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Paradise Hills President’s Choice red

Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery President’s Choice

Wallingford, $28.88

The Ruggiero family has been growing grapes in Wallingford for more than 20 years and making wine for nearly 10 of those. Their Tuscan-styled Paradise Hills winery, outfitted with a geothermal heating and cooling system, is situated along the famous Washington Trail. Several of their wines are named in tribute to this historic site where George Washington once passed through in 1775. The winery offers nearly two dozen wines produced both from estate-grown and imported grapes.

Released each year on President’s Day, Paradise Hills President’s Choice is considered by the family to be the flagship of their lineup. This wine is a proprietary blend of red grapes, the recipe for which is claimed to have been passed down to the Ruggiero family from Italy. Deep cherry-red, the generous alcohol content quickly carries aromas of charred oak to the nose, followed by underlying herbaceous, plum and black cherry notes. On the palate, this wine begins and ends its journey with wood. The flavors evolve from toasty to toffee to cherries and damson fruit, and culminate in a smoky tobacco endnote. The wine displays subdued tannins and surprisingly zesty acidity. Partner with grilled steak with chimichurri sauce, pasta Bolognese, or an applewood-smoked bacon cheeseburger.

For $28.88, you can partake in a bit of history with this food-friendly wine.

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Jones Winery Pinot Gris 2017

Shelton, $23

Among the almost two dozen wines produced at Jones Winery in Shelton are several that feature grapes commonly found in the wines of Alsace, France. The pinot gris wine from Jones Winery is produced in a style similar to one from the Alsace region. Separated by only a few degrees latitude, both regions share a cool climate where white grapes truly shine. This expression of pinot gris tends to be somewhat weightier than wines from Italy, where the grape goes by the name pinot grigio.

Presented in an elegant, elongated green bottle known as a flute d’Alsace, Jones Winery Pinot Gris isproduced from 100 percent estate-grown pinot gris grapes. The wine is a warm, bright yellow-gold in the glass. The nose is immediately inviting with notes of pear, apple, almond and just a hint of nutmeg. Floral notes add an enticing layer, proffering an abundance of apple tree blossom aromas. The first sip slowly washes over the mouth, echoing the aromatics with pear, apple, marzipan and quince blossoms, as the wine evolves from fruity to delicately spicy. The wine is well-balanced, with more than refreshing acidity, a silky-smooth finish, and a lingering bit of spice. The weight of this wine allows one to be bold with pairing choices. Enjoy with poached salmon with creamy green dressing, wild mushroom risotto, and roasted chicken and root vegetables with fresh herbs.

For $22, you can sip this versatile white throughout the summer and well into autumn.

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Sharpe Hill Dry Summer Rosé

Pomfret, $15

Nestled in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner, Sharpe Hill Vineyard produces an array of award-winning wines. Their more than a dozen varieties are crafted from both well-known European grapes, as well as lesser-known hybrid grapes. One grape that can be found growing here is St. Croix, an American hybrid developed to withstand very cold growing regions. Although examples of red wines produced from St. Croix can be found throughout the state (including at Sharpe Hill), it is unusual to find this dark-skinned grape featured in a rosé.

Introduced for the first time 14 years ago, Sharpe Hill Dry Summer Rosé is produced from 100 percent estate-grown St. Croix grapes. The deeply colored grape first makes its presence known with its remarkable hue. Pale cherry-red with burnt-orange highlights, the color is reminiscent of a candied caramel apple. Notes of purple spring flowers are first to greet the nose, followed by intense strawberry and red currant aromatics. On the palate, the strawberries take on a warm baked quality and are joined by a pop of pleasing tartness reminiscent of freshly foraged autumn olives. This wine is dry yet fruity with refreshing acidity. Pair with one of the many entrées at Sharpe Hill Vineyard’s gourmet restaurant (once it reopens), or appreciate it at home with a cheese and charcuterie board, or grilled chicken with savory rhubarb salsa.

You can enjoy this lighter introduction to the St. Croix grape for $15 a bottle.

Renée B. Allen, CSW, FWS, CSS, is a wine and spirits expert and the director of the award-winning Wine Institute of New England, which offers wine and spirits education and events. Allen is a professor at the University of New Haven, a wine competition director and judge, and can be seen on WFSB’s Better Connecticut.

This article appeared in the June 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram@connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.