October 14, 2011

The Check-In/Check-Out Diaries: Connecticut Wine Trail

It’s not always how you write out the itinerary; sometimes it’s the adventure itself. After a Zipcar mishap I was informed I would not have my usual Prius, the car I have grown to love for my weekend trips. Instead I would have to trek up to 22nd street to a Dollar rental place to secure a car for our weekend trip. The one thing going for me, I did not have to drive through New Jersey, instead driving straight up through New York State and into Connecticut. A dream comes true!

The other positive was the incredible weather, what is often referred to as an “Indian Summer” which I’m not sure may be an outdated term that is now considered politically incorrect. Does Al Gore use this term when discussing Global Warming? Probably not. I really am not sure on this one. Another way to put this: It was over eighty degrees in October.

No issues at the car rental place, pick up Beth and the Hotdog, and we are off, headed to the Triboro/RFK bridge. One hour in, our first stop, McDonald’s for breakfast. I learn that there is a new McMuffin, the Sausage McMuffin. Has this been around for a long time, not sure? I eat two and decide I would rather stick with the classic Egg McMuffin, although the thought of having one of each becomes intriguing as we cross from New York into Connecticut.

Our first stop is Jones Farm, searching for pumpkins. We go through two stone covered drives and a grass path before we reach the farm. There is a fall festival going on, complete with full parking lot and a guy who looks like Santa Claus (long white beard, big belly, and jolly) directing traffic. He plays into this yelling “Ho, Ho, Ho”, but I also suspect he goes home each night and debates shaving the beard as he drinks a lot of bourbon straight from the bottle. Dogs are not allowed so Beth goes in and grabs a couple “spooky” sized pumpkins and then we leave. On our way out I write down “I would like black canvas Chuck Taylors” on a piece of paper and put it into Santa’s pocket…just in case. Okay that didn’t happen. I forgot to write “canvas”.

A running element of the trip would be the lack of roads leading to farms and vineyards. This would get increasingly worse as we traveled on. The first stop was White Silo Vineyard. Armed with our Travel Zoo voucher (wine tasting, lunch, and tour) we enter and see we are the first there. The first of MANY groups armed with Travel Zoo vouchers visiting the vineyard. The owners are extremely nice and we are allowed to look at the large vats of wine and even allowed to dip our fingers and “taste” the wine. Most of their wine is made from fruit (other than grapes). Their rhubarb wines are especially nice and were a pleasant surprise. Given the beautiful day lunch was outside. Another common element would be the large amount of bees in Connecticut. We were constantly under attack by the little yellow and black bastards! For lunch we were joined by two young boys who loved the Hotdog, video games, and chopping plants. The food was good. The wine delicious. We left with three bottles.

The next stop after several highways and roads was Digrazi Vineyard. The tasting room was very busy and the Hotdog was unhappy (other dogs were around) and the older “comedian” that may have been (probably) the owner continued to entertain the crowds with jokes as he poured tastings of very good tasting wine. The wine was delicious. We left with three bottles.

Our final stop, McLaughlin vineyard was actually in the middle of nowhere. How we (or others) find this place is an adventure in itself. However, it is worth it. The tasting room is small, but there is a large outside area that is surrounded by cut fields and vines of grapes. You are able to drink wine, run around, and frolic through the grapes should you wish. Unfortunately the wine was not to our liking. We left with zero bottles. We head back to New York. There would be one more stop, this one unplanned.

Somewhere forty-five minutes north of the city you will find a small town named Monroe. This is where we pulled off for a quick coffee and bathroom break. The town is a couple miles off the highway so you have to drive through a town that boasts several quaint restaurants and wine bars along the main strip. Pass a Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid and you will eventually see a Dunkin Donuts in the distance.

Beth would go inside as I walk the dog. When she exited she was shocked and told a story that at the time was not very believable. After Beth insisted on staying inside the car with the doors locked, I decided to go check this out first hand. It didn’t take long to understand Beth’s reaction. Various people were seated at tables, all with the same look: 1. Permanent grin (with mouth open) 2. A dazed look, as if looking through any object in front of them 3. No teeth – the one exception would be the one or two silver/gold teeth from the mouth. I have always heard “meth” is a small town problem. I would go a step further and say in this small town it’s a Dunkin Donuts problem. During each moment I felt on the verge of something bad about to happen. I saw a door for office personnel and just assume that’s where they were cooking the methamphetamines. I left, quickly and sped out of Monroe back to New York City, where it is normal.

It’s not always how you write out the itinerary; sometimes it’s the adventure itself.

David S. Grant is the author of several books. His latest, BLOOD: The New Red will be available 11-11-11. For more information go to http://www.davidsgrant.com. Follow David on Twitter @david_s_grant