April 17, 2012

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor - Connecticut Wine Trail

The time is ripe for drinking.
Spring is in the air.

Sadly, I'll be missing out on these next two weeks of late April here in Connecticut, when things finally start to turn green. Not so sadly, I'll be away for a few weeks on vacation abroad. (Future posts on London and Paris to come!)

In my absence, however, I urge you to take full advantage of one of my favorite and most fabulous Connecticut activities: the trusty Connecticut Wine Trail.

It's back! Many of Connecticut's wineries are opening back up for the season, offering tastings, tours, and ideal places for a picnic. As of May 1st-ish, visit any of the wineries that belong to the official Wine Trail and pick up your Connecticut Wine Trail Passport.

Enjoying one of the bottles
we won at Priam Vineyard!
For every winery you visit on the trail between May and November, you can ask the folks there for a stamp on said passport. Collect at least 16 stamps, and you can then enter a ridiculously amazing raffle, which typically includes TWO Grand Prize winners who will enjoy a two-week trip to Spain (amongst many, many other prizes).

Just this past year, I won third prize myself - several free bottles of wine from Priam Vineyard in Colchester, Conn.! We just enjoyed one of the bottles (Jeremy River White, deeelicious) this past weekend, in the beautiful 80-degree weather.

Rumor has it that a mere 1,600-ish oenophiles actually complete the Wine Trail challenge and bother to hand in their completed passports each year. When there are roughly 30 prizes to give away, that seems like some damn good odds, in my opinion.

Of course, I have my favorites. Here are just a few recommendations:

    Taylor Brooke Winery's
    semi-retired (and adorable) dog, Zima.
  • For some of the friendliest folks and a particularly lovely (and reasonably priced) summer peach wine, check out Taylor Brooke Winery in Woodstock, Conn. (Opens for the season on April 27.) It's in a beautiful setting, offers outdoor seating, and has a staff that is ultra-friendly and informative. I was also a big fan of the Green Apple Riesling, the Traminette (another one of those grapes apparently created by the geniuses at Cornell), and the Raspberry Rendevous. The chocolate-infused merlot port is also amazing, if you can handle a dessert-y wine. 
  • For good wine AND an unbelievable restaurant, go to Sharpe Hill Vineyards in Pomfret, Conn. (Open year-round ... because they're awesome.) They have a considerably long list of wine to sample (the full flight is somewhere around 11 wines ... clearly, I lost count) and the grounds are gorgeous. Their restaurant is totally romantic, but keep in mind that you'll often need reservations weeks in advance. Note: Given the restaurant on the premises, you are, unfortunately, not permitted to picnic here. So unless you've got a reservation, expect to get pretty toasted. Love their website? That's because some awesome dudes made it.
    Hanging last year with Mr. and Mrs. Fun
    at Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford, Conn.
  • For the most unique and largest wine selection (that I've come across, at least), try Digrazia Vineyards in Brookfield, Conn., Connecticut's first winery. (Opens for the season on May 5.) Enjoy complimentary cheese and crackers while the experts walk you through the tasting. Try the Wild Blue; it has brandy in it, and boy is it tasty. Browse their shop, then unpack your picnic lunch and hang for a while outside under the pergola. The Gator enjoyed it.
  • A few minutes away from the casinos of Connecticut is Maugle Sierra Vineyards, in Ledyard, Conn. (Already open for the season.) They've got a newly renovated and much larger tasting room, live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and an all-around good vibe. For the love of all that is holy, get a glass - no, a bottle - of the St. Croix. 
    Enjoying lots of St. Croix
    at Maugle Sierra Vineyards
    in Ledyard, Conn.
  • If you can't make up your mind, and you find yourself enjoying all different kinds of wine, then take a trip to Connecticut Valley Winery in New Hartford, Conn. (Also open year-round.) It's got a wide selection of reds, whites, dessert wines, and unusual fruity wines. Some of them also boast particularly high alcohol contents, heh (try the Black Bear, mmm). The family who runs the place is super friendly, chatty, and informative, too.
That should get you started. Regardless of whether you win anything, you'll get to try all sorts of local wine, see parts of the state you may not venture to normally, and will meet lots of fun people. But yes, may the odds be ever in your favor.

At Cassidy Hill Vineyard in Coventry, Conn.
One of our many summer days last year,
spent roaming the wine trail with my awesome in-laws!


  1. I always so I'm going to the the Wine Trail "one of these days"... That trip to Spain sold me though! This year is the year! =)

  2. Well I know what I'll be doing this summer...


  3. Hi Stef, We're big fans of the CT Wine Trail too. If you haven't heard of us, check out our virtual tour of the wine trail at pinterest.com/drink ! What is your favorite vineyard so far?

  4. Hmmm that's a tough one! I think for atmosphere, I like Taylor Brooke the best. For best wine selection, I'd go with Priam or Digrazia. P.S. Following you now on Pinterest, thanks! :D