How often does one get to visit a vineyard that’s blanketed by crisp white snow, or highlighted by a fiery autumnal backdrop, making it even more magical than it already is? Nestled in the shoreline town of Clinton, about a mile beyond the hustle and bustle of the outlet shops is a charming vineyard that boasts over 20 acres of grapes as well as their bountiful fruit, vegetable and herb gardens. One might not consider Connecticut to be wine country, butChamard Vineyards Farm, Winery, & Bistrois worth noting. Established in 1983, Chamard’s winning Estate Reserve wines are exclusively made in their winery, and can be enjoyed in their Tasting Room or in their dining room. The bistro offers a creative farm-to-table menu featuring a French inspired American menu. Their Chardonnay and Merlot are very good.
Guests are encouraged to wander through the vineyards and the gardens – dogs are even welcome as long as they are on leashes. (However, they are not permitted in the bistro or tasting room.) You’ll find some fun and whimsical art and architectural pieces that have been created from old wine barrels that have made themselves at home in the landscape. Next to the main building sits a nicely sized barn that can be rented out for private events and weddings. After a tour of the grounds we meandered indoors into the Lounge for lunch. In the distance, beyond the vineyards, the trees were just starting to change into their autumnal hues – the bright reds and oranges served as a perfect contrast to the green wines.
There are 2 dining areas that are connected to each other. Guests enter into the Lounge, a room that is warm and inviting filled with eclectic décor and artwork, much created from reclaimed wood. At the center of the Lounge is a wonderful, commanding table aptly called The Center of the Universe. It was created from a fallen persimmon tree as was the pass-through from the lounge into the kitchen. The rest of the tables in the lounge area were created from wine barrels. The atmosphere is casual, warm and inviting. The Atrium, just off of the Lounge, offers magnificent views of the property, is bright and sunny. The theme of furniture also created from reclaimed lumber, wine barrels and staves are carried through. (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.
Executive Chef Matthew Bouffard prides himself on sourcing nearby farms and vendors for his Farm to Table menu. Four Mile River Farm in Old Lyme supplies the grass-fed beef, the lamb comes from Sepe Farms in Newtown, GourmAvian supplies the free-range chicken, and the artisanal cheeses hail from Cato Corners in Colchester. Most of the fresh vegetables, fruit and greens used in his creative dishes come from Chamard’s gardens.
Bouffard recently crafted a new menu which perfectly reflects the change of seasons. Items that are not grown on property are sourced from nearby 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 Feuillesde 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 shitake 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 Localeis a roast rack of spring lamp served with cannelloni beans, tomato confit, roast garlic and eggplant with a rosemary-lavender jus.
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 good wines.
When the weather allows guests can dine outside on the patio and in the Tasting Room where they can sample some of the 5 wines made downstairs in their cellar. For those interested, Chamard offers private tours and tastings. Arrangements for these must be made in advance and can accommodate groups as small as 8 and as large as 50. For those interested creating their own wine, and labels, the winery offers something called a Custom Crush which yields 2 barrels, or 300 bottles of wine. This is a popular activity for both bridal parties and businesses looking for a great team building activity.
For more information on tastings, tours and Custom Crushes, you can reach out to Chamard at www.chamard.com.