The Berkshires. A charming mountain region in Massachusetts, and a location with a thriving arts scene. After a twenty hour drive from our nest in Minneapolis we’ve arrived. This is our first time out in this quaint part of the northeast, surrounded by every shade of green, farm houses and unique local businesses. Tommy is making his role and company debut with Berkshire Opera Festival, and of course, we are planning on making time to find the best eats and places to visit. We are currently holed up in an Airbnb in Ashley Falls, MA- just south of Great New Barrington and two minutes from the Connecticut border.
On our first full day to ourselves, Tommy and I decided to take a hike up 1,157 feet- following in the footsteps of many locals, guests and Herman Melville. The famed author hiked up with Nathan Hawthorne and Oliver Wendell Holmes back in 1850. The story says an unexpected storm stopped Hawthorn and Melville in a cave where they came up with the idea of Moby Dick. The three eventually made it to the top, toasting with champagne and reading poetry. We didn’t bring champagne as the men before us, but we did take in a breathtaking view at the summit. The hike itself isn’t too difficult- there are a couple steep moments and some rocky stairs to scale. When we arrived we were greeted by an incredibly bright and informative volunteer named Tom who gave us the lowdown on the route. We ended up doing the complete circuit, which took us about an hour and forty-five minutes total. The views were well worth it, and this short hike is one of the best I’ve done recently. Parking was $6, and it’s only a short drive from Great New Barrington.
WHAT TO BRING
-shoes you don’t mind getting wet/muddy
After the hike, the two of us found that we were a bit parched- so naturally we google located a distillery and winery that were just down the road from our current home. After a quick bite to eat and a much needed shower, we were off for the next adventure!
Founded in 2007 by Chris Weld, this distillery has grown to include a wide range of award winning spirits. The family bought a neglected farm and nurtured the trees until they started bearing fruit again. Starting with the apple trees and historic granite-based spring water, the family has grown their business with biochemistry and expert assistance. Now the products are available in 19 states, and Chris is still fully involved and passionate in his hands-on work at the distillery.
The location itself is gorgeous- perfect for a quiet afternoon, or a fun weekend evening affair. The distillery is dog friendly, with outdoor space to enjoy with friends and family. I spotted corn hole in a corner, and plenty of grassy space to spread out on. The weekends feature cocktails, and during the week you can stop in and sample their products. My husband tried 10. The samples themselves were free, and we were more than happy to bring home a bottle of their Rye Whiskey. The barn style indoors also had an array of local artisan gifts- candles, coasters, stickers, socks- a must stop if you’re anything like me!
My personal favorite of the day- we found a local, sustainable winery right next door to the distillery! The roots of the original farm date back to the 1800s, a plot in the northwestern corner of CT. Today, they have expanded, and have started a second farm in Sheffield, which is where Tommy and I found ourselves in the afternoon. In 2001, the Motel Family set its roots in Sunset Meadow Farm, and transformed the location to produce award winning wines. It’s one of the largest vineyards in the northeast, and is one of the most recognized and awarded in the New England area. They practice with sustainable farming methods, and grow 15 varieties of grapes, including the St. Croix- bringing us a little taste of home while we are away.
The Sheffield location is only a year and a half old, with baby vines just starting off. They have an abundance of seating, indoor and out, and are also very dog friendly. For $15 you can try five of their wines, my favorite being the smokey barrel aged St. Croix. They offer a great balance of taste profiles, ranging from dry to sweet options. I also enjoyed a wine slushie that was complete with a strawberry edible straw. If you have a Friday night open in the area, I highly recommend stopping in both of these local businesses for a drink, and live music.