A wonderful way to spend a day – or a weekend – in Connecticut is following the blue signs on the state’s Wine Trail.
The program includes 14 vineyards and wineries and is divided into two sections; East and West. The Eastern Trail includes seven vineyards and wineries, including several along the coast. The Western Trail visits the other seven, beginning with McLaughlin Vineyards in Sandy Hook.
I was impressed with McLaughlin Vineyards’ offerings. Besides wine - they produce about 3000 cases a year - they have a sugar house and sell maple syrup. They also have hiking trails, picnic grounds, and a 50-acre Wildlife and Bald Eagle Sanctuary.
“We’ve been a member of the Wine Trail since the organization started,” said Morgen McLaughlin, part-owner and general manager of the vineyard and winery. ”It has benefited us tremendously from the cooperative marketing, and the Passport Program also does a good job of encouraging people to visit all the wineries in the state.”
The Passport Program Morgen refers to is a fun way to compete for three prizes, including a grand prize of a seven-day trip to Barcelona, Spain. Simply pick up a “passport” at any winery on the trail, and have each winery you visit stamp it. When you’ve obtained 12 stamps, turn it in at a participating winery by Oct 10, 2005 and you’re entered to win.
Morgen explained that the entire McLaughlin Family owns the business and the land.
“The land was purchased in the early 1940’s by my grandparents for a country getaway from New York City,” she told me. “Over the subsequent years the land remained undeveloped. In 1979 the family agreed to start a vineyard and winery to help keep the property in the family.”
Morgen began working at the farm in 1994 after she graduated from Boston College. Fast forward to today: she’s married with three small boys that help her around the vineyard, especially driving the tractors!
Vineyards in Connecticut grow Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, Seval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Cayuga, Saint Croix, Vignoles, and Foch grapes. Wines produced by Connecticut wineries include Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs, Dry Rieslings and Seyval Blanc. Some wineries produce sparkling wines, ciders and wines made from other fruit like pears and apples.
Most wineries hold special events such as musical presentations, cooking workshops, and art classes. Every winery on the trail offers wine-tastings; some are free and some cost a small fee. Some require reservations, call ahead or check the winery’s website for details.
For a list of wineries on the Connecticut Wine Trail or to obtain a brochure, visit Connecticut Wine Trail.
For more information about the Connecticut Wine Trail Passport Program, visit Connecticut Wine Trail Passport Program.
McLaughlin Vineyards can be contacted at 866.599.9463 or on the web at McLaughlin Vineyards.
For more ideas on what to do in Connecticut, see Connecticut Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff
Over Over New England - DVD