It has been a bucket list thing of mine to visit Vermont in October, which is kind of insane, seeing how I live in Massachusetts only a couple of hours away. I regularly visit every other New England state, but for some reason I’ve never made the effort to visit Vermont, particularly in autumn, which is my absolute favorite season. This summer I decided no more putting off until tomorrow what I can do today. Life is happening now! So I decided to do a little online research and book a short 2 day trip for my dog Peyton and myself. This would be the first of many “mommy-doggy” trips to come.
Time to Hit the Road
Peyton and I took a stunningly beautiful drive from Worcester, MA heading north, through Keene, NH and northwest to West Rutland, VT. The foliage wasn’t quite at peak yet, but it was still simply breathtaking. I’ve never quite seen mountains splashed with such vibrant colors before. It was the type of drive you take when you realize life is so much bigger than what we experience in our daily routines. Seeing the mountain ranges, the farms in the valleys, the fog sitting atop the mountaintops just enough to hide them, it was something everyone should experience.
Dog Friendly Vermont
We arrived in West Rutland, VT and checked in at the Paws House Inn, which is a dog-friendly bed and breakfast. They’re so dog friendly, in fact, that they charge an extra fee if you don’t check in with a dog! We were warmly welcomed by the manager Stephanie, and Peyton made herself right at home.
We got settled into our room and went for a refreshing hike at Pine Hill Park, where Peyton was greeted by a tin man. She decided to return the greeting by barking at him as if he didn’t belong there, which in all honestly, I can’t figure out why a tin man would be in the woods either. But I digress. We enjoyed a lovely hour-long hike through the trails to kick off our weekend of relaxation.
Once we got back to the inn I decided against going out to dinner at one of the many dog friendly restaurants in the area and instead decided to open a bottle of California red (a Boston Wine School selection) and simply relax, taking in the crisp air, the solitude, and most of all, the quiet. We relaxed on the back deck until it got too cool to remain outside, then finished the bottle of wine inside in the cozy living room. The day and evening were perfection. No one around except the two of us, simply enjoying the quiet and each other’s company.
The Adventure Continues
The next morning we awoke to the sun shining brightly and very cool fall-like air, so we went back to Pine Hill Park for another quick hike. No barking at the tin man this time, apparently Peyton had made her point the day before. We returned to the inn to check out and get ready for our day of wine adventures ahead of us. This inn was so adorable and charming, I truly recommend it to anyone wanting a dog friendly getaway. Peyton and I will most definitely be returning, perhaps next time for more than one night.
Whaleback Vineyard and Winery
Peyton and I hopped in the car and headed to Poultney, VT where we would visit Whaleback Vineyard and Winery. Truly in the middle of nowhere and on the New York border, this property was the epitome of family farm vineyard. When we arrived, there was a note on the door with a phone number to call, since they were out among the vines harvesting grapes. I called and a very friendly gentleman answered and came right up to the tasting room with a warm welcome. Peyton and I walked inside, where we were greeted with old farm charm. It was a large room with a table and chairs, all of their wines, and a bunch of tasting glasses. The gentleman (and owner) sat down with me, pouring me a sample of each of their wines, explained their growing and vinification process, and answered all of my many, many questions. Their flight was split 50/50 with fruit wines and North American grape wines. Not being well versed in fruit wines, I was very interested in the winemaking process, and I have to say, although fruit wines aren’t typically my thing, I enjoyed the wild apple wine so much that I purchased a bottle to bring home. I think this will make a lovely gift and really represents that local Vermont charm.
Peyton and I got back in the car and headed south to Jacksonville, VT. This drive was so beautiful. We weaved between mountains, farms in the valleys, rushing rivers next to the roads, splashes of cherry, burnt crimson, and pumpkin orange in the trees on the hillsides. I could have driven this route for days and still have been amazed. My favorite part of driving through the roads of Vermont was when I passed through the village centers of town. They all looked like scenes from a Hallmark movie! My mom and I always ask each other, “where do small village-like towns like those in Hallmark movies exist?” Well now I know… in Vermont! Says the city girl.
After almost two hours in the car, Peyton and I arrived at Honora Winery Tasting Room in Jacksonville, VT. We got out of the car and immediately heard the rushing water of a small river or large brook right out front. There was a gazebo, several picnic tables, and a pond in the back. I knew immediately we would be staying for a glass of wine and a snack after our tasting.
We were warmly greeted by Stephanie, whose family owns the winery. I was able to choose 4 out of their six wines, so I chose the driest white (Chardonnay) and the three reds (Syrah, Alicante, and Petite Sirah), all of which are made from fruit sourced from Central, CA. These wines were simply fabulous. Of course they were, they’re made from California fruit! Honora does a wonderful job at vinifying this fruit, and their tasting room is so inviting I could have stayed there all day. Instead, I decided to purchase a bottle of the Petite Sirah to take home, and a glass of Alicante and a cheese plate to enjoy outside in the gazebo. Nothing says lunch like cheese and wine (and it’s keto friendly)!
At this point it was mid afternoon, and we had one more winery to visit on our way back home to Worcester, MA. We got back in the car for an hour and headed south. We crossed into Western Massachusetts where we entered the town of Colrain. You’d think a bordering town would be identical to the town we just left, but I noticed an immediate difference. The winding roads through the mountains were no more. It was hilly, yes, but the mountains splashed with vibrant colors were no more. Goodbye, Vermont! It was wonderful to meet you!
Mineral Hills Winery at Godard’s Red Hen Farm
Our last stop was at Mineral Hills Winery at Godard’s Red Hen Farm. I was somewhat familiar with this winery, as we had shared a booth at The Big E (Eastern States Exposition) state fair a couple of years ago when I was pouring wine samples for Hardwick Vineyard & Winery (for whom I still work). Sadly, I had yet to visit their tasting room or even try their wines! I was pleasantly surprised once I finally did.
Much of their grapes are also sourced from California, which was exciting for me to try. I tried two Cabernet Sauvignons, one a 2015 and the other 2017. They were both fantastic, but the 2015 had aged beautifully in the bottle and wanted to be enjoyed now. I walked out with a bottle of the 2015 Cab and called it a day, or more accurately, a memorable adventure.
Life Is Happening NOW!
If you take anything from this account of my adventure, I hope it is this: life is happening NOW. Not tomorrow, not in 5 years, not once your kids are out of school, not once you find a significant other, but right now. You do not need the “perfect time” to cross something off your bucket list. Every day is the perfect time. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, and it is up to us to truly live our best lives every day. You don’t need to wait for others to accompany you in an adventure. You are perfectly capable of exploring the world yourself, meeting new people, and especially enjoying your own company. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship you will ever have. Nurture that relationship, honor it, and truly enjoy it. You will never regret doing the things you’ve always wanted to do but have put off time and time again. Give yourself that gift. You deserve it.
About the Author
CSW, WSET3, FWS, BWSEd | Executive VP of Sales and Aquisitions at VINOvations
Missa holds various positions in the wine industry, each of which brings her incredible fulfillment. She is the EVP of Sales and Acquisitions at VINOvations in Sharon, MA. She also teaches students of all levels of experience and interest in wine classes, lifestyle experiences, and leads wine dinners all around Massachusetts.
She is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the Society of Wine Educators, a certified French Wine Scholar (FWS), certified with the Wine and Spirits Trust, Level 3 Advanced (WSET), and a certified educator with Boston Wine School (BWSEd). Her unique combination of talent allows her to translate the nuances of wine for the everyday wine drinker in an accessible and fun way. Demystifying wine and removing the intimidation is her passion when sharing wine with others.