When Linda Auger learned that several dozen pairs of tandem bicyclists would be traveling through scenic eastern Connecticut Friday and planning to stop for a tasting at Taylor Brooke Winery, she called in some chips. The owner of the B&B next door on Route 171 in Woodstock and another friend came running to pour wine and help out in the tasting room.
Linda and her husband, Dick, have run the winery, nestled comfortably in B&B and antique country, for seven years. “It was a cornfield when we bought it,” Linda tells Friday afternoon tasters as she pours samples of the 12 wines they produce.
You might think a winery in Woodstock would be a little hoity-toity, but not so, where the Augers are concerned. About the best wine tasting deal you'll find is at Taylor Brooke. You can taste two wines with compliments of the house, eight wines for $4 or all 12 wines for $6. Linda serves as tour guide on the journey of whites, reds, a rose and three dessert wines.
She explains afterward that she and Dick chose to focus on Rieslings, now a trend in New England winemaking, because, well, they weren't that wild about Chardonnays. The basic Riesling is dry and goes down easy. Linda suggests dropping a slice of apple into a glass of Taylor Brooke's Green Apple Riesling, which embellishes the regular Riesling with a green apple infusion from New York state. Linda is full of suggestions for serving wine and pairing it with food.
Dick, a career drug company professional before he turned winemaker, proudly gives you a tour of the clean inner sanctum, where he and Linda and assorted helpers bottle, label and cork their own wines by hand. “We do this 780 times,” he says, to make 65 cases of wine.
The Summer Peach Riesling is wowing the crowds this summer, with its Georgia peach infusion. Taylor Brooke sold 107 cases of it at the Goshen Wine Festival last weekend, Linda says proudly.
We order a bottle of that one to enjoy after the tasting, but my wine buddy and I also like the Roseland Red (Taylor Brooke is 3 miles down the road from the historic and pink Roseland Cottage), the Cabernet Franc and all of the dessert wines. We munch on the delicious Massachusetts-made wine crackers, for sale in the shop along with art objects and handsome wine paraphernalia. And we follow Linda's explanations on when to rinse our glasses, when to have a chocolate morsel between sips of the Chocolate Essence merlot port and how the wines are special. She loves her winery and she loves wine.
“We've probably been to only 300 or 400 wineries in California, where there are thousands,” she recounts. “So many wineries, so little time.”
We move to the cute side room to enjoy our selection. We are greeted by Zima, the sweet dog with Hollywood markings you can read about on the Web site. Pretty soon other tasters join us.
If you're lucky, Dick, who started making wine from kits in the '90s, might offer you a taste of his newest concoction, such as a merlot with Seville orange infusion he is expecting to roll out next summer. He adds some Polar Springs Diet Green Tea Ginger Ale, and you start planning next summer's deck party in your head while you feel the party in your mouth.
“We do this with customers,” Linda says of Dick's surprise preview. We'll be back.
Taylor Brooke Winery is at 848 Connecticut 171 in Woodstock. Tastings are held Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, until 5 p.m. For information, visit the Web site or call 860-974-1263.