BY LEEANNE GRIFFIN
Special to CTgetsMarried.com
Few venues offer more rustic, natural beauty than vineyards. With rolling green lawns and knotty vines heavy with fruit, they offer gorgeous backdrops for photos and unique spaces for you to customize your ideal event. If you're a food and wine lover, it's an opportunity to show off your good taste, pairing local vino with mouthwatering cuisine. Here, we take a look at five Connecticut vineyards with lots of experience hosting couples' big days.
Chamard Vineyards: 115 Cow Hill Road, Clinton, 860-664-0299, chamard.com
The shoreline vineyard, just minutes from the coast, boasts a beautiful pond with a picturesque fountain. Weddings are coordinated in partnership with TRUE Event, a Connecticut-based event planning company.
Tented events can hold up to 250 guests, and the winery also hosts smaller, more intimate dinner parties. Chamard typically hosts both the ceremony and reception. Couples are encouraged to use recommended local caterers.
And what would a vineyard wedding be without the wine? Chamard charges by consumption only. When you book an event with the winery, you earn automatic VIP status - which means that you earn 10 percent off case sales (for the event, and thereafter.)
If you're looking for a smaller winter wedding, contact Chamard - depending on size, they may be able to accommodate your event.
Jonathan Edwards Winery, 74 Chester Maine Road, North Stonington, 860-535-0202, jedwardswinery.com.
At Jonathan Edwards, ceremonies start at 5:30 p.m., after the winery has closed to the public. Tented receptions for up to 200 people take place on the rolling lawns next to the vineyards. Cocktail hour is held in the tasting room, on the deck and stone patio surrounded by English-style gardens.
A flat fee guarantees full private use of the winery and vineyard for the evening, including the ceremony, parking attendants, tent setup and a winery staff member available throughout the night. Catering (Jonathan Edwards works exclusively with two companies), rentals and wine are extra, though Jonathan Edwards will give a 10 percent discount off the total wine consumption bill.
Joanthan Edwards hosts only 20 tented weddings a year, and booking begins at 18 months out.
Smaller rehearsal dinners and weddings can be held Fridays and Sundays at a reduced rate, hosted in the winery's Barrel Room or on the stone patio (weather permitting.) Call for details.
Priam Vineyards, 11 Shailor Hill Road, Colchester, 860-267-8520, priamvineyards.com
Eco-friendly brides will be impressed by Priam's distinction as a fully solar-powered winery, the first in New England. Its farm is also certified as a Natural Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
The winery, a beautiful, sprawling space in rural Colchester, hosts weddings April through November on Saturdays and Sundays. Events can accommodate 50 to 250 guests. Larger weddings can be held in the vineyard's upper field starting at 4 p.m. Smaller events, with less than 100 guests, can be accommodated in the tasting room and outdoor patio after 6 p.m. (once the winery is closed to the public.)
Priam has preferred catering, and will extend a 10 percent discount on the total wine bill of any event hosted at the winery.
Saltwater Farm Vineyard, 349 Elm Street, Stonington, 860-415-9072, saltwaterfarmvineyard.com.
Couples are flocking to Saltwater Farm, a stunning venue surrounded by tidal marshes. The winery building is a converted airplane hangar, opening onto terraces perfect for outdoor cocktail hours.
Weddings are so popular here that during the high season, the tasting room closes at 3 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to accommodate events starting as early as 4 p.m. But thanks to a sophisticated HVAC system, weddings need not be held just during the warmer months.
Ceremonies and receptions are held on site, with a maximum of 250 guests (no minimum.) Saltwater Farm works with exclusive caterers, but there are no restrictions on other vendors. Bridal couples receive 15 percent off wine retail sales. (Saltwater Farm makes a Sauvignon Blanc, a nice surprise given that it's an unusual grape for Connecticut.)
And there are a few nice, unexpected touches: a treliis and/or chuppah for ceremonies, staging area for bands or DJs and a bridal loft for hair, makeup and dressing.
Stonington Vineyards, 523 Taugwonk Road, Stonington, 860-523-1222, stoningtonvineyards.com.
At Stonington Vineyards, you have your choice of scenic ceremony spots - on the veranda under a gazebo, overlooking the entire view of the vineyard property, or a romantic setting amid the grapevines.
Weddings are typically held from May to the end of October, and the rental fee includes usage of the grounds for up to eight hours. Events can start at any time the couple wishes, but per town noise ordinances, music must end at outdoor locations at 9 p.m., and events must conclude by 10 p.m.
There's no minimum number of guests required, but tented receptions on the grounds hold up to 250 people. Stonington Vineyard partners exclusively with Coastal Gourmet, who handles catering and planning services.
All wine served at the reception must be purchased from Stonington Vineyards (unfortunately, there's no case discount) but Coastal Gourmet provides other beverages, along with bar staff.
One big plus: Stonington hosts only one event per weekend, which means that all attention is focused on you - and only you.