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The Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts is a place I lived for four years, and going back is always a little like going home. While we live in the city, I long to live out in the country (preferably near a coast, ahem, Sonoma). Weekends away in the country are so incredibly rejuvenating, and on our 4th of July trip to the Berkshires, we spent some time in Southampton and Northampton, Massachusetts.

While on a wine trail event a couple of years ago, I tasted wine from Black Birch Vineyards, fell in love with the wine, and have been thinking about it ever since. Luckily we had plenty of time for a slow ride back from Lenox, and we found ourselves gazing out at the Pioneer Valley countryside with glasses of wine in hand, wanting to spend the day there.

Southampton, Mass

Black Birch Vineyards is a small winery and tasting room, surrounded by rolling green hills, vineyards, and horses. The countryside around the vineyard is jaw-dropping, and the wines at Black Birch are as well.

Southampton, Massachusetts

Before and after our wine tasting, we stretched our legs and soaked up the sun by wandering around the area.

Black Birch Vineyard

Black Birch Vineyard

Once we decided to go inside the tasting room, we went straight for wines by the glass, which we took outside and enjoyed on the Adirondack chairs and while checking out the vines. Sipping wine in Adirondack chairs is becoming quite the habit of ours.


I came to Black Birch Vineyards for their Cabernet Franc; it’s a favorite grape of mine, and it grows well in places like Long Island and areas of Massachusetts. The Cab Franc at Black Birch has the perfect amount of peppery spice and earthy funk, dried leaves, and a hint of dark berries. It is a beautiful wine.

A new favorite we discovered was the Traminette, a grape that I don’t think I have had before. I am simply in love with this wine. It’s full of rich honey notes but also has nice orange and pineapple notes, the perfect amount of acidity, and a weight that makes you want to swish it around in your mouth. It’s a great summer wine because of the acidity, but the richness means it would lend itself to going well with fall dishes.

Black Birch Vineyard

Black Birch Vineyard

Our visit to Black Birch Vineyards was pure bliss and another reminder that Massachusetts can make great wine. If you’re in the Western part of the state, I definitely recommend a visit!

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Tags: Massachusetts, Massachusetts travel, Massachusetts wine, tasting room series, vineyards, wine, wine bars, wine tasting, winery

Still floating along on the great memories (and bubbles) from our North Fork wine tasting trip, we find ourselves trying to relive it with sips of wines we picked up along the journey. As I wrote before, our afternoon at Kontokosta was simply amazing and so memorable, from the scenery to the wines to the people we met. We’ve been slowly opening the bottles of wine we purchased that day, choosing special at home date nights to sit and savor.

One of those nights was the perfect night for grilling and chilling. We sat on the patio, grilled some salmon with BBQ spices, and pulled the cork on a bottle of 2010 Merlot from Kontokosta.

Kontokosta Merlot

Merlot is SO great for barbecues. This wine’s soft, fruity notes open up to become more intense, think stewed cherries and blackberries, with a little bit of herbs and spice mixed in. These fruit and spice notes pair very well with the smoky flavor of grilled meats basted in sweet, spicy, sticky sauces. We drank this Merlot after it had been chilled in the wine fridge, then popped in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Merlot can be great with a little bit of a chill, making it fit right in at your Summer feast.

What wines or 4th of July cocktails do you plan on serving up?

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Tags: Long Island, Long Island wine, merlot, North Fork, wine, wine of the week, wine tasting, Wine Wednesday, winery

Since we moved to the Lower Mills/Milton area, we have really enjoyed discovering all of the wonderful businesses and people that surround us, and we are constantly amazed at how much is going on down here. On Friday, we had the pleasure of being guests of Fruit Center Marketplace in Milton for one of their monthly wine dinners. We had visited Fruit Center Marketplace several times before for groceries, but we had no idea that there was a large upstairs area for events like the wine dinner.

The wines being poured for this particular wine dinner were perfect for Oscar weekend because they were all from Francis Ford Coppola’s winery. Years ago, we spent a magical morning at Coppola’s Rubicon Estate, but we didn’t know much about his Sonoma County winery. This wine dinner was a perfect way to learn and to taste some new wines.

The evening was led by Tim Paulus from Fruit Center Marketplace. Tim did an amazing job with the food and wine pairings, and throughout the evening shared with us how he made all of the courses.

Tim PaulusUpon arrival, guests were greeted with Sofia Blanc de Blancs 2012, the bubbly in the cute pink cans. I think this idea is genius; the little cans are perfect for parties or getting ready for a girls’ night out. However, I will fully disclose that this was the one wine I did not taste, because I have had it before and felt it had a little harshness to it.

While we waited for the pairings to begin, we got to know the other couples at our table, and we had an absolute blast talking with them. What better to break the ice than talking about wine and all of our travels to Napa and Sonoma?

When the food started coming, the room was filled with praise for chef’s creations and the wines chosen to pair.

We started with Pizza with Brussels Sprouts, Crispy Pancetta and Apple  served with Arugula Salad, paired with Rosso y Rosso Pinot Grigio and Pavilion Chardonnay. The pizza crust was a simple naan bread from the store. This simple dish was all about great ingredients, and the apple on the pizza and lemony salad both popped with the wines and their own bright acidity.


Brussels sprouts pizzaThe next course brought summer into the room on a biting cold evening.

Sofia Rosé

We were served Marinated Roast Vegetable Stacks with San Marzano Gravy and Fresh Mozzarella, paired with Sofia Rosé and Votre Sante Pinot Noir. I could eat these vegetable stacks every single day, and I plan on giving it a go once it’s a little warmer out. The gravy, which we wanted to lick from the plates, was a simple sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes, butter, and an onion, blended and then chilled. The Sofia Rosé was a beautiful wine pairing, dry with nice fruit and spice notes, the perfect boat wine. The Pinot was also a great pairing, less expected, but was certainly light enough to go with this course. Everything about it said California to me, and I buried my nose in the glass to take it all in. I miss California.

roasted vegetable stackMid-way through the meal, we were treated to Coppola Claret with an Herbed Cabernet Granita. The granita was refreshing and delicious, sweet and savory, and the perfect palate cleanser. Tim said he uses a melon baller to scoop granita into Champagne flutes in the summer, then tops it with bubbly. The Coppola Claret is a simply gorgeous wine, with dark fruit and cocoa notes, elegant, smooth, and perfect for cold weather sipping.

Cabernet GranitaOur main course was a Short Rib Style’ Braised Roast Beef with Garlic Mashed Potato Paired with Eleanor Red Blend and Director’s Cut Zinfandel. The tender beef melted in my mouth, and the potatoes were creamy and garlicky and heavenly. I am a Zinfandel lover, and this wine was out of this world full of jam and cocoa notes. The Eleanor was another wine that just shouted Napa and Sonoma from the glass. It’s hard to explain, but also amazing how a smell can bring you back to a place. The wine had all sorts of layers, lots of cherry and blackberry notes, as well as a hint of black tea. Delicious.

‘Short Rib Style’ Braised Roast Beef with Garlic Mashed Potato Our final course was Dark Chocolate Torte with Sea Salt Caramels served  with Stewed Berries and Lemon Whipped Cream Paired with Coppola Port, which is only available at the winery. The dessert, including the caramels was made in house, and it was so decadent! The lemon whipped cream really added something special to the rich chocolate. The Port was off the charts.

Dark Chocolate Torte with Sea Salt Caramels We haven’t enjoyed an evening out like this in a long time. Our table mates were so much fun, and by the time we left my face was hurting from smiling. These wine dinners are a fabulous deal; this one was $50 and included the food and wine and also a $10 gift card to Fruit Center Marketplace! They sell out quickly, and it’s easy to see why. They are really well-planned, and it’s easy to see a lot of love goes into the food and wine.

I look forward to attending these wine dinners on a regular basis, if I can get in! Many thanks to Fruit Center Marketplace for inviting us and creating such a fun evening.

Dinner was complimentary, but I was not required to review it, and all opinions are my own.




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Tags: cooking, Coppola wine, Dining out, dinner, events, food and wine, food and wine pairing, Milton, Sonoma County, wine, wine dinner, wine tasting, winery

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