Enjoy a glass (or two) of wine from time to time? Looking for a fun way to experience Connecticut with your special someone or friends this weekend? Summertime is THE TIME to check out the unique vineyards that comprise Connecticut’s Wine Trail.
Made up of 25 wineries offering everything from robust barrel aged reds to crisp, bright whites to local fruit-infused wines, the Connecticut Wine Trail is one of the most exciting and fastest growing wine regions in the United States. Whether you’re looking to start your trip in the Litchfield Hills, along the coastline, in the “Quiet Corner”, or along the Connecticut or Housatonic Rivers, you’re no more than a 45-minute drive from a vineyard. Visit a few and you’ll notice the unique flavors each geography has to offer and the stunning scenery it’s situated on.
But first, a brief history:
Connecticut’s early English colonists were avid wine drinkers, but viticulture – the science, production, and study of grapes – wasn’t successfully practiced until the nineteenth century. In 1978, commercial wineries were permitted in the state with the passing of the Connecticut Winery Act, and soon after wineries throughout the state began to cultivate and grow grapes on a large scale. In 1988, Sherman P. Haight of Haight-Brown Vineyards conceived of the Connecticut Wine Trail, which instantly gave greater prominence to this agricultural sector and increased wine and vineyard awareness.
Geographically, the wine trail route is split into two regions – the eastern and western trails – which wind through a series of historic towns and villages from Litchfield County to the Long Island Sound. The wineries along the trail grow everything from Chardonnay and Merlot to Riesling and Cabernet Franc – some even produce sparkling options and ciders.
In the mood for a little more than wine? Dine at Chamard Vineyard’s new restaurant, Farm Winery Bistro – one of Connecticut’s two wineries boasting a restaurant and recently voted “Best New Restaurant” in New Haven Living Magazine’s Reader’s Poll. Feeling adventurous? Join the folks at Dalice Elizabeth Winery for their standing Thursday night “Wine-a-roke” (5 – 8 pm) and a glass of their “Sizzle Merlot”, more commonly known as their Chocolate Chili Merlot. Just trust us on this one.
Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on around the state this weekend:
Thursday, July 31
From 5 – 7 pm, enjoy Saltwater Farm Vineyard’s Summer Music Series, with music this week by Zak Sheffer. Local oysters shucked by Dave the “Oyster Man” will be available. 349 Elm Street, Stonington, CT 06378.
Friday, August 1
Unwind on Friday evening at Priam Vineyard’s UnWINEd concert series (6 – 9 pm), where you can take in the sunset with live music, wine, and food. Purchase tickets at the winery or on their website. 11 Shailor Hill Road, Colchester, CT 06415.
Or pack your own picnic and head on over to Stonington Vineyards for their Summer Music Series – this week featuring Ian Kelly Jazz from 6 – 9 pm. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door, and the show goes on rain or shine. 523 Taugwonk Road, Stonington, CT 06378.
Saturday, August 2
Take a free wine tour of Gouveia Vineyards between 2 and 5 pm (Saturdays & Sundays) and learn how they make their wine. Stick around for some wine out on their back patio, and don’t forget to pack a snack! 1339 Whirlwind Hill Road, Wallingford, CT 06492.
Sunday, August 3
Stop by Sunset Meadow Vineyards for wine and live music from The Goods from 1:30 to 4 pm. 599 Old Middle Street, Goshen, CT 06756.
Reservations are needed for wine tasting, though large parties are urged to call in advance. Most wineries offer wine tours – if you’re planning to take one, your best bet is to call ahead of time for their tour schedule. Making it an all-day event? Be sure to grab a “passport” from one of the wineries on the trail and get it stamped at each stop along the way – once you obtain 16 stamps (no, we are NOT suggesting you visit 16 wineries in a day!!), you can enter to win valuable prizes, including a grand prize trip to Spain.
Enjoy the splendid wine and natural beauty of the Nutmeg state, and remember: if you’re planning on making a few winery stops, it’s a good idea to designate a sober driver (make sure they get to imbibe on the next trip when someone else is designated driver!). Safety on our Connecticut roads always needs to be priority number one. We’ll cheers to that!