Young Wine

S ummer ease was on Stappa Vineyard’s menu last Saturday even as Hurricane Henri loomed offshore. Clouds like whitecaps and sea spray cruised overhead as my friends and I chose an umbrella-shaded spot not far from the well-appointed tasting room, which had only opened to the public five weeks before. Behind it, we couldn’t miss a partially preserved windmill rising high on a hillock, an ancient rusted turbine posed upright at the base like a coin on its edge, underscoring the land’s long history as a farm. Now, of course, wine grapes are what grow, on vines extending lengthwise along terraced and flat topography.

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Implausibly, the long driveway weaving between those vines connects directly to Route 34, a tight, brisk, no-nonsense artery that doesn’t exactly scream “wine country.” Yet wine country—a beautiful little slice of it—is exactly what’s here in this green parcel of Orange, with the car sounds of 34 reduced to gentle, distant waves by the time my companions and I were settling into our table.

Ordering inside at the bar, we started with a couple of flights to get the lay of the land. Left to right were four samples, of the Chardonnay, Rosé, Marquette and Chambourcin. The pours were light for $12 per flight, but it was ultimately worth it to find our clear favorites: the Chardonnay and the Rosé.

Both were easy yet compelling to drink. The pourer described the Chardonnay as dry, which is fair but not the whole story given the wine’s fruitiness—what the menu describes as “crisp notes of pineapple, stone fruit & lemon zest.” Stappa’s Rosé, peachy pink in color with notes of “strawberry, orange zest & flowers,” surprised even more with its subtle complexity, perhaps because a rosé with balance and depth feels like an especially rare feat.

We also tried the Frosé ($12)—a rosé slushy—and the White Wine Sangria ($8), one or both of which might be seasonal specials. The Frosé, enticingly centrifuged in tanks behind the bar, was delicious and refreshing and much sweeter than its namesake. But the portion of wine was small and heavily diluted with ice, so you might wonder if the price is right. You likely won’t wonder that about the sangria, where a strong citrus flavor dug into the delectable bitter depths of the rind and a boozy undercurrent kept the drink and its garnish of two orange slices buoyantly afloat.

Stappa is the fruit of efforts by two parents, who, according to the website, bought this parcel of land in 2008 with the dream of turning it into an Italian-style winery, and their three daughters, Stappa’s owners, who’ve brought the dream across the finish line. When my friends and I arrived at 1 p.m., we had our pick of all but one or two tables outside, with numerous indoor options as well, but had we arrived even an hour later, choices would have been scarce. By then, cars had begun to overflow into the margins of the driveway, and the tasting room had become boisterously loud even before a big bachelorette party convened with props and trays of food in tow.

If you’re feeling social and urbane, the tasting room, which seemed more popular that day, is probably the right choice. If you want a more restful, rustic and socially distanced experience, choose the lawn. That’s what a second, smaller, more bohemian-looking bachelorette party decided to do, not long before our own pressing engagements forced us to give up our table and, with reluctance, hit the road.

Stappa Vineyard
403 Derby Tpke, Orange (map)
Wed-Thurs 11am-6pm, Fri-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 11am-6pm
(203) 795-1795 | info@stappavineyard.com
www.stappavineyard.com

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories.

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