Whether you’re here for the culture, scenery, or farm-to-table eats, a visit to the Berkshires is not complete without a stop at a local winery, brewery, or distillery, where the flavors of the region are influencing makers and thrilling enthusiasts in a big way.
Hilltop Orchards in Richmond, home of Furnace Brook Winery, is a family-friendly place to head on a crisp September day, with apple picking, fresh cider donuts, and hiking trails around the farm. Join the monthly full moon walk, then head to the tasting room. Or visit on second Saturdays and purchase a Berkshire Wine Trail wristband that gives you access to tasting rooms around the region for just $15. Balderdash Cellars, also in Richmond, is a boutique winery producing wines made from grapes grown by California vineyards, yet the scenic setting and calendar of live music by local bands makes a stop here a distinctly Berkshire experience. You can also sample their wines at Ramblefest in Adams during Columbus Day weekend. In rural New Marlborough, tastings at Les Trois Emme Vineyard & Winery are available both indoors or outdoors, with views of the vineyards and the Berkshire hills beyond. Along with more traditional varietals, their trademark Stingy Jack’s Pumpkin Wine is a flavorful treat.
If you’re more of a craft beer aficionado, head to the taproom at Bright Ideas Brewing, located in the front courtyard at MASS MoCA. If you are a music fan, be sure to get tickets for the museum’s Fresh Grass Festival, held September 20 through 22, where you can sample a great variety of local brews and the tasty smoked meats from A-OK Barbecue and more. Big Elm Brewing in Sheffield offers tastings on weekends and sells their beers to go. Bring your growler for a fill of their tasty ales and lagers, also served in restaurants and sold in beverage shops across southern New England. With names like 413 Farmhouse Ale and Lion’s Ale—the latter brewed in partnership with The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge—this is a truly Berkshire endeavor popular with locals and visitors alike.
Just down the road from Big Elm is a distillery garnering national attention for its small-batch spirits and creative collaborations. You could easily miss the unassuming façade of Berkshire Mountain Distillers on Rt. 7 in Sheffield, but when the flag that says ‘open’ is out front, you’ll want to drop in. Take a tour of the distillery and then taste, taste, taste. The New York Times calls their aptly named Ethereal Gin the number one craft gin in the country. They also make and bottle bourbons, rums, and whiskeys—all available to taste and take home.
The Berkshires may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of great wines, beers, and spirits, but visiting our brewers, distillers, and wine makers will surely change your mind. there are makers here who will surely change your mind. Come sip, discern, and bring home bottles of your new-found favorite beverages for friends, for the holidays, and for that dinner party next Saturday night. Taste the Berkshires and enjoy!
Nancy Macy is a freelance writer and editor based in the Berkshires.