Nestled in the shoreline town of Clinton, Connecticut, about a mile beyond the hustle and bustle of the outlet shops is a charming vineyard that boasts 20 acres of grapes as well as their bountiful fruit, vegetable and herb gardens. This little winery is truly a hidden gem - a diamond in the rough.
While the words vineyard and winery do not typically come to mind when you mention coastal Connecticut, you may want to rethink those thoughts. Established in 1983, Chamard Vineyards Farm, Winery, & Bistro boasts several Estate Reserve wines that are exclusively made in their winery, and can be enjoyed right on their premises - in their Tasting Room, dining rooms and, weather permitting,outside on the patio overlooking the magnificent property. The bistro offers a creative farm-to-table menu featuring a French inspired American menu.
Come meander through the vineyards and the gardens – bring your dogs if you wish, but they must remain on their leashes! (Your four-legged friends are not allowed inside in the dining areas, however.) Take in the magnificent scenery all around you - California doesn't have the beauty of the seasons the way we do! Our leaves will be at peak within in the next couple of weeks, why not enjoy the amazing foliage while sipping some great wine and dining on great fare.
I met up with my good friend Doug Ball for a personal tour and some lunch - Doug was responsible and the mastermind in turning this once residential home into a restaurant with a commercial kitchen and tasting area. His impressive sculptures also dot the vinery landscape.
We entered the building from the outside, where the Tasting Room was to the left and two adjoining dining areas were on our right. The Tasting Room is small but spacious and sunny with magnificent views of the vineyards all around. As you make your way to the bar you'll notice an amazing creation, a cross between a mural and a sculpture created entirely from wine barrels - Here Doug illustrates the journey of the grape, from the vine, to the bottle to the glass. It's quite impressive. The bar itself is made from reclaimed cherry flooring and wine barrels, as are the 8 tables.
The Lounge boasts 7 tables, is warm and inviting filled with eclectic décor and artwork, much created from reclaimed wood, wine barrels and wine staves. In the center of the Lounge, commanding your attention, is a wonderful table aptly called The Center of the Universe. This beautiful table was created from a fallen persimmon tree as was the pass-through from the lounge into the kitchen. As in the Tasting Room, the rest of the tables in the lounge area were created from wine barrels. In keeping in theme with the winery, the decor follows suit throughout - the table tops in the Atrium, just off of the Lounge, were created from wine vats, and the benches at each table, just beneath the windows with the scenic views, were made from reclaimed lumber and old wine staves. (Wine staves are the individual pieces of wood that all together form a wine barrel.) For larger parties and private events the Harvest Room, located just off the Atrium, is available for use. Each dining area offers exquisite views of the property.
We enjoyed our lunch in the lounge where the trees were just starting to change into their autumnal hues – the bright reds and oranges served as a perfect contrast to the green vines. Chamard's new menu perfectly reflected the change of seasons. The kitchen prides themselves on using fresh vegetables, fruit and greens from their own gardens. Items that are not grown on property are sourced from local farms and vendors. The new menu boasts items like Salade Lyonnaise, made with frisée lettuce, applewood smoked bacon, poached egg, brioche croutons with Dijon apple cider vinaigrette. The Salade de Feuilles de Moutarde is made with kabocha squash, dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, braised pork belly and maple syrup. Chamard Courge Musquee et Gnocci is made with a house made gnocchi, local shiitake mushrooms, sage pesto, toasted pistachio nuts and Brussel sprouts. The Poitrine de Poulet Roti en Poêlé is a pan seared Moularde duck breast, served with Chamard white port, sour cherry gastrique, almond wild rice and sautéed baby spinach. The Agneau Roti âla Lavande Locale is a roast rack of spring lamp served with cannellini beans, tomato confit, roast garlic and eggplant with a rosemary-lavender jus.
Because I was on the property for a possible food review we tasted more than we would ordinarily order at lunchtime. We started with the Grilled Flatbread made with thinly sliced sweet potato, Red Russian kale, Fontina, herbed crème fraiche, black mission figs and a sherry glaze. The flatbread was served with a side salad, was thin and crisp and the flavors perfectly representative of the autumnal garden. For those who like sweet and savory, the combination of cheese and fruit, the Salade â la Mache will fill your flavor requirements. Organic mache lettuces, Belgium endive, caramelized Anjou pear, farmstead blue cheese, toasted pecans and a cranberry vinaigrette make this salad a beautiful as well as a flavorful treat. The smooth yet piquant blue offered a perfect balance to the sweetness of the pear and the dressing. This salad is a bit on the sweeter side, so if you prefer your salads more on the savory side, this may not be the choice for you. We munched on Camembert en Croute, a creamy Camembert wrapped in puff pastry, served with salted caramel sauce, pears and apples served and warm baguette slices while we waited for our entrees. This could also very well be served after a meal and enjoyed as a dessert. The Four Mile River Farm Burger made from local grass fed beef, aged gruyere cheese, bacon marmalade, garlic aioli and baby arugula on a brioche with a side salad vinaigrette was outstanding. The burger had a perfectly seared crust on the exterior, was pink, juicy and tender on the inside. The flavors of the bacon marmalade and the garlic aioli perfectly complemented the burger. The marmalade offered a nice bacon and onion flavor without overwhelming and weighing down the burger as bacon often does. The Côtelette de Porc de Berkshire Grillées aux Morilles – grilled Berkshire pork chop, morel mushrooms, spring garlic, brandy and crème fraiche with marbled rainbow potatoes was divine. The pork chop was perfectly cooked, and perfectly seasoned absorbing the flavors of the crème, sherry, mushrooms and the spices. The sauce was well seasoned with a perfect hint of the sherry, though not at all sweet. The fresh sage served a perfect flavor complement. My only regret was that I had not asked for some bread to soak up the wonderful sauce! With our meat we ordered a side of Shaved Brussel Sprouts that was served in a personal sized pot with pine nuts, dried cranberries and carrot brunoise. To help wash down our food we chose the award winning Merlot and the Chardonnay. Don’t let the fact that the grapes are local cloud your judgment. These are two truly very good wines.
There's one more thing worth noting - Perhaps you are interested creating your very own wine, and labels? The winery offers something called the Custom Crush. A Custom Crush will yield 2 barrels, or 300 bottles of wine. This is very popular as a bridal party activity as well as a team building activity for businesses. Come on, there's a little bit of Lucy and Ethel in all of us... admit it!
Chamard offers private tours and tastings. It is recommended that they be made in advance of at least 2 weeks to accommodate other tours and scheduled event, one can also sign up for the their Wine Maker tour.
For more information on tastings, tours and Custom Crushes, you can reach out to Chamard via their website.
For more information on Doug Ball and his works, sculptures and commission, visit his website, OOODB.