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Food & Drink

The Wineries Of Connecticut

This season, we're providing a guide to what you'll find at these Connecticut wine destinations: 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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Preston Ridge Vineyard sits high atop a 60-acre property, with a patio overlooking miles of Connecticut landscape.

Preston Ridge Vineyards: Comfortable Luxury In The Countryside

  • 100 Miller Road
  • Preston
  • 860-383-4278
  • Website
  • Fri: 1-9pm
  • Sat, Sun: 11am-4:30pm
  • 100 Miller Road, Preston, 860-383-4278, Website
  • Fri: 1-9pm, Sat, Sun: 11am-4:30pm

Wine lovers Cara and Andrew Sawyer spent time traveling and visiting wine regions in the United States and abroad, daydreaming about the possibility of opening their own winery someday. They talked about plans, jotting down notes on a bar napkin, and brought up the idea to Andrew's parents "half-jokingly" one holiday, Cara says. "Then we started getting property listings." With the help of their parents, the Sawyers sought land for a potential vineyard in Connecticut's southeast corner, capitalizing on the location close to a cluster of wineries in Stonington and Ledyard. In 2008, the year they married, they purchased the 61-acre property that would become Preston Ridge Vineyards, planting six acres of vines on the land that once supported a dairy farm. More ...

Google Map of 41.5203456,-72.0230734

The winemaking process at Paradise Hills is a group effort. Before introducing any new wine, the family has to collectively agree that it’s ready to go.

Paradise Hills: A Welcoming, Family-Operated Winery

  • 15 Wind Swept Hill Road
  • Wallingford
  • 203-284-0123
  • Website
  • Mon-Sat: 11am-8pm
  • Sun: 11am-6pm
  • 15 Wind Swept Hill Road, Wallingford, 203-284-0123, Website
  • Mon-Sat: 11am-8pm, Sun: 11am-6pm

You'll often hear "Welcome to Paradise!" when you enter the tasting room at Wallingford's Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery, and that greeting is likely to come from a member of the Ruggiero family. Founder Richard Ruggiero and his brother Albert Jr., who now serves as co-owner and president, first started growing grapes and making wine at their Hamden home more than 30 years ago. The family planted vines at its 65-acre property on Windswept Hill Road in 1997, producing its own wines while also growing grapes for other Connecticut farm wineries. In 2011, the Ruggieros opened their Tuscan-style winery and tasting room to the public. "We love making wine; we love growing grapes," says Richard's daughter Margaret Ruggiero-Mena, a winery co-owner along with her uncle, her mother Brenda, and her sister Natalie. More ...

Google Map of 41.4486252,-72.7644331

About 90 percent of Sunset Meadow’s wines are estate-grown, reflecting a desire to have a “true Connecticut vineyard.”

Chocolate Pairings And Merlita Slushies

  • 599 Old Middle Street
  • Goshen
  • 860-201-4654
  • Website
  • Sun,Mon,Thu: 11am-5pm
  • Fri,Sat: 11am-6pm
  • 599 Old Middle Street, Goshen, 860-201-4654, Website
  • Sun,Mon,Thu: 11am-5pm, Fri,Sat: 11am-6pm

It's a family affair at Sunset Meadow Vineyards, which opened its Goshen tasting room in 2008. George Motel, who co-owns the winery with his wife, Judy, studied viticulture and enology at the University of California-Davis as he developed the vineyard property. His son, George, serves as vineyard manager, and the Motels' son-in-law, Chris Chichester, is Sunset Meadow's retail manager. Sunset Meadow is a popular stop among the Connecticut Wine Trail's Litchfield Hills wineries, known for its rolling acres of vines and enviable sunset views, a wide variety of estate-grown wines and a few treats, like chocolate and wine pairings and frozen merlot cocktails. More ...

Google Map of 41.7928521,-73.21184

Staehly Farms Winery's Pomodoro wine, made from tomatoes.

Staehly Farm: Wines From Apples, Plums, Even Tomatoes, But No Grapes

  • 278 Town Street
  • East Haddam
  • 860-873-9774
  • Website
  • Fri,Sat: 12pm-6pm
  • Sun: 12pm-4pm
  • 278 Town Street, East Haddam, 860-873-9774, Website
  • Fri,Sat: 12pm-6pm, Sun: 12pm-4pm

Visitors to Staehly Farm are often stumped by the East Haddam winery's most unusual wine. Is that a taste of cantaloupe? Is there some grapefruit in there? Where does it get all that acidity? The wine's name, Pomodoro, drops a clue. Yes, it's a tomato-based wine, an Old World-style family recipe. Tasting notes describe it as rich and robust, with flavors of apricot and smoky bacon, and its distinctive makeup earned it a double gold medal in the 2016 Big E Northeast Gold Wine Competition. "I think I had 1 in 100 [tasters] who could place it as tomato," said Kevin Staehly, who operates the farm winery with his parents, Christopher and Gail. More ...

Google Map of 41.4531583,-72.4329084

The estate-grown cabernet franc, a medium-bodied red, features “complex toasted oak notes with a backbone of ripe berries and spice.”

30 Years Of European-Style, 'Easy-Drinking' Table Wines

  • 523 Taugwonk Road
  • Stonington
  • 860-535-1222
  • Website
  • Sun-Fri: 11am-5pm
  • Sat: 11am-7pm
  • 523 Taugwonk Road, Stonington, 860-535-1222, Website
  • Sun-Fri: 11am-5pm, Sat: 11am-7pm

Stonington Vineyards, the state's third-oldest winery, celebrates the big 3-0 this summer. The coastal winery was founded by owners Nick and Happy Smith in 1987, and winemaker Mike McAndrew, who joined the business in July of that year, is still at the helm, crafting its European-style table wines. About 40 years ago, East Coast wine was virtually "unexplored, except for the Finger Lakes," McAndrew said. "No one was really growing grapes in Connecticut, or Rhode Island, or Massachusetts. A little on Long Island, but not much. We were all just trying to figure it out." More ...

Google Map of 41.4084601,-71.9048265

The Lost Acres property was an apple orchard several decades ago, so when husband and wife owners Kevin Riggott and Michelle Niedermeyer bought the property in 2008, they had some confidence that grapevines would grow.

'A Tiny Slice Of Heaven' In North Granby

  • 80 Lost Acres Road
  • North Granby
  • 860-324-9481
  • Website
  • Fri,Sat: 12pm-6pm
  • Sun: 12pm-5pm
  • 80 Lost Acres Road, North Granby, 860-324-9481, Website
  • Fri,Sat: 12pm-6pm, Sun: 12pm-5pm

Lost Acres Vineyard in North Granby was an apple orchard several decades ago, so when husband and wife owners Kevin Riggott and Michelle Niedermeyer bought the property in 2008, they had some confidence that grapevines would grow. They cleared the overgrown space, built a tasting room and opened to the public in 2011. The couple was looking for an agricultural business to run together, and Riggott was a hobby winemaker, so a vineyard made sense, Niedermeyer says. She calls the bucolic rural winery "a little tiny slice of heaven." FEATURED AND NOTEWORTHY WINES: Lost Acres Vineyard grows 5 acres of white wine grapes, and produces red wines from grapes purchased from California. The top seller is the Wedge White, a dry white blend of cayuga white, traminette, seyval blanc, vidal blanc and riesling grapes; and the Clemons Springs, a dry white blend of estate grapes, is said to be an "ideal pairing" with grilled chicken or vegetables. More ...

Google Map of 42.00783,-72.8553593

Brignole offers a spread of wine-friendly snacks from its kitchen: charcuterie and cheese ($7 each or $25-35 for boards), panini ($9 to $13), flatbreads ($13 to $18) and quick bites ($9 to $15) like hummus, artichoke dip, prosciutto arugula wraps and pancetta-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese. Guests are also welcome to bring their own food, but no outside beverages are allowed.

From Its Signature Sunset To Seasonal Slushies

  • 103 Hartford Ave.
  • East Granby
  • 860-653-9463
  • Website
  • Wed-Sat: 1pm-7pm
  • Sun: 12pm-5pm
  • 103 Hartford Ave., East Granby, 860-653-9463, Website
  • Wed-Sat: 1pm-7pm, Sun: 12pm-5pm

East Granby's Brignole Vineyards is one of the newer additions to Connecticut's farm winery scene, marking its first anniversary this June. Winemaking started as a hobby for the Brignole family and evolved into a full-service operation, says owner Tim Brignole, whose four adult children are all involved in the business. Now visitors arrive to find a palatial, California-style tasting room featuring granite bar countertops, ample seating, a cozy fireplace and a large outdoor deck overlooking rows of vines. FEATURED AND NOTEWORTHY WINES: The winery's top seller is Sunset, a special select red blend of Barbera and Vincent grapes, that Brignole describes as "very comparable to a big cabernet." He likens the White Tip Heron, made from 100 percent Cayuga grapes, to a pinot grigio-style dry white. Estate-grown wines include the Red Tail house red, the Red Dragon vintner's reserve, and Crossbred red blend. More ...

Google Map of 41.937932,-72.7800627

Gouveia’s reds blend estate and California varieties, like a cabernet franc, merlot and pinot noir, and its most popular wine, the Stone House Red, is a mix of cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and merlot

Panoramic Views Year-Round

  • 1339 Whirlwind Hill Road
  • Wallingford
  • 203-265-5526
  • Website
  • Mon-Fri: 11am-8pm
  • Sat, Sun: 11am-6pm
  • 1339 Whirlwind Hill Road, Wallingford, 203-265-5526, Website
  • Mon-Fri: 11am-8pm, Sat, Sun: 11am-6pm

There may not be a bad view on the entirety of Gouveia Vineyards' land. Perched atop Whirlwind Hill Road in Wallingford, the 140-acre winery offers panoramic vistas of rolling hills and vines, a tranquil pond and cinematic sunsets. The Gouveia family purchased the property in 1999 and opened the tasting room in 2004, says founder Joe Gouveia, who grew up in a small village in Portugal and he said he would look forward to the end of the cold, damp winters when residents would begin tending to the vineyard crops. Since those were the first crops to get attention, it was a sure sign of the spring season. "Things were alive," he says. "It kind of stayed with me all my life." He chose to build his winery in Wallingford, where he had settled, become an American citizen and raised his family. More ...

Google Map of 41.4351662,-72.7698058

Haight-Brown’s tasting room offers meat and cheese plates, as well as a market with crackers, jams and more on weekends.

CT's Oldest Winery

  • 29 Chestnut Hill Road
  • Litchfield
  • 860-567-4045
  • Website
  • Mon-Thurs: 12pm-5pm
  • Fri, Sun: 12pm-6pm, Sat: 12pm-6:30pm
  • 29 Chestnut Hill Road, Litchfield, 860-567-4045, Website
  • Mon-Thurs: 12pm-5pm, Fri, Sun: 12pm-6pm, Sat: 12pm-6:30pm

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." More ...

Google Map of 41.7414827,-73.1714214

Connecticut chardonnay is the number-one seller at the winery, followed by its own pinot gris.

Jonathan Edwards: A Napa-Style Winery With New England Charm

  • 74 Chester Main Road
  • North Stonington
  • 860-535-0202
  • Website
  • Daily: 11am-5pm
  • 74 Chester Main Road, North Stonington, 860-535-0202, Website
  • Daily: 11am-5pm,

Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington calls itself "bicoastal," fusing New England charm with Napa style. In the late 1990s, Jonathan Edwards, a speech pathologist, was considering a career change at the time his father, Robert, a chemical engineer, was heading into retirement. Jonathan was inspired by a friend who had started a brewery in western Massachusetts, and approached his father about a possible new business venture. "We wanted to manufacture a product together and do something with our hands," he says. They quickly decided that product would be wine and spent time in Napa Valley, connecting with wine industry figures, buying grapes and fermenting them at a custom crush winemaking facility. More ...

Google Map of 41.4623422,-71.8782377

Holmberg’s winery, which is open for tastings from May to November, is one of the newer operations of this fourth generation farm. It’s wine crafted with estate apples gets a sweet and tart punch from cranberries.

Holmberg Orchards: Wine, Cider And Corn-Maze Tastings

  • 12 Orchard Drive
  • Gales Ferry
  • 860-464-7305
  • Website
  • Sat, Sun: noon-5pm
  • 12 Orchard Drive, Gales Ferry, 860-464-7305, Website
  • Sat, Sun: noon-5pm,

Last year, the fourth-generation farmers at Holmberg Orchards had an idea: What if they combined two of the most popular fall activities at their Gales Ferry farm for a 21-plus experience? On a lark, siblings Russell and Amy Holmberg, whose great-grandparents originally purchased the 150-acre farm in 1896, decided to host a "grown-up" adventure, placing wine and cider-tasting stations throughout the property's intricate corn maze and encouraging visitors to find them all. The team pulled together the activity in about a week's time, and two Friday-night events sold out quickly, leaving visitors looking eagerly to 2017's schedule. The corn maze returns this season with dates on four consecutive weekends: Aug. 25 and 26 and Sept. 1, 2, 8, 9 and 15. The Holmberg family is gearing up for another busy fall season, as visitors will soon flock to the farm for apple picking, wine tastings, tractor rides and cider doughnuts. More ...

Google Map of 41.4331938,-72.0586677
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