Thirsty Thursdays: Divine wine right in your backyard

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Red wine in a vineyard, almost about to spill. This vineyard is located in Coventry, Connecticut, one of the few places you’d think of looking. (Photo courtesy of: Grape Things)

When thinking about the great wine capitals of the world what comes to mind? Tuscany in Italy? Bordeaux and Champagne in France? How about Valencia in Spain? Oh, and we cannot forget about Napa Valley in California.  

I’m sure the average person would not put the boondocks of Tolland County, Connecticut on that list, but believe it or not, the lush hills of a picturesque vineyard are not as far as you would think. Call me crazy but Coventry, Connecticut is actually home to a hidden gem of the wine-drinking world: the Cassidy Hill Vineyard.  

The Cassidy Hill Vineyard, located at 454 Cassidy Hill Road in Coventry, takes “off-the-beaten-path” to a new level. Nestled in the country roads of the UConn periphery, amidst historic homes and farms, the winery owns a vast field of grapevines with a central log cabin tasting room where their wines are available for purchase. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, especially if you stop by on a sunny day. Blue skies, puffy clouds and rolling fields stretch for miles and the picnic tables alongside the grapevines make for the perfect weekend lunch date.  

Typically, the winery offers wine tastings, providing five samples for the price of eight dollars. Tastings, however, have been suspended since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those eight bucks can instead get you a full glass of any of their selections. If you are worried about committing too soon to a particular grape, Cassidy Hill does offer wine flights as an alternative, offering two-ounce glasses of four choices. And, if you venture by on a warm day and are looking for something refreshing, wine slushies are also offered with different weekly flavors. 

I first ventured across Cassidy Hill when my friends and I were looking for a 21-and-over activity to celebrate our roommate’s 21st birthday before the night’s ceremonial trip to Ted’s, Huskies and so on. Since we can usually squeeze out a few warm days in September and October, an outdoor outing seemed like the perfect choice. 

If you can, bring a sizeable group of friends and have everyone try a different type of wine so you can sample their selections. As a group of eight, each of us ordered a different bottle of wine and poured out a half glass for everyone to try. I will remind you that it was our friend’s 21st, so eight half glasses may be a little hefty for an average Saturday afternoon. But, the best kind of drunk is wine drunk. You will need your fair share of palate cleansers, as well, to properly taste each individual blend. The standard bread, crackers, cheese and a sip of water in between should suffice, unless you would rather be the uncultured swine we were and dine on wine and Sgt. Pepperoni’s cheese pizza. Not the classiest move, but hey, would you really deny a girl her favorite food on her own birthday? I didn’t think so. 

Now for the wines. Cassidy Hill offers a vast variety of blends to satisfy all wine drinkers no matter where you fall on the color spectrum. If you are a red fan, like myself, consider the Coventry Red or the Coventry Spice. Both of which are sweeter than your average red wine, with the Coventry Spice barring the nickname, “Christmas in a glass.” In the New England tradition, these wines are blended with apples, oranges and an array of berries and spices. For a dryer red with a fuller body, I suggest the Merlot, a favorite among the group. In the white wines department, their signature grape, the Coventry White is dryer than one might expect for a white, with the Granny Smith apple mixture coming through very delicately. For a sweeter white, consider the Summer Breeze, which is infused with fresh strawberries. If you want the birthday girl’s take, however, the Pink Catawba is a perfect medium between the red and white varieties. As their award-winning blend, the Pink Catawba is a sweet rosé infused with grapefruit that comes from the Catawba grape which is native to the Americas and the New England region. 

All in all, for those 21 and over looking for an alcoholic experience around UConn that doesn’t involve shotgunning a beer before a Saturday night bar crawl, consider the Cassidy Hill Vineyard. It may seem a little high-brow for the likes of college students like us, but you may find that a sip of chardonnay will do you wonders during midterm season. Cheers! 

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