By Kelley Granger
The gorgeous grounds and facilities at Jonathan Edwards Winery
Connecticut seems like an unlikely place to think about sampling fine wines, especially anywhere near Mystic Seaport – a quaint historic town, yes, but sailors and sophistication don’t really go hand in hand. Yet if you drive about two and a half hours east along I95, you’ll find yourself a few wineries producing private label bottles for high-end hotels and restaurants (maybe you’ve even unknowingly sipped some in NYC). So if the aquarium and ships are the only thing you remember from the area, it’s time to get acquainted with a sexier, more sophisticated version of the region. Here’s where the grapes, and the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa, come in. The hotel has paired up with the Jonathan Edwards Winery and Stonington Vineyards to prove there are options outside the seafaring realm for those with a more refined taste.
The chic dining room at Octagon, the Mystic Marriott’s upscale steakhouse
And it is practically all about taste. Guests that book the Mystic Marriott’s Connecticut Wine Experience Package will enjoy a four-course dinner at the hotel’s stylish restaurant, Octagon (so named for an octagonal area where patrons can view the chef preparing their meals) or its adjacent lounge. For this package, each course is carefully paired with a wine from one of the participating vineyards. (If a glass of Jonathan Edwards’ petite sirah is not part of your meal, be sure to try it during your stay – it’s not to be missed!) The menu undergoes seasonal changes, but has included intriguing dishes like a Kobe sirloin tataki appetizer with ginger lemongrass sauce, Fuji apple and crispy shallots, and entrees like hibiscus glazed salmon with green tea noodles and garlic sauce. Though many of the hotel’s guests are on the corporate side, the restaurant exudes a hip atmosphere with deep colors, jazzy wine displays and smooth electronic music. The mood flows out to the lounge, spilling into the recently renovated lobby where comfy couches and cocktail tables encourage aperitif and post-meal socializing.
After a good night’s sleep in a deluxe room (many of which have undergone recent renovations and have a fresh gold and jewel toned color scheme), head out to the vineyards. Jonathan Edwards Winery is located in North Stonington, a beautiful country town with some historic architectural gems. The winery itself crowns a hilltop that sits on 48 acres, and is a bit bi-coastal – they currently make seven varietals from Napa, and four from their Connecticut vines. A lovely tasting room gives access to panoramic vineyard views and a cozy fireplace, and an art loft upstairs features a revolving selection of works by local artists. Be sure to check the winery’s website (http://www.jedwardswinery.com) to get updates on various events held there – they host musicians often and put on spring and harvest fests each year. Both Jonathan Edwards and Stonington Vineyards offer tours and tastings for visitors, as well as opportunities for very picturesque picnics.
The Red Door Spa at the Mystic Marriott
Indulgence doesn’t end at the palate. The wine package also includes $100 to use at the hotel’s Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. It seems that a vinotherapy treatment would be the perfect conclusion to this weekend getaway (maybe they’re still working on that) but there are plenty of other alluring options to indulge in. The Red Door Signature Massage is a great option for those who are indecisive, blending a variety of modalities including Swedish, reflexology and acupressure, but there are also a number of facials, nail services, wraps and scrubs available. Whether pre- or post-treatment, take advantage of the property’s offerings – the spa has a beautiful relaxation room where you can savor a cup of tea, steam and fitness rooms to sweat out those toxins and an indoor pool and Jacuzzi area where you can lounge with a book any time of year.
You may still feel drawn to the little downtown that made the area famous, and there are a number of special events coming up: May 2 is the Historic Downtown Mystic May Day Parade and Festival, and the following month from June 11-14 is the 30th Annual Sea Music Festival, which celebrates the traditions of maritime music. Expect some crowds at these times and book your package early. For more information on events, visit http://www.mysticseaport.org.
Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa
625 North Road (Route 117)