The 1795 Giles Warner House at Hardwick Winery

Winding rural roads with wonderful old farmsteads are ubiquitous in Massachusetts, and are part of the pleasure of a visit. As I drove north of Ware, Massachusetts past venerable stone walls shaded by massive maples and oaks, I marveled at the old places I passed. When Giles E. Warner built his country center chimney mansion in 1795, it was one of many in and around Hardwick. But, today it is nearly one of a kind. The house was abandoned around 1970 and when the Sameks found it, the windows, interior doors, and a number of architectural elements had been stripped out by vandals. But the house was pure, never having been electrified and still without interior plumbing.

The Samek family purchased the house and 185 acres with the intention of establishing a New England vineyard. They cleared land for their six varieties of French hybrid grapes, carefully retaining the stones to construct the barn cellar. They then built a 5,000 square foot mortise and tenon timber frame barn where the wine is made and tastings are held year round. The barn was built entirely by local craftsmen and the oak flooring came from the farm’s acreage and was kiln-dried locally in Hardwick.

Center Chimney Georgian Country Mansion

The house is a labor of love, and has been carefully restored with every attention to detail. Wherever possible, original paint colors were matched, and plaster was allowed to remain intact throughout the house. The keeping room with its massive fireplace and wide pine floor is one of the coziest rooms in the house and occupies the back half of the first floor. The woodwork is painted red reproducing traces of original color. The buttery and pantry are adjacent and packed with treasures top to bottom. Hearth cooking and special dinners can be arranged in this room.

The southwest parlor is done in Williamsburg blue, one of the Old Village paint colors. It matches remnants of original paint in the small cupboard on one side. The missing fireplace mantel has been reproduced from an old photograph and looks just as it must have over 200 years ago. The floor retains its old blue paint. This room is brightly lit from three large twelve over twelve windows, and is furnished in the Federal taste. The front hall retains a good deal of its original woodwork and leads into the dining room, probably the best preserved in the house. As my tour of the house progressed, I was shown photographs of how the rooms looked prior to restoration. I marveled at the difference before and after.

Elegant Wainscoting and Chimneypiece

Wainscoting, rope-edge trim, Greek key molding, and the original chimneypiece survive in the dining room. Painted dove gray, this room is elegant and restrained and retains the character of the country Georgian style. It is easily my favorite room in the house. The cupboard survived with the exception of its doors, which have been reproduced. Care has been taken not to disturb the large flat surfaces of the overmantel, which perhaps could retain a painting underneath layers of paint. A competent restorer’s help will be enlisted for this task. The second floor offers a single bedroom with mustard painted woodwork, and can be rented out by those wishing to experience lodging without heat, electricity, and modern comforts. This room adjoins a small sitting room, off which two smaller bedrooms can be found, perhaps used by servants or children. The remainder of the second floor houses a ballroom complete with fireplace. This is the largest room in the house and is undergoing restoration at this time. The back portion of the house accesses a large ell that connects the house to the barn. Here can be found four very comfortable guest rooms that can be rented from the innkeeper – the property also functions as a bed and breakfast. The ell exudes country charm and additionally houses the family quarters.

Oak Timber-Frame Barn for Work and Play

The barn is massive, yet bright and homey. This is a multi-purpose building. The ground level is used for banquets and special events, and the upper level offers wine tasting and a charming wine shop. The upper level is also heated in winter through the use of an old Victorian cook stove. There is a sitting area where guests can savor a bottle of wine with some cheese and crackers and enjoy the quaint furniture and country accessories.

The lower level is used for making and bottling the wines produced here. Here you can see the stainless steel vats, the wine press, and bottling equipment. “State and Federal agencies carefully monitor the testing and licensing of wineries,” explained Audrey as she showed me where each step in the winemaking process takes place. “We’ve been making wines for 20 years, but our first commercial bottle was produced in 2001.”

First the grapes are de-stemmed and then crushed. The pulp, seeds, and skins go into holding tanks where they can sit for up to a week. Then the mixture gets pressed. The juice goes into fermentation tanks, removing more sediment each time the liquid is transferred. Finally, it goes through a filter press, which can make white wines really sparkle. The bottling, corking, and labeling comes next. White wines can be ready immediately, but reds get aged in the bottles. Custom labels can be ordered for weddings, family reunions, and other special occasions.

The entire family is involved in operating the facility. Audrey and John Samek seem to do just about everything, but the children’s tasks are more defined. Jennifer, 22, does the booking and manages the website. Jack, 20, does all of the pruning. You can find him on the tractor from the beginning of spring until harvest. Halley, 18, is involved with setting up and breaking down for banquets.

Wine Tasting at Hardwick Vineyard

After my tour, Audrey took me to the tasting area to sample the fruits of the vineyard, so to speak. She started with the dry vintages and worked up to the sweeter wines. The quality is pretty impressive. The Hardwick Vineyard and Winery produces six different varieties, each named and labeled to reflect the character of the local area. Wines are $10 per bottle with a case discount to an even $100 for 12 bottles:

• Hardwick Red: Private reserve; Marechal Foch grape; made in the Portuguese style. A dry, rich bouquet of berry and plum. Full-bodied flavor. This wine will age well. Enjoy with red meats, wild game and rich sauces.

• Giles E. Warner: A truly elegant wine. Delicate touches of citrus and orange peel. Dry, clean, clear, and crisp. Ideal with seafood.

• Yankee Boy White: Slightly sweet, full-bodied white wine. Rich in honey and lemon flavors. Excellent with fish, poultry, cheese, or as a sipping wine.

• Yankee Girl Blush: Floral, fruity with aromas of peach and strawberry. This wine shows great balance of fruit and acidity. Popular accompaniment to spicy cuisine. Serve well chilled.

• Quabbin Native: A bright fresh fruity rose. This elegant dessert red has a strong raspberry finish and is wonderful served with chocolate.

• Massetts. Cranberry: Delightful blend of sweet and tart. The cranberry rich flavors compliment a Thanksgiving feast served with the meal or with the dessert. The vineyard’s most popular wine.

Hardwick Vineyard and Winery is well worth a day trip or overnight visit. The surrounding hills, the perennial garden beds, and the local surroundings are all a pleasure, and the setting sets a romantic mood for a special occasion.

Hardwick Vineyard & Winery, 3305 Greenwich Road, Hardwick, MA 01082, (413) 967-7763, www.hardwickwinery.com

Written By: Helen H. Hill
Source: New England Antiques Journal