Have you picked up your Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries? The passport program opened for the 2017 season on May 5 and runs through November 5,?2017. Some great prizes are up for grabs, so it is time for you to hit the Trail!
What is it?
The passport program is put on by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council. In order to be included in the passport all licensed farm wineries are required to use a minimum of 25% Connecticut-grown fruit in their wines.
There are 37 wineries on the passport this year, plus the Connecticut Wine Festival in July. You’ll need to receive at least 16 stamps in order to be eligible for entry for a variety of prizes, including a trip to Spain or a chauffeured trip to CT wineries.
If you get stamped at all 32 you’ll have a separate entry into the grand prize of a two week trip to Spain! Just don’t forget to mail in your passport at the end of the season!
The Difference Between the CT Wine Trail and the Passport
The Connecticut Wine Trail is the CT Vineyard & Winery Association, a membership organization made up of 26 wineries and vineyards in 2017. CT Wine Trail members meet the criteria of producing 51% of their wine using fruit grown in Connecticut. You’ll notice all of these wineries are included in the passport program. There are 12 others on the passport program that aren’t on the Trail, but may be in the future if they grow to meet the criteria.
Set a Map
One of the ways to be successful in earning your stamps is to plan ahead. Set a day, or a whole weekend, and map a route. There are a few areas of the state that lend themselves very nicely to visiting multiple vineyards in one day due to their proximity. Southeastern Connecticut, central Connecticut, and the northwest hills are great areas to target. When you plan ahead and visit a few per weekend, achieving 16 stamps in 6 months doesn’t seem so hard at all!
Take Tasting Notes
Your passport actually has spaces to add notes for each vineyard you visit. I would highly recommend this. If you start early in the season, you may not remember exactly what wines you liked throughout the state by October or November. This way you’ll know where you should return to for a relaxing visit, a glass of wine, and where to buy bottles for your holiday celebrations!
7 Vineyards in One Day
Yes, it is possible! My husband and I set out on a mission the first Saturday of June. We started our path in southeastern Connecticut and traveled home making strategic stops along the way.
How did we do it?
For us, this day was about visiting new places, seeing what’s out there, and getting stamps. Normally we enjoy a tasting then leisurely sipping a glass, taking in the scenery, walking through the vines, or having a picnic. But this marathon day wasn’t for that. Of course, responsibility comes into huge play here. You should never sacrifice the safety of yourself or others for the sake of getting your passport filled out!! Even in visiting so many in one day, neither of us (and I was doing the majority of tastings) were ever nearing our limits because we shared our tastings, adequately ate, hydrated, and spaced out our visits!
First stop: Maugle Sierra Vineyards, Ledyard
Second stop: Preston Ridge Vineyard, Preston
Third stop: Holmberg Orchard & Winery, Gales Ferry
Fourth stop: Sunset Hill Vineyard, Lyme*Not a member of the CT Wine Trail. You need a reservation here.
Lunch break: The Place Restaurant, Guilford
Fifth stop: Bishops Orchard & Winery, Guilford
Sixth stop: Rosabianca Vineyard, Northford?*Not a member of the CT Wine Trail.
Final stop: Gouveia Vineyards, Wallingford
Tips for Planning Your Winery Day
First of all, start early. Many vineyards open at 11am so you’ll want to arrive at your first stop around then. Plan to complete one tasting at each stop, shared between the two of you, or potentially only one of you tasting. For us, we did about every other vineyard shared vs. just me tasting. If you find wines you like, either write them down or snap a photo so you can return at a later date, or buy a bottle to take home. Don’t be tempted to order a glass on a day like this!
Pack a small cooler in the car with water bottles and be sure to stay hydrated between all of your stops. Start your day with a good breakfast and plan for lunch along the way. You may even want to pack your own wine crackers to help cleanse your palette or other snacks for in between.
Most importantly, enjoy your visits to the Connecticut Wine Trail vineyards and other wineries included in the Passport to CT Farm Wineries program. See you on the Trail!
And of course, please drink responsibly.