If you’ve ever been to Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret for a wine tasting, it’s likely you’ve been seduced by the intoxicating aroma of their wood-burning grill.
It’s rather cruel, honestly. You’re sitting in the beautiful courtyard, tasting Chardonnays and the vineyard’s famed Ballet of Angels, as the incredible scent wafts under the trees. Your mouth waters, and you ask a staffer for a menu, just to be told of the restaurant’s limited hours and way-in-advance reservation policy.
No food for you. Come back in three months.
We were there for a June tasting and the grill was going at full steam. I fought it, but my mouth watered anyway, and we sheepishly made our way to the desk to see if we could book a table for later in the summer.
Sharpe Hill’s winery restaurant operates during the weekend: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with lunch and dinner hours varying by the season. During the summer, lunch is served Saturdays and Sundays with four daily seatings: noon, 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. In good weather, patrons are seated at tables on the gorgeous outdoor patio, decorated with lush greenery and flowers.
The menu is small, focusing on light salads and seafood dishes to start and making way to protein-centric entrees, fired to perfection on that fragrant wood grill and adorned with herbs and edible flowers from the restaurant’s own garden. You won’t find heavy, starchy, fried fare, which you won’t want anyway while dining alfresco in the heat. The wine list is exclusively Sharpe Hill, but the dishes are expertly paired with the food.
Table settings are colorful and whimsical, with jars of fresh wildflowers and these awesome rooster salt-and-pepper shakers. These reminded me of Emily, who loves her chicken decor.
A complimentary plate of fruit greeted each table, speared with fresh sage and edible flowers:
We started with this refreshing appetizer, the “soused shrimp” in a tangy dressing of peanut oil and vinegar with greens and pickled onions. Lots of lively flavors, and just enough of an appetite pique for the main dishes to come.
And this is the point where you have to choose just one of the grilled entrees, no easy task. There’s filet mignon with Bearnaise sauce. Lamb chops. Spicy Jamaican jerk chicken with grilled bananas and mango chutney. Wild salmon with dill and honey. A Delmonico steak with a five-pepper rub. And the Creole shrimp, named as one of Connecticut Magazine’s “Dishes To Try Before You Die” in May 2009.
And after looking at all this, I chose the chicken paillard. You’re probably thinking, “WTF, Leeanne.” But, listen. The “optional sauce” was a creamy Stilton with vine-ripened tomatoes and basil. Yes. Please.
The chicken breast came with lemon-thyme rice and ratatouille on the side; the plate strewn with fresh floral petals, herbs and other garden delights. Full points for presentation. The meat was done to perfection, plenty flavorful on its own even without the luxurious Stilton, bright juicy tomatoes and herb inflection from the basil chiffonade. But you better believe I loved that cheese.
Our server suggested the Sharpe Hill American Chardonnay as a pairing, and she was right on the money – just enough oak to elevate the dish’s elements.
Rob’s lamb dish (paired with Sharpe Hill’s Red Seraph) came with two serious chops, the same ratatouille and plenty of mint jelly. “I don’t get it,” he said, gesturing to the classic condiment. He tasted it with the meat. “OK. I get it.” (We don’t eat a ton of lamb.)
We passed on dessert, but gaped at the towering piece of cake that came to the table behind us as we left.
Overall, we loved the experience, if pricey (appetizers up to $15; entrees from $26ish to about $36.) Wine will run you another $8 to $10 a glass. But the atmosphere can’t be beat, especially on a beautiful weather day. It’s an elegant spot for celebration or romance, or just a day-trip getaway to the quieter side of the state.
And you can always stop by We-Li-Kit for ice cream after the meal, just a few miles down the road. We treated ourselves to Meadow Muffin (vanilla with fudge swirl and brownie pieces) and Guernsey Cookie (coffee ice cream with Oreos.) Note: these are KIDS’ size cones.
Sharpe Hill Vineyard, 108 Wade Road, Pomfret: 860-974-3549, sharpehill.com.
We-Li-Kit, 728 Hampton Road, Pomfret, 860-974-1095, welikit.com. (Seasonal)