Break on Through to the Other Side of Mass
On this side of Massachusetts, we don’t exactly think of Western Massachusetts as a destination for a weekend getaway. There’s the Cape, White Mountains, and Newport, but rarely is Northampton, Mass added to the list. A couple weekends back, Dave and I took a trip to Hampshire County with Caitlin Croswell of @CaitPlusAte and her boyfriend Jeff. We quickly learned that Western Mass is much more than just farms and countryside.
Cait, Jeff, Me & Dave at Mineral Hills
There are a total of 8 wineries and breweries in Hampshire county, 3 of which were and we were able to visit during our trip. Mineral Hills Winery, located in Florence was our first stop of the day. We were
greeted by Larry, the passionate owner and head vinter of Mineral Hills. Not only did he walk us through a tasting of 6 varietals, but we were even lucky enough to taste several wines, directly from the barrel, that are not yet available for sale. Larry was incredibly knowledgeable about wine, the winemaking process, and was very clued into what his customers are looking for. Of all the wines, Larry was most excited about his red blend named Le Tre Sorelle which translates from Italian to The Three Sisters. The sisters are in fact his daughters, each of whom are depicted by a flower on the label. The group purchased a few bottles and enjoyed a picnic lunch in the outdoor pavilion overlooking Godard’s Red Hen Farm.
Black Birch Vineyard was winery stop #2. Located just a few miles down the road, Black Birch is a sprawling property which invites guests to bring a picnic, grab a bottle of wine, and spend the afternoon. On certain days throughout the season, live music and entertainment is provided. Tastings take place in an 1800’s barn that is original to the property. It’s filled with rustic charm and touch of New England elegance. The basement, or ground level of the barn, serves as the wine making facility itself. We were given a personal tour by co-owner and winery manager, Mary Hamel who pointed out the different types of grapes used as well as future plans for winemaking and the property itself. Perhaps the best part of this stop was a surprise visit from Otis, the neighbor’s dog. He and Jeff became fast friends.
Jeff and Otis at Black Birch
After all that wine, the group was ready to head to New City Brewery to sample beer flights and their flagship brew, Jamaican-style ginger beer. Founded by three lifelong friends, New City has quickly
become the “it” brew house in Western Mass and is quickly spreading throughout New England. The tap room is a very cool, rustic space that previously housed the West Boylston Manufacturing Company; a cloth manufacturer. Six beers (including the signature ginger beer) rotate through the taps to give visitors a taste of all New City has to offer. Perhaps the most interesting item sampled all weekend was the ginger beer mimosa flight utilizing the signature brew as the bubbles in a mimosa. It was unique, refreshing, and boozy as well. What more could a guy ask for?
Beer flight at New City
From New City, we headed back into town and set our sites on our accommodations for the weekend, The Northampton Hotel. A centerpiece in downtown Northampton, the hotel dates back to 1927 when
Lewis Wiggins constructed the property. Passing through a beautiful airy solarium, the lobby is warm and familiar with lots of historic charm. Lewis Wiggins’ goal was to have the hotel achieve “museum status” and the hotel still has many of the original antiques he used to furnish the common spaces. Our room was quite spacious with a queen sized bed, and seating area. We were quite surprised to find sip and snacks waiting in the room with a handwritten note from the hotel manager. A wonderful touch.
Being centrally located, dinner was just a short walk away at Bistro les Gras. With a menu changing every few weeks, Bistro offers high quality, super fresh food. All but one of us at the table ordered the legendary BLG burger which has a reputation of being THE burger in town. Complete with bacon jam, gruyere cheese, and a brioche bun, the previous statement is 100% correct. After dinner we wandered over to Herrells for ice cream. Having a previous location in Allston (where I lived for many years) it was great to once again sample their ice cream. With a quick walk back to the hotel, we retired for the evening.
One of the best parts of going away for the weekend is being able to sleep in… way in. A rare treat for both coupes. Just across the street from The Northampton Hotel was Jake’s where we decided to have brunch. Known for their hash, Jakes has a full brunch menu (complete with mimosas) which we heartily sampled. Our table overflowed with hash, french toast, grits, a burger and much much more. While Bistro les Gras is considered the best restaurant in town, Jake’s was my favorite meal during our time in Northampton. After the favorite meal of the weekend, came the favorite activity of the weekend, SHOPPING!
Brunch at Jakes
Opened 2 years ago, Hero Men’s Gear is quite the welcomed addition to Northampton. Focusing on grooming, gifts, accessories, and apparel for guys, Hero is a well curated space catering to every guy. Owner Norm White guided us through the store pointing out his favorite offerings which included Burly Stone soap (it smells amazing), Mixture candles, and a really cool American flag flask. Not only is Hero a local business adding to the diverse mixt of shops in Northampton, but it’s also a thriving LGBT owned shop. We purchased a few items, grabbed a coffee, and made our way over to Jackson & Connor located inside Thornes Marketplace. An upscale menswear shop, Jackson & Connor had new life breathed into it several years ago when former employee Will Brideau took over ownership. A combination of suiting and casual wear, Jackson & Connor has recently explored private label clothing sourcing their own materials and designs. Jackson & Connor is a mainstay in Northampton and regarded as the go-to spot for menswear in town.
Whiskey Flask at Hero
Artwork for sale at Hero
Just about a 2 hour drive from Boston, Western Mass, or the other side of Mass as they like to call it, is a laid back weekend getaway spot. Northampton and surrounding areas offer exceptional food, locally made wine and beer, and endless good times. For more information go to: VisitHampshireCounty.com
Hampshire County Tourism Board provided travel consideration for this trip. All opinions, statements and photography are my own.