Sunset Meadow: Chocolate Pairings And Merlita Slushies

It's a family affair at Sunset Meadow Vineyards, which opened its Goshen tasting room in 2008.

George Motel, who co-owns the winery with his wife, Judy, studied viticulture and enology at the University of California-Davis as he developed the vineyard property. His son, George, serves as vineyard manager, and the Motels' son-in-law, Chris Chichester, is Sunset Meadow's retail manager.

Sunset Meadow is a popular stop among the Connecticut Wine Trail's Litchfield Hills wineries, known for its rolling acres of vines and enviable sunset views, a wide variety of estate-grown wines and a few treats, like chocolate and wine pairings and frozen merlot cocktails.

FEATURED AND NOTEWORTHY WINES: About 90 percent of Sunset Meadow's wines are made from grapes grown on the property, Chichester said, reflecting the Motels' desire to have a "true Connecticut vineyard." The tasting room currently offers eight white wines and eight red wines, in addition to two dessert wines and four reserve reds.

Sunset Meadow's Cayuga White, "a crisp, refreshing, fruit forward wine with hints of white grape, grapefruit and peach," has picked up numerous medals in international wine competitions, and the Blustery Blend, a mix of Cayuga and Seyval Blanc, earned Best in Class and Double Gold in the 2015 International Eastern Wine Competition. Other whites include an oak-aged chardonnay, a riesling and vidal blanc.

Root 63, a semi-sweet red that's aged on stainless steel and served chilled, has become the most popular wine, Chichester said, converting new wine lovers and white-only drinkers alike. Sunset Meadow has also begun barrel-aging its estate St. Croix, finishing it on 10-year-old bourbon barrels from nearby Litchfield Distillery. Special reserve red wines, aged for at least 3 years, are available for tasting during the last weekend of every month.

The sparkling Shades of Risqué, introduced about four years ago, has flavors of "bright raspberry and pomegranate" and is popular for bridal showers and Mother's Day events. In the winter, Sunset Meadow serves warm mulled wine with spices, and guests eagerly await spring and summer for the appearance of the winery's popular "merlitas," or wine slushies.

PRICING: Taste 5 wines for $9 and keep the souvenir Sunset Meadow wine glass ($7 without glass). Full glasses of wine are $8 for whites, $10 for reds, and merlitas are $5. Wines by the bottle are $16.99 to $59.99.

FOOD OPTIONS: Sunset Meadow offers special chocolate and wine tastings for $18, partnering wines with confections from Fascia's Chocolates in Waterbury. Guests can choose a slate of either five white or five red wines, matched to complementary flavors in the sweets.

"We had the very arduous task of trying about 175 chocolates and trying to pair them with wine to narrow it down to these 10," Chichester joked.

The Blustery Blend with "crisp fruity aroma" is paired with a milk chocolate cream sprinkled with sea salt, and the Enchanted Apple wine with "subtle hints of honey" couples with a cinnamon cream. The New Dawn red blend with "hints of pepper, currant and cranberry" goes hand-in-hand with a dark chocolate raspberry truffle, and the port-style Pyrrha's Passion dessert wine harmonizes with a dark chocolate sea salt caramel.

The tasting room also sells a few snack items, and guests are welcome to bring their own food, Chichester said, but no outside beverages are permitted.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Sunset Meadow hosts live music on Sundays and occasional special happenings, like a barbecue-and-cigar wine dinner on Father's Day weekend. But, in general, "we want you to come in, and we want to give you the wine experience," Chichester said.

TASTING ROOM HOURS: Sunset Meadow is open Sunday, Monday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. most holidays. Groups of 8 or more are asked to schedule advance tasting appointments.

SUNSET MEADOW VINEYARDS is at 599 Old Middle Street in Goshen. 860-201-4654, sunsetmeadowvineyards.com.

This wine season, we're providing a guide to what you'll find at Connecticut's farm wineries: signature vintages and special releases, live entertainment, gourmet food options, and a few surprises (wine slushies, anyone?) We will feature a different winery every two weeks. Find the entire series here.

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