For a state measuring only
5,543 square miles (14,356 sq. km), Connecticut has an abundance of vineyards and wineries.
the "Nutmeg State," it may soon have another moniker, "the Vineyard
State." Ever since Sherman Haight
Jr. planted the first grapes in 1973, the number has steadily grown and
comprises 30 vineyards and wineries. Luxury Experience swirled, sniffed, and deliciously tasted our way
along the Connecticut
Unlike many wine growing
regions where vineyards are nestled close together, the vineyards in Connecticut are located throughout the
state, with clusters along the western, southern, and eastern borders, offering
oenophiles the opportunity to experience them over time. To add a sense of
accomplishment in the quest of knowledge of the grape, the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council provides visitors with a "Passport to Connecticut
Farm Wineries" where you can elect to have your passport stamped at each
vineyard and winery visited.
In late August and again in
mid-September 2010 during harvest time, Edward F. Nesta and I set about
learning about Connecticut wines by experiencing a sampling of the
vineyards, allowing us to further our "Connecticut wine education" over time.
The Wine Experience - Meet
the Winemakers of Connecticut
England is steeped in
history dating to the Revolution, and each of its towns and villages have their
own charm and personalities. We began our discovery in the historic town of Litchfield, located in Litchfield County, incorporated in 1719,
population 8,684, and home to the Haight-Brown Vineyard, the oldest vineyard in the state.
Although naysayers proclaimed
the Connecticut climate as too cold to grow
grapes, Sherman Haight Jr. disregarded that advice and planted
his Chardonnay and Riesling vines anyways, the vines took, the grapes thrived,
and he established Haight Vineyard in 1973 and opened it to the public
Haight-Brown Vineyard Vines
Amy Senew and Courtney Brown purchased the vineyard in
2007 from owner Sherman Haight Jr., and renamed it Haight-Brown Vineyard
where they are proudly continuing the winemaking tradition. They focus on
growing Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Marechal Foch, Dechaunac,
and Marquette varietals. In addition to wine
tastings, they have special Wine, Cheese & Chocolate pairings held
during last weekend of every month.
Cheeses at Haight-Brown Vineyard
Haight-Brown Vineyard is open year round for events and tasting.
General hours are Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am until 5:00
pm, and Sunday from 12:00
pm until 5:00 pm.
Hours vary per season, so please call before visiting.
Sign in the Haight-Brown Vineyard
29 Chestnut Hill Road
Litchfield, Connecticut 06759
A short distance from
Litchfield is the town of Goshen, located in Litchfield County, incorporated in 1739, population
3,092, which has the distinction of being home to two vineyards, Miranda
Vineyard, and Sunset Meadow Vineyards.
Manny and Maria Miranda, owners of the 30-acre Miranda Vineyard, established in 2004, realized Manny's lifelong dream of owning a
vineyard once they retired, when they planted their first vines in 2001 on
7-acres. Although newcomers to vineyard ownership, winemaking is in Manny
Miranda's blood. Growing up in Portugal, he learned the art and
science of winemaking in the honored tradition, learning from his father and
his grandfather. For the past 40 years, Manny has been creating wines using
traditional old world techniques and modern technology.
Miranda Vineyard Vines
Manny Miranda focuses on
growing Seyval Blanc, Vidal, Chardonnay, Leon Millot, St. Croix,
Cabernet Franc, Traminette, and Cayuga varietals. Since they opened to the
public in 2007, Miranda Vineyard has been garnering their share of medals for
their wines. Their focus is to try to be as organic as possible, and offer
three red and three white wines, as well as a Vinho Fino, similar to a Port, in
their portfolio. Their Woodbridge Red contains hardly any sulfites, making it
ideal for people who love red wine, but have a problem with sulfites.
Miranda Vineyard Wines
Miranda Vineyard is open Thursday from 12:00 pm until 5:00
pm, Friday and Saturday from 12:00
pm until 7:00 pm,
and Sunday from 12:00 pm
until 5:00 pm. Visit their
website for special events and live music. Upcoming events include their annual
Harvest Festival on October
42 Ives Road
Goshen, Connecticut 06756
Another "new kid on the
scene" is the 40-acre Sunset Meadow Vineyards & Winery established
in 2003, owned by George III and Judy Motel, on what was once a former beef
cattle farm. They are one of the five largest grape growers in Connecticut and grow 95% of the grapes that
they use in their wine, and grow 13 varietals.
Sunset Meadow Vineyards & Winery
The focus at Sunset Meadow
Vineyards & Winery is growing Seyval, Vidal, Lemberger, Riesling,
Chardonnay, St. Croix, Cabernet Franc,
Chamborcin, Merlot, and Cayuga varietals. They grew grapes for 10 years before
producing wine, and opened their tasting room in the renovated historic Dutch
barn in 2008. In 2010, they planted 2,700 new vines and have 9,000 total vines.
Although new, Sunset Meadow Vineyards has already received many medals for
George III, Judy, and George IV Motel
Sunset Meadow Vineyards
& Winery is open Thursdays from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm, and Sundays and Mondays from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm. Private group tasting times are
available by appointment during the week, please call to schedule. Visit their
website for special event information.
Sunset Meadow Vineyard Vines
Sunset Meadow Vineyards &
599 Old Middle Street, Route 63
Goshen, Connecticut 06756
Continuing on the
Connecticut Wine Trail, we visited Shelton, located in Fairfield
County, incorporated as a town in 1789, and later incorporated as a city in
1915, with a population of 38,101, that is home to another young winery, Jones Winery, owned by Philip Jamison "Jamie" Jones and Christina Jones.
Jamie Jones With His Vines
Jamie Jones is a sixth generation farmer of the 150-year old,
400-acre Jones Family Farms, and together with well-known winemaker Larry
McCulloch, they make a formidable team. Jamie, a graduate of Cornell University, has farming in his blood;
Jones Family Farm is renowned for their Christmas trees and their produce, and
it was his idea that the family should expand their farming to include a
Jones Family Farms
In 1999, he planted his first
vines on 7-acres of the farm and established the vineyard on Pumpkinseed Hill
in 2004. His vision is "to celebrate what can be done in Connecticut. Wine is made in the vineyard,
the terroir, we make sure that we have a good crop and not get in the way of
the wine, which almost makes itself in the winery. We are minimalists, we do
not use a lot of oak, and the wines are not overly sweet, we want to let the
Jones Winery focuses on
growing Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Lemberger, Muscat, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc,
Chamborcin, Chancellor, Riesling, and Cayuga white varietals.
Jones Winery Vines
Speaking with Jamie, we
learned that the exceptionally long, hot summer of 2010 looks like it could be
a very yummy year for wines. In fact, the weather has been so warm, that the
grapes were 2 weeks ahead of average, and 4 weeks ahead of 2009 when Connecticut had a much cooler and wetter
Jones Winery is open for tasting Friday through Sunday from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm.
606 Walnut Tree Hill Road
Shelton, Connecticut 06484
The town of Brookfield, located in Fairfield
County, established in 1788,
population 16,354, is home to the 45-acre DiGrazia
Vineyards, owned by Dr. Paul DiGrazia, which is the second oldest
vineyard in Connecticut,
established in 1978 as a vineyard and opened as a winery in 1984.
Master Blender Dr. DiGrazia pointed out that the "Best juice
comes from vines that are older than 30 years, and the majority of our vines
are 30+ years old." One of the focuses at DiGrazia Vineyards is on antioxidant
wines and their Wild Blue blueberry wine is one of the highest antioxidant wines
on the market at 6000mg/liter in addition to being a Double Gold Medal winner
Along with their Wild Blue blueberry wine, DiGrazia
Vineyards focuses on growing Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Native grapes, Elvira
and Niagra, and St. Croix. In addition, they
offer award winning port style wines, the Blacksmith
and White Magnolia White
Port, exceptional Dessert
Wines, Spiced Wine, and Fruit Wines.
Mrs. and Dr. DiGrazia
DiGrazia Vineyards is open from January through April on
Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm, from May through December they
are open daily from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm.
131 Tower Road
Brookfield, Connecticut 06804
The village of Sandy
Hook, located in Fairfield County, established in 1711, is a short distance
from Brookfield, and is home to the 160-acre (15-acre of vineyards) family owned
established in 1979, another "old-timer" on the Connecticut wine scene.
Winemaker Bruce McLaughlin focuses on growing Aurore,
Chardonnay, Merlot, Foch, Norton, and Vidal varietals. Along with their quality
wines, they sell farm-harvested maple syrup and local artisanal foods in their
tasting room / Country Store.
McLaughlin Vineyard Vines
McLaughlin Vineyards also offers Wine Education programs
that are held monthly running 2.5 to 3 hours. The McLaughlin family encourages
visitors to discover the many hiking trails over their 50-acre wildlife and
bald eagle sanctuary, or enjoy a picnic lunch on the property. Another
highlight is the McLaughlin Vineyards music series that runs from the beginning
of August through the end of October.
Wines and Maple Syrup Available in Store
McLaughlin Vineyards is open year-round, Monday through
Thursday from 11:00 am
until 5:30 pm, Friday,
Saturday, and Sunday from 12:00 pm
until 6:00 pm, or by
appointment. Check their website for special events.
14 Albert's Hill Road
P.O. Box 778
Sandy Hook, Connecticut 06482
The town of Guilford,
located in New Haven County, established in 1643, population 22,307, is the
home of Bishop's
Orchards Winery, owned by sixth
generation, Keith B. Bishop, who is also the winemaker.
Bishop's Orchards Winery
Although a new winery, the
Bishop family has a long history of farming dating to 1871 growing fruit and
vegetables on 300 acres. After supplying fruit and pear juice for many years to
neighboring wineries, in 2005, he decided it was time he established a winery.
Keith Stocking the Shelves with Connecticut Wines
His focus for Bishop's Orchards
Winery is to create luscious fruit wines from fruit grown in Bishop's orchards
including strawberries, apples, raspberries, peaches, pears, and blueberries,
which have been winning many medals. Making fruit wine requires an abundance of
fruit; speaking with Keith, we learned that it takes 800 pounds (363 kilos) of
blueberries to make 60 gallons (227 liters) of wine. Fruit they do not use for
winemaking is for sale in the Farm Market store, and is available as "Pick Your
Own Fruit" (from June until October).
We toured the wine cellar and had the opportunity to taste a batch of
strawberry wine developing in the stainless steel fermentation tanks. After
only one week of fermentation, it was still "raw" yet gave a clear indication
of its potential.
Keith Sampling Wine
Bishop's Orchards Farm
Winery Sales is open year-round,
Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am
until 7:00 pm, and Sunday
from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm. Tasting is done in the Farm
Market where in addition to wine for sale, they also sell fresh fruits and vegetables,
and baked goods. Farm Market Hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am until 7:00 pm, and Sunday from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm.
Bishop's Orchards Farm Market
1355 Boston Post Road, US Route 1
Guilford, Connecticut 06482
The town of Wallingford, located in New Haven County, established in 1670,
population 44736, is home to the 140-acre Gouveia Vineyards, established in 1999, and owned by Joe and Lucy
Joe Gouveia grew up in a
small village of under 90 people in Portugal where everyone helped
their neighbors at harvest time. His family moved to the United States when he was 14 years
old, where he had the dream of one day owning a vineyard to recreate the
honorable tradition of winemaking.
Joe Gouveia with Grapes
Nestled high on a hill and
surrounded by 32-acres of row upon row of vines, Gouveia Vineyards' location
has a slighter warmer climate than that of the other vineyards and allows Joe
to grow Zinfandel in addition to the other varietals of Seyval Blanc, Vignoles,
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet franc, Cayuga, St. Croix, Cabernet Sauvignon,
Muscat, and Traminette.
The location provides the
perfect place to watch the sunset from the outdoor patio, or inside at a table
sitting near the fireplace in the cooler months. Joe and Lucy Gouveia encourage
visitors to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with a glass of one of their wines,
and there is live entertainment on Saturdays from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm.
Gouveia Vineyards Grapes
Gouveia Vineyards is open year-round Thursday from 11:00 am until 8:00 pm, Friday from 11:00 am until 8:00
pm, Saturday from 11:00
am until 8:00 pm,
and Sunday from 11:00 am
until 6:00 pm.
Debra and Edward Harvesting the Grapes
1339 Whirlwind Hill Road
Wallingford, Connecticut 06482
Where to Dine
Wine and gastronomy go
hand-in-hand, and New Haven, situated in the
middle of the Connecticut Wine Trail is perfect to enjoy lunch or dinner after
visiting the many vineyards.
We had an excellent dinner at
Restaurant, which was a
delicious discovery. The restaurant was a perfect complement after a day of
visiting vineyards with its Spanish cuisine and excellent wine list.
Executive Chef Manuel Romero
focuses on traditional recipes with small, yet delectable twists, using
ingredients not normally found in Spanish cuisine, that deliver wonderful
surprises on the palate.
Executive Chef Manuel Romero
A few of the many highlights
included an amuse bouche of a Boquerone, a marinated fresh
anchovy on toasted bread with avocado-cilantro puree; a Croqueta de Cabrale,
which was a crisp bleu cheese deep-fried ball that provided a delicious
mouthful of pleasure; and perfectly seasoned and slightly spiced traditional Gazpacho
served in a shot glass.
Amuse Bouche - Boquerone, Croqueta de Cabrale, Gazpacho
Other highlights included Ceviche
made with marinated shrimp, bay scallops, mango, red tomatoes, red onion,
cilantro, and guacamole; Pargo, grilled red snapper with judiones
De La Granja beans, green peas, chopped porcini mushrooms, red tomatoes,
baby white asparagus, and Manila clams; and Raviole homemade foie
gras infused with sweet potato ravioli with crispy bacon, baby carrots, and
sugar snap peas.
Pargo (Grilled Red Snapper)
were inspired and the perfect finish to a wonderful dinner. Savarin de
chocolate was rich and warm from the oven accompanied by a mixed berry
salad and muscatel snow, and Croquetas de chocolate, were delicious
almond crusted chocolate balls presented on spoons with lemon gelatin and
coconut foam. Mousse de chocolate blanco was an artistic
presentation in a crispy "tulip" with rhubarb compote and house-made strawberry
sorbet; and Membrillo, cinnamon rice pudding studded with diced
Granny Smith apples, and semi-frozen quince paste on a cream cheese cake with
passion fruit coulis provided luscious layers of flavors and textures.
Croquetas de Chocolate
Ibiza Restaurant is open for Lunch Friday from 12:00 pm until 2:30 pm, and for Dinner Monday through
Thursday from 5:00 pm
until 9:00 pm, and on
Friday and Saturday from 5:00 pm
until 10:00 pm. The
restaurant is closed on Sunday.
39 High Street
New Haven, CT 06510
Come discover the beauty of Connecticut and its excellent wine and dine
Read other articles on Connecticut Wines in the Wine
Cellar section. Be sure to visit the vineyard websites for additional
information and special events schedules.
For additional information on
the Connecticut Wine Trail, please visit: www.CTWine.com. For additional information on
Connecticut Grown products, please visit: www.CTGrown.gov.
© September 2010. Luxury
Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com All rights reserved.