The Cool Grapes of Connecticut's Wine Trail


Cold, snow, leaves changing color, New York City, Martha's Vineyard....most of you out there might think    there's just a lot of preppy talk going on up here in New England. What many people don't know is that Connecticut, despite it's continually changing weather, beaches along the Sound and clam bakes, we're toting almost 40 different vineyards, 26 which are active wineries! It might be strange to think of Connecticut as a state where one would go winery hopping, but the diversity of micro-climates, rocky soil and rolling hills make it a prime grape-growing region.
Two main wine trails make up the coveted land along winding back roads: The Western (Highlands) & Eastern (Shoreline) Trail. The major grape varietals found in this coastal state are: Cabernet Franc, Cayuga (Riesling's sister), Seyval Blanc (similar to Sauvignon Blanc), Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc (think Muscat).

Hopkins Vineyard

One well-known vineyard on the map is Hopkins Vineyard up in the beautiful hills of Litchfield County. This winery, owned and operated by Hillary Hopkins, has been active for 30 years and is the first established winery in the state. The family-owned property dates back to over 200 years, originally as a tobacco and dairy farm. Around 30 acres surround the estate with over 10 different varietals planted. It's the only winery in the state to produce it's own Sparkling Wines, one of which is made with Estate-Grown Pinot Noir & Chardonnay in the traditional method and the only traditional Ice Wine (wine made from frozen Vidal Blanc grapes, because it does get that cold around here).

Wine To Look For

Hopkins Vineyard - 'Westwind'
100% Cayuga grapes, steel fermented. A lovely nose of grapefruit and lemon, semi-sweet flavor and mouthfeel of nectarines, apple, melon

Hopkins Vineyard Website

Priam Winery

This past weekend took me out to the eastern side of the state where I generally don't venture. Once such stop on the trail was Priam Winery. A 40-acre estate on a tucked away, shabby chic barn house in the quiet town of Colchester. The vineyard welcomed me with a gorgeous array of free-spirited gardens, a covered patio terrace to sip on your favorite glass of wine and chat with a friend. The highlight grape at Priam is the St.Croix grape; a grape from Minnesota! The flavor is earthy, yet with a floral aroma and a light fruity flavor, similar to Merlot or Chambourcin. DO add a chocolate pairing to your tasting...your taste-buds will thank you.

Wine To Look For

'Salmon River Red'
A traditional Bordeaux style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon barrel-aged one year. Blackberry on the nose, black pepper, black currant and leather on the palate. Finishes with oak and tannin. Very smooth medium-bodied wine! Wonderful with a good piece of dark chocolate!

Priam Vineyards Website

Gouveia Vineyards

Gouveia (Goo-Vay-ah), 140-acre hilltop winery, where the noise spills out the door! This place is jammin' with a smorgasbord of people sharing their own family-style meals with live music. And what a view! The Gouveia family positioned the winery right at the top of a hill overlooking the vineyards, sheep grazing and small ponds. This vineyard was first planted in 1999 and opened to the public in 2004. They cultivate about 25 acres of all their own grapes, with only a few outsourced. The main grape leader here is Cabernet Franc, which is common state-wide. Secondly, Cayuga and Chardonnay.

Wine To Look For

'Stone House White'
A Semi-sweet wine that combines classic Chardonnay and crisp Seyval Blanc and Vignoles. Flavors of bisquity breads, light melon fruit that blend superbly from careful aging in mostly steel tanks.

Gouveia Vineyards Website

For a complete list of Connecticut Wineries and Vineyards, you can visit Hope you enjoy the Nutmeg State as much as I do! For more winery information and tales of grape stomping, please visit my blog - Kronick Wino. Cheers!

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    What a great introduction to the Connecticut wine scene! I'll driving through part of the state on Saturday. I hope I have enough time for a winery visit!

    Sep 14, 2009 at 6:25 PM

  • Snooth User: Natalie Kronick
    Hand of Snooth
    125803 166

    I stopped at a few others over Labor Day that were fantastic. The wines in CT tend to be on the sweet end of the scale, but still classy and delicate enough to pair with food. Picked up a great bottle of Riesling from Haight-Brown!

    Sep 15, 2009 at 9:51 AM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    Great intro - I want to get up there and try some of the wines soon. Thanks

    Sep 15, 2009 at 4:30 PM

  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    2 5,324

    I'll be on the lookout for that Salmon River Red. Thanks!

    Sep 16, 2009 at 1:01 PM

  • Snooth User: ehguy11
    214073 25

    Try Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret, Connecticut. Set in the beautiful Northeast Corner, they make the best-selling wine in New England: Ballet of Angels. Delicious!

    Sep 17, 2009 at 10:18 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Hi eh,

    Sounds like another wine to add to my list.Thanks.

    Sep 18, 2009 at 7:40 AM

  • Snooth User: rreichert
    Hand of Snooth
    30553 412

    Great piece Natalie - thanks! Now we've got an excuse for a long weekend out East!

    Sep 21, 2009 at 11:25 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Let us know when you're coming.

    We can see if we can organize a Snooth day trip!

    Sep 21, 2009 at 7:44 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 198,229

    I had no idea, as a New Yorker this looks like a great weekend get-a-way idea. Thanks

    Sep 21, 2009 at 8:57 PM

  • Snooth User: cigarman168
    Hand of Snooth
    227923 333

    First time to read this very interesting and informative articles about wines from northeast United States. Though I am not there but feel flavors on my nose. Hope to read your articles again.

    Sep 21, 2009 at 10:01 PM

  • Snooth User: aronowm2
    Hand of Snooth
    33334 3,705

    casinos and wine. gotta love CT.

    Sep 22, 2009 at 11:38 AM

  • Snooth User: rachel320
    206831 1

    Two of the best Connecticut wineries are in the eastern part of the state so you should come this way more often. Sharpe Hill in Pomfret makes some excellent red and white: their reds take advantage of the climate and hilly terrain, growing St. Croix (as a blending grape and as a standalone wine), an excellent Cab Franc, and a very unique Red Seraph. They make 3 different styles of Chardonnay, including an American style with some oak aging and a more French chablis style - but both are excellent for those "ABC" folks because you can actually taste the fruit - it's not so heavily oaked and treated with secondary malolactic fermentation that you don't know what it is anymore. And how could you forget to visit the home of the Ballet of Angels, made from the Vignoles grape and which is THE best selling wine from New England (and distributed in 10+ states)?? And for a laid back experience you should certainly check out Stonington Vineyard in North Stonington (not far from Foxwoods). Their whites are their specialty with a "Sheer" Chardonnay (stainless steel aging) and an excellent Vidal and an easy drinking Seaport White. Go East and check out the classics on the CT Wine trail! --Rachel

    Sep 22, 2009 at 6:02 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    It certainly look like there's potential for a series here. Who knew there were so many exciting developments in Connecticut?

    Sep 23, 2009 at 10:21 AM

  • Snooth User: Natalie Kronick
    Hand of Snooth
    125803 166

    To ehguy11: The Ballet of Angels does get a LOT of marketing around the state. But, I will say that it is VERY similar to many of the Cayuga-Riesling-esque wines we have around the state. It tastes almost exactly like Hopkin's 'Westwind'. I understand that they have a FANTASTIC restaurant up there that takes a few months to get into. Might have to pull some strings and check it out. ;) Thanks for all the feedback, everyone!

    I'll have another article for you soon!

    Cheers! OH - and hopefully will meet some of you this Sunday! :)

    Sep 24, 2009 at 11:35 AM

  • Snooth User: bigblue55
    225039 1

    If you are in Connecticut, stop by Sharpe Hills Winery and taste their "Ballet of Angels".

    Jun 27, 2011 at 3:16 PM

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