part of winemaking is blending,” says Jim standing in the room he refers to as his lab. Creating the perfect blend is very important to Jim and Bruce Elizabeth and they both have a big role in the process. Jim prepares small vials of various blends altering grape varietals and ratios keeping the makeup secret. He will present the trial blends to Bruce Elizabeth and she will take copious tasting notes. In each round of 10 trials, they will narrow to 2. Then the final candidates will be narrowed further until they both agree on which of the final two will be the winner. This blend will be utilized for bottling and serving in the tasting room.
Crushing and destemming occur on the concrete patio before heading inside for fermentation. Once fermented, the liquid is ‘racked’ to a different container to aid in the clarification process. Once clarified, Jim uses stainless steel or oak barrels for aging. All grape varietals are kept and aged separately and only combined together when bottling is to occur.
Plan Your Visit
The Walker Road Vineyards tasting room is open 12noon to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Plan you visit as a precursor to shopping stops nearby along the Connecticut Antique Trail or as a stop on the way to other Connecticut Wine Trail vineyards in the western part of the state. Either way, I guarantee a wonderful visit to a small Connecticut vineyard with big character! You’ll love how personable and warm Jim and Bruce Elizabeth are and their stories will bring you back in time. The unique blends are more than enough to please red or white lovers alike.
Photos courtesy of the author, Christine Conroy, as well as Christina Musto and Michelle Ziegler, all taken during a CT Wine Trail Ambassadors outing in June 2017.