Virginia might be for lovers, but Connecticut is for winos ( at least on the East Coast because really, Sonoma takes it all on the West Side).
Connecticut might not be the best conditions for growing grapes, and some of the wineries might have to import some of their grapes, but for a cheap day out (and who can’t use a cheap day out?), Connecticut wineries are the way to go.
Many of the wineries operate seasonally, and most are open for business (and have vino flowing) by now. However, some, as I tragically found out this weekend, aren’t open until later in the summer. For about $5 you can taste a winery’s vintages and keep the glass. Red wine lovers, don’t expect great reds. Most of them are a little thin on taste, unless they were made from imported grapes. The whites, which I’m not a big fan of in general, aren’t bad though.
The Connecticut Wine Trail is made up of about 20 wineries and split into East and West. According to the website, you can do each side in a day. Personally, I think they are crazy. If you want to enjoy yourself (and the wine), don’t try to rush through it all. Although, as the Passport Program is up and running again, you might want to try to hit more than one in a day. What is this Passport Program I speak of? Every time you hit a winery, they will stamp you “passport” (available at each participating winery). If you get to a certain number of wineries, you send it in and you are entered to win a trip to Italy, or several weekend getaways in Connecticut. Not too shabby.
A few weeks ago, The Boyfriend and I headed to Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford which is surprisingly bucolic, considering it is Wallingford. The 140 acre farm is set on top of a hill and while the grapevines were hardly more than scraggly sticks, it was beautiful. The tasting room is rather large with many tables where you can bring your own food. They also had some cheese and crackers for the munching, and live music which was a lovely touch. We bought a bottle of the Seyval Blanc, which I very much liked despite its whiteness.
We brought our own little picnic, raided their board games, and sat at one of the picnic tables outside overlooking the vineyard. I’m not certain if it was because it was the day before Mother’s Day, or one of the first nice days we had, but the place was packed. People brought in giant platters of food, full pizzas, and elaborate cakes by the truckload! Some of those seeking a little more peace and quiet joined us outside so there was something for everyone.
This past weekend, we met up with some friends at Jerram Winery in New Hartford. It’s surprisingly easy to get to–if you don’t have me trying to navigate. This one was much smaller and cuter than Gouveia. The tasting room was in an old restored creamery that can only be described as “charming”. The wines were not too bad either, with my favorites being the Highland Reserve and Marachal Foch. We even got a little history lesson about Foch, who was a French marshal who was honored for his service in World War I by having this type of wine grape named after him.
Again, we packed our own picnic and enjoyed it outside in the vineyard with a bottle of the Highland Reserve. The setting was very casual and idyllic…peaceful to the extreme.
I look forward to more trips to Connecticut wineries as the summer goes on (I plan on filling my passport and winning a trip to Italy). It’s nice, inexpensive way to spend a weekend day and see different parts of this lovely little state of ours…and support local agriculture!