Haight-Brown Vineyard: CT's Oldest Winery

Connecticut's oldest winery is also a haven for turophiles.

Visitors to Haight-Brown Vineyard can expect to find artisan cheeses from across the globe — creamy and robust English Stilton, Spanish Manchego, even a soft and buttery Camembert from nearby Arethusa Farm Dairy — ready to pair accordingly with the Litchfield winery's varietals.

"We're really into cheese here," says Amy Senew, who bought the winery from its founder, Sherman Haight, in 2007 and now co-owns it with Jacques Muratori. "We try to have lots of cheeses from around the world, and educate people on cheese as much as wine."

Haight-Brown, which began as Haight Vineyard in 1975, is a landmark in picturesque Litchfield County. The Tudor-style building is a popular year-round stop along the Connecticut Wine Trail, particularly for weekend classes that take guests through an instructive tasting tour of wines, chocolates and cheeses.

"We love to educate people in an unpretentious, relaxed fashion," Senew said.

FEATURED AND NOTEWORTHY WINES: Haight-Brown's full slate of wines range from crisp, acidic whites to big and bold reds, with a few unique and seasonal options.

This season's chardonnay is the winery's first unoaked version, Senew says, a South African style replicated by winemaker Charl van Schalkwyk. The Railway and Covertside whites are made with blends of estate seyval blanc and chardonel grapes, and a riesling features grapes from the Finger Lakes region.

The winery's Picnic Red, a light-bodied and casual wine, is suggested for making sangria, and the Nouveau Foch, another "easy drinking" wine, is fermented for just a few weeks before being released. Heavier reds include the Morning Harvest, made from a blend of estate marechal foch and California cabernet. California grapes also make up Big Red, the winery's biggest and boldest offering at 15 percent alcohol, with "notes of butterscotch, black licorice and a hint of smoke."

Seasonal favorites include the Strawberry Bliss, a limited-release riesling with strawberry flavor that makes a short appearance around Mother's Day, and the Apple Crannie, an apple wine flavored with cranberries, that comes out at the end of October. The Honey Nut Apple is another popular apple-based wine, featuring honey, cinnamon and nutmeg for a flavor profile reminiscent of the classic pie, and the Apricot Moon dessert wine, made with a blend of Fuji and Macintoshes, is fortified with apple and apricot brandy after fermentation.

FOOD: Cheese and charcuterie platters ($18 to $23) are available in the tasting bar area and also for consumption on the building's upper patio. On select weekends, similar light fare is available in the building's downstairs market area with cafe-style seating.

Outside food is not permitted inside the building or on the upper patio, but it is allowed on the winery's lower patio and picnic grove.

PRICING: Tastings of six, eight or 11 wines range from $9 to $15. Add-on tasting options of chocolate, cheese or both are $4 to $9. Wines by the glass are $8.50 and wines by the bottle are $16.99 to $22.98.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Haight-Brown's popular Harvest Festival returns for the weekend of Sept. 16 and 17, with wine tastings and tours, food for purchase, hay rides, grape stomping and live music, The event runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day; tickets are $20.

Summer visitors have also been competing in a Haight-Brown Scavenger Hunt, a fun challenge intended to introduce people to Litchfield through clues leading to locations throughout the town. Fees are $15 per person (discounts are available for teams of four or more) and include a glass of sangria. The hunt runs through Labor Day, and top teams are eligible for prizes.

Wine, cheese and chocolate classes are held regularly, for $35 per person. Visit haightvineyards.com/classes for schedule.

Haight-Brown also supplies the wine for the Chocolate Decadence Sunset Tour, which begins with a cocktail reception at Thomaston Station followed by a train ride featuring wine and chocolate tastings, leading to a tour of Fascia's Chocolates in Waterbury.

TASTING ROOM HOURS: Haight-Brown is open seven days a week for the summer, from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 6 p.m. Friday and Sunday, and noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Hours will change once the Connecticut wine passport season ends in early November.

Haight-Brown Vineyard is at 29 Chestnut Hill Road in Litchfield. 860-567-4045, haightvineyards.com.

This wine season, we're providing a guide to what you'll find at Connecticut's farm wineries: signature vintages and special releases, live entertainment, gourmet food options, and a few surprises (wine slushies, anyone?) We will feature a different winery every two weeks.

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