Sunset Meadow of Massachusetts offers table-side tastings, bottles to-go
By Jennifer Huberdeau
Red or white? Dry or sweet? Sparkling or rosë?
You can try them all (and take home a few) during a visit to Sunset Meadow of Massachusetts Winery and Tasting Room, where the friendly and knowledgeable staff is ready to help you find the perfect wine.
“The really fun part is helping people select wines. I’ll ask them questions, such as, ‘Do you like salty or sweet?’ to help me pinpoint what wines to suggest,” Kim Toffey, general manager, said during a recent visit to the wine shop and tasting room.
With her questions answered, Toffey makes menu recommendations and brings the customer’s selections — a flight of five wines — back for a table-side tasting.
“Or it could just be a single glass of wine,” she said, noting that tastings at the bar, which features several types of wines on tap, will resume once COVID-19 safety precautions are lifted.
Sunset Meadow of Massachusetts, opened on the last weekend of August, is the northward expansion of Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen, Conn., a 170-acre, family-operated vineyard and winery.
“It’s one of the largest working vineyards in Connecticut,” Toffey said.
Among the vineyard’s wines offered at the Sheffield location are six white and four red wines, including three of its Root 637 offerings, a white, a blush and a sweet red. (A total of 28 wines are offered in the Goshen wine shop/tasting room.)
The name, Toffey said, comes from the vineyard’s location — on Route 63, which eventually becomes Route 7.
Also offered are two types of wine slushies and hot mulled wine, as well as a hummus plate and meat and cheese plate. The store also has a variety of wine-related items for sale, including chocolate-dipped wine bottles.
For those in north Berkshire interested in trying out the wines, Toffey said they don’t have to make the trip south just yet. Three of the vineyard’s wines — Root 637 Sweet Red, 1320, a sauvignon blanc-style white wine, and Shades, a fruity pomegranate-hued sparkling wine — can all be purchased at Adams Hometown Market in Adams.
FROM FARM TO VINEYARD
Vineyard owners George and Judy Motel purchased Sunset Meadow Farm in 1995. They worked the land and farm for the next five years, raising beef cattle and hay, as had been done since the 1800s, until they were approached by a man from the state agriculture department who was promoting vineyards, Toffey said.
With its westerly sloping hills, southern-facing fields and its rich topsoil, the farm was perfect for a vineyard, Toffey said.
“Initially, George and Judy only planned on growing grapes and selling them to other vineyards,” she said.
Instead, the couple, along with their son, George IV, decided to push beyond the initial concept of just growing grapes and began making their own wine, as well.
“George earned his viticulturist and enologist certifications from UC-Davis,” she said. “It’s what sets us apart — George’s degrees. He knows how to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws our way.”
The vineyard, established in 2001, grows 15 varieties of grapes — Chambourcin, Landot, Merlot, Frontenac, St. Croix, Lemberger, Cabernet Franc, Concord, Chardonnay, Cayuga White, Vidal Blanc, Chardonel, Seyval Blanc, Frontenac Gris and Riesling.
“We grow everything in a sustainable way,” Toffey said. “There are no pesticides, no preservatives, and no added sulfites. We keep everything at the natural levels. Our main focus is doing everything the right way.”
The expansion from the Litchfield Hills into the Berkshires makes sense, Toffey said, pointing out nearby neighbors Big Elm Brewing and Berkshire Mountain Distillers as part of the draw for tourists. She added that the new tasting room is 30 miles “door to door” from the vineyard.
“We planted an acre [of grapes] just north of the Magic Fluke [ukulele shop next door] this year and plan to plant more next year,” she said.
And while 2020 was a bad year for many, she is looking forward to tasting wines made with the grapes grown and harvested last year.
“I was told 2020 was the best harvest ever. It was the healthiest harvest the vineyard has ever seen in its 20 years of planting. It more than doubled the yield of the previous year and is of fantastic quality,” Toffey said, adding that even-numbered years tend to result in better wines.
If you go …
Sunset Meadow of Massachusetts Winery and Tasting Room
296 S. Main St., Sheffield, Mass. (Route 7)
Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Closed Tuesdays. The last pour is 30 minutes prior to closing, although to-go purchases can be made up to the time of closing. Updates can be found at facebook.com/sunsetmeadowofmass
Open for wine tastings, glasses of wine and to purchase bottles to go. Tasting flights featuring five wines are $15 and include a souvenir glass. Wine slushies or hot mulled wine, $8. Hot mulled wine and souvenir mug, $10. Wine, by the glass, $8 to $10; by the bottle, $18.99 to $32.99.
Dog-friendly. Seating is for 21-plus under COVID-19 restrictions. Food must be purchased with beverages under COVID-19 regulations. There is a two-glass maximum during your visit; purchased bottles of wine cannot be opened/consumed on the property. Parties larger than six must call ahead.
Jennifer Huberdeau is editor of UpCountry magazine. She also pens the column “Mysteries from the Morgue” for The Berkshire Eagle.