Wine & Travel

Snooth User: ChipDWood

Connecticut vino...?

Posted by ChipDWood, Apr 5, 2010.

Anyone know any wineries in Connecticut that are 'can't miss' stops?

There's a list here, but I was wondering if there was anything unique and worth having a look at- particularly around Mystic & Foxwoods and/or near Lake Compounce.  (Boulderdash!)





Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Apr 7, 2010.

Any luck here?


I am surprised no one has spoken up!

Reply by ChipDWood, Apr 8, 2010.

Heh... I'm kinda, not.  That's the thing about our lovely Atlantic coast.  To some, it's the most boring and uninteresting wine making region known only for sweeter stuff that has enduced many a headache since even before prohibition...

...But to SOME... It's ripe with fascinating new hybrid combinations, new uses for older vitis vinifera that have taken to the soils (tannat, touriga to name two)- and what I feel to be the beginning of a SECOND American style- much more European in its delicate and finessed nature than the face-punchers of California and Washington State- where every day is perfect, and every harvest a matter of "well, time to pick the suckers according to the brix meter."

But yea.  No luck.  YET...

The St. Croix Grape.  Apparently in abundance, in Connecticut.

Anyone familiar with this stuff?


Reply by MTB, Apr 11, 2010.

My apologies for not getting on this sooner; I've been busy at work and haven't been able to get onto Snooth as often I would like lately.  

I agree with you Chip - I think the Atlantic coastal regions (with the exception of Long Island) have gotten a bad rap.  I encounter a lot of people who assume we only produce sweet wines or fruit wines, and generally dismiss us.

Connecticut has a vibrant and thriving wine culture and more than 30 wineries across the state.  Overall CT wines tend more to the fruity rather than the earthy, but they are generally well-crafted, sophisticated wines.  You're more likely to find notes of dark cherry, berries and light citrus, than you are notes of grass, green pepper, mulch, etc.  Not that you won't find the earthy notes, but CT terroir does seem to produce stronger fruit notes.  There's also something in the nose of the reds that I'm finding is very unique to the northeast - a bright tangyness -I still struggle to define it, but it's almost like sea air.  I've found it in reds in CT, Long Island, and Rhode Island - and it's distinctive enough that in a blind tasting, I was able to pick out the one CT Merlot in the bunch because I recognized the nose.

Among the reds, St. Croix is a popular grape because it grows well in this climate and produces a richer, robust red - it's not a cabernet sauvignon, but it has more character and depth than I had originally anticipated.  I often find it blended with other grapes, but increasingly am finding wineries who are producing 100% or majority St. Croix wines.  They can have a bit of a bite, but are quite interesting.

 Another red that you'll find grown across Connecticut is Marechal Foch.  The first time I encountered it I was really put off finding it really sharp and tangy - I didn't realize at first it was the grape, and kept thinking the wines were just really really young.  Over time, however, it's grown on me.  Most often it's blended with other grapes, but occassionally I'll find a Marechal Foch wine.  At last year's barrel tasting, Haight Brown did a barrel tasting of just the Marechal Foch, which was really interesting.  People responded so well to the barrel tasting that H-B produced a beaujolais style wine which they've named the Nouveau Foch.   I encourage people to give these wines a few tries before writing off the grape.

A third red I'm seeing more and more of is the Cabernet Franc.  Unlike the Cabernet Sauvignon, which does not do well in this climate, the Cabernet Franc is a hardier grape and can stand up to the colder winters and shorter growing season.  Yet it still produces a fuller more robust red.  It's become one of my "go-to" reds, and two of my favorites are Gouveia's and Chamard's.

Some of the wineries also produce Merlot, although generally they are bringing the grapes in either from California or Long Island and blending them with other grapes (often the St. Croix).  I don't find the Merlots to be as strong or as interesting as either the Cab Francs or the St. Croix on it's own - and friends that I've taken out on the wine trail have tended to agree with me.

Among the whites you'll most commonly find Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, Riesling and Gewurtztraminer.  Like the reds, these will more often tend towards the fruity rather than the earthy, but range from dry to semi-sweet.  Connecticut Wineries also produce some very nice dessert wines, including Hopkins Vineyards Ice Wines, one of the better North American Ice Wines I've found outside the Niagara/Ontario region.

If you're looking for wineries in the Foxwood/Mohegan Sun area - which falls in the Southeastern New England AVA - some recommendations are:

Jonathan Edwards Winery (although they do import grapes from California for a number of their wines).

Stonington Vineyards

Maugle Sierra

D'Alice Elizabeth (a new winery, just opened last year; currently all the grapes are brought in from California, although they have planted a number of acres and will be producing CT-grown wines in the next couple years).  

Just down I-95 to the west is Chamard Vineyard, which is consistently voted best winery in Connecticut by readers of Connecticut Magazine.  I particularly like the Cabernet Franc at Chamard.

Just north of New Haven in the south central portion of the state is Gouveia and Priam.

Further north in the northeast corner of the state lies Sharpe Hill, makers of Connecticut's best known wine, Ballet of Angels and Taylor Brooke winery.

Over by Lake Compounce, you're moving into the Litchfield Hills and the Western Connecticut AVA.   There are a number of wineries throughout this region; some of my personal favorites include

Haight Brown


Sunset Meadow




I also really like Connecticut Valley and Jerram which are in the New Hartford area.

You can check out the Connecticut Wine Trail website ( for a listing of the member wineries, and google Connecticut Farm Wineries for a listing of all wineries in the state (not all wineries are members of the wine trail).  I've also posted my observations from visits to these wineries on, if you're interested.  To date, I've visited about 90% of the CT wineries and am finishing up the trail this Spring before heading over to Rhode Island and then up to Massachusetts this summer.

Finally, if you're interested in CT wines, I'd love to have you as a member of the Connecticut Wine Group here on Snooth.  There hasn't been much activity over the past couple months, but as we move into Spring, I'll be posting news, including in the next week or two  the Spring Barrel Tasting schedules.

Hope this gets at some of the questions you were asking.  If you'd like to talk further, send me a note.  

Marguerite Barrett

Reply by ChipDWood, Apr 11, 2010.

...Fantastic post and going to be very helpful.

Count me in on joining the group too.  I have a feeling that both Virginia and Connecticut encounter some of the same hurdles in their wine making enterprizes- and may also share some similar solutions.

I've been to the 'Wine Trail' website but was hoping to find someone with some actual, personal experience.

Thanks again so much,


Reply by ChipDWood, Apr 11, 2010.

BTW Marguerite- could you give me a specific link to the group?  I can't find it in a search.

Thanks again

Reply by MTB, Apr 11, 2010.

Hi, Chip - glad you found it all so useful  Let me know if (when) you get up here - would love to get your thoughts and impressions.  As for the link to the group, it appears you found it - I got a notice saying you'd joined.  but if not, it's


Reply by ChipDWood, Apr 12, 2010.

Yea- followed you in, so to speak.

Oddly, when I went to search for "Connecticut Wine", or other things related- nothing came up in the search.

Probably would have easier to find the group itself by jumping onto Google, searching for "Connecticut Wine Group", then having it do the searching for me ;).


BUT- Joined I have, and I'm growing in my curiosity concerning the wines.  I'll most certainly let you know what I think of where we visit- though we're not even sure how many we'll hit.  The plan is to find the pool, the blackjack table, and only a c ouple other places in-between.  So, we'll see- but thanks again for such a great sumary.

I'm pasting it into the travel bible ;).

Reply by MTB, Apr 17, 2010.

Have fun, Chip.  If you're hitting the casinos and really only have time for a couple of stops, then my top recommendations would be Chamard on your way in or out (it's just off I-95 right behind the outlet mall in Clinton).  And then once you hit the casinos and want a break, I'd head over towards Mystic/Stonington and hit Jonathan Edwards, Maugle Sierra, and/or Stonington.  (I listed them in order of my preference).

Fellow Snoother Andie1 is at Jonathan Edwards usually on Sundays.  If you stop by look for her behind the tasting counter.

Reply by MTB, Apr 17, 2010.

One final note, Chip, if you're interested in the St. Croix, Maugle Sierra produces a very nice St. Croix table wine, as well as a St. Croix dessert wine.  

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