When it comes to tourism in the Berkshire Mountains, most people come for the beautiful views and the abundance of outdoor activities. While these are excellent reasons to visit, this gorgeous area of Western Massachusetts also boasts a number of vineyards and wineries that produce exceptional wines, and one of the best is Furnace Brook Winery.
Part of Hilltop Orchards in Richmond, Furnace Brook Winery has won a number of awards at the Big E Northeast Gold Wine Competition. Its red wines include the Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve, which has won a Silver Medal and two Bronze Medals at the Big E over the years. Aged in limousine oak barrels for more than 18 months, the latest vintage (2014) pairs well with lamb, beef, and even goose, as well as Brie and cheddar cheeses.
Furnace Brook Winery’s red wines also include the Old Vine Zinfandel, which undergoes aging in French oak barrels for 18 months. This smooth red wine features rich tannins and goes well with roasted or grilled meats. Another award-winning red wine is the Merlot Special Reserve 2014, a full-bodied wine that pairs well with a wide variety of foods, from pasta and chicken to cheeses and chocolate.
White wine lovers should try the winery’s Riesling, which has racked up a Gold Medal, two Silver Medals, and three Bronze Medals at the Big E Northeast Gold Wine Competition over the years. The latest vintage (2014) pairs well with seafood and a variety of cheeses, including Camembert, Gruyere, and sage blue cheeses. Another award-winning white wine that visitors should try is the 2014 Chardonnay Special Reserve. Aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, this wine pairs well with lobster and scallops, as well as a variety of cheeses.
Furnace Brook Winery also produces a mead called “Bee My Honey,” which is made exclusively from local organic honey. This sweet wine goes well with light fare or desserts and can even be served warm and mulled in the winter.
Given the cold temperatures in the Berkshires, the winery also makes a unique ice wine. The Apple Ice Wine is made from apples that are pressed around Christmas, and the resulting juice is stored outside during the freezing temperatures. The cold temperatures foment the separation of the water from the sugar so that the winemaker can obtain the nectar and allow it to ferment. The result is a delicious dessert ice wine that won the Silver Medal at the Big E Northeast Wine Competition when it debuted in 2011.
Furnace Brook Winery also uses apples to make a number of ciders, including Johnny Mash Original American Cider. Winner of a Silver Medal and three Bronze Medals at the Big E Northeast Wine Competition, this cider is made with Northern Spy and McIntosh apples and undergoes slow aging in American oak barrels. The winery also makes a dry version called Johnny Mash Dry Gold, which is made from the orchard’s Golden Russet apples.
The winery’s other cider is called the French Cidre Special Reserve and has won three medals over the years. A blend of Golden Russet and other apple varieties from New England, this cider is fermented on the skins and undergoes aging in French oak barrels. The result is a dry, complex cider that tastes great when chilled.
Also producing sparkling wines, Furnace Brook Winery makes the Sparkling Muscato, which won the Best in State Award at the Big E Northeast Wine Competition in 2010. This crisp wine goes well on its own before dinner or along with Italian or spicy Thai food. It can also be served with various cheeses, such as Muenster and Huntsman, or with desserts such as almond cookies and fruit tarts.
The winery’s other sparkling wine is the 2014 Sparkling Blanc de Blancs, which is made with Seval and Chardonnay grapes. This wine is great for pairing with New England lobster or scallops, as well as with Brie and Edam cheeses.
Visitors can sample these wines during daily tastings held all throughout the year. In addition to enjoying the tastings, visitors can go apple picking on the orchard or enjoy a hike on one of the orchard’s three country trails, which are ranked according to difficulty. The orchard even hosts several adults-only Full Moon Treks, which are followed by a bonfire, wine tasting, and entertainment.
Before leaving, visitors to Furnace Brook Winery should stop by the Farm Winery Store, which in addition to excellent wines sells classic New England foods such as maple syrup, cider donuts, scones, and preserves. To learn more about this exceptional Berkshire winery and orchard, visit www.hilltoporchards.com.