At the start of this this year, my wife and I set a goal of visiting every vineyard on the Connecticut Wine Trail in 2018. She challenged me to write something about every visit, and so this blog was born. As we drew closer to Opening Day, this project became even bigger, as my wife developed a mobile app for the Connecticut Wine Trail, and what better way to test it out than by hitting the trail.
Over the past few years, we have visited many of the stops along the Wine Trail, and have become familiar with several of them. Whenever possible, we want to share things to do in the area, preferably food related, because wine is meant to go with food.
Every vineyard in Connecticut is a family business of some sort. Some reflect the personal vision and passion of their owner, others seem to be a natural outgrowth of existing produce. And still others admit that this vineyard is a last, desperate throw to keep the family farm going. It takes all types, and whatever the motives, if the wine is good, we’ll keep coming back.
Connecticut is not an easy place to plant a vineyard. We’re at roughly the same latitude as Oregon, which produces decent wine, and northern Mediterranean coast, which produces some great wine. But our winters tend to run colder, and overall, Connecticut gets a lot more rain. Compared to the brown hills of California, Connecticut vineyards are verdant. That’s great for growing fruit to eat, and to make things like apple cider, but wine grapes prefer a much drier climate. Sometimes the moisture is so great that fungus grows on the grapes, giving the wine, particularly the reds a funky taste. This past year we had a severe drought. While it was pretty bad over all, it was great for winemaking, so we have high hopes for the 2015 and especially the 2016 vintages.
The grapes must also be suited to growing in this cooler, damp climate. In general, the whites tend to do better than the reds, and some popular wine grapes will not grow here at all. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, is not a viable crop in Connecticut. Anything requiring a long hot growing season will not work either.
Thus, to do wine well, you must think locally. Like cheese, wine reflects the climate and the soil of where it comes from. Gorgonzola, Feta, and Stilton are all “blue” cheeses, but they are all very different, reflecting largely their places of origin. The challenge, then, is not some much to produce a good “Connecticut” wine, one that it adapted to its particular time and place. How well that succeeds, we’re about to find out.