2004 Fall Season

Litchfield, CT -- Contact: Janet L. Serra For Immediate Release 860-567-4506 lhcvbnwct@aol.com When the vines are heavy with grapes of ruby red and the trees are aglow in russet and scarlet, its the ideal time to discover the scenic wine country of Northwest Connecticut. Many of the half dozen area wineries are on historic farm properties, forming a wine trail that takes in some of the loveliest autumn countryside in New England. Autumn is the only time to see the entire wine-making process, from vine to vat, and at these small and personal operations, the winemaker is often on hand to answer questions about his operations. Start in the serene, wooded Litchfield Hills with one of Connecticut's newest farm wineries, the Jerram Winery on Route 219, on a hill above the Farmington River in the Town Hill section of New Hartford, the site of the towns first settlement in the early 1700s. Winemaker James Jerram says that the elevation provides a long growing season that makes for especially well-matured grapes. He enjoys showing guests how the wines are made, and offering samples of Jerram?s three white and three red varieties. Drive southwest for the states oldest established winery, Haight Vineyard, overlooking Litchfield, a town famous for its beautiful green and fine Colonial homes. The first Chardonnay and Riesling grapes were planted on the slopes here in 1975 on land that had been a family farm since the 1920s. Haight offers free tours on the hour, wine tastings and a special treat, the chance for a "Vineyard Walk." Hopkins Vineyard awaits further southwest, situated on a hilltop above the blue waters of Lake Waramaug. A family farm since 1787, the first Hopkins vines were planted in 1979 and the nineteenth century barn was converted to a state-of-the-art winery. The warming influence of an inland lake extends the growing season, allowing for varieties that would not usually thrive in a cold climate. In addition to red and white table wines, Hopkins produces sparkling wine as well as semi-sweet wines, Rose and a Vidal Blanc dessert wine. Wine tastings are offered and when you have chosen a favorite, you can order it at The Hayloft at the top of the barn, now a wine bar with a stunning view of the foliage-rimmed lake. Continuing south to Sherman, White Silo Farm, a century-old dairy farm, has a special focus, making fruit wines from raspberries and blackberries grown on the farm. Visitors are invited to tour the fermentation, bottling and corking rooms located in an 1850s dairy barn, to sample the sweet and dry fruit wines, admire work by local artists and to walk the raspberry fields, where you are invited to pick your own luscious fruit in September and October. One of the largest operations is the 45-acre DiGrazia Vineyards in Brookfield, founded in 1978. It has grown from an initial release of four brands of wine to twenty-eight different varieties. DiGrazia grows hardy French Hybrid grape varieties adapted to withstand New England winters, producing crisp, fruity, dry, semi-dry and dessert wines. The winery features one-hour guided tours of the production and bottling facilities followed by tastings. A final stop is McLaughlin Vineyards in the Sandy Hook Section of Newtown, a 160 - acre farm tucked into the hills that have been in the same family since the early 1940?s. Her you can hike trails along the Housatonic River, picnic at the edge of the vineyards, pick vegetables in an heirloom garden and browse through a selection of fine wines. McLaughlin has many special events in the, fall for a fee. On Sundays September 5,12 and 19, jazz performances and wine tastings are presented in the garden overlooking the vineyards ($10). Harvest Open Houses on September 25 and 26 feature tractor rides, guided hikes, grape picking, winery tours and tastings ($5 per person, under 16 free). October weekends bring ?Hayrides and Pumpkin Pickin?? with wine tastings for the adults while the kids take a hay ride to the pumpkin patch. $3 per person includes a pumpkin and a cup of cider. McLaughlin also offers serious two Wine School sessions. All Things Harvest September 4, 11, and 18, $35, is a hands-on afternoon working in and out of the vineyard. The ABCs of Wine Tasting, September 4 and 18, $25, is a tasting seminar including white and red wines from around the world. Reservations are necessary for both programs. For hours and driving directions, contact the wineries listed below. For more autumn suggestions and to receive a free guide to the region, including lodging and maps, contact the Northwest Connecticut Convention & Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 968, Litchfield CT 06759-0968, 800-663-1273, or check the Internet at www.northwestct.com Jerram Winery, 535 Town Hill Road (Route 219), New Hartford, 860-379-8749, 860-379-8749; www.jerramwinery.com Haight Vineyard, 29 Chestnut Hill Road (off Route 118), Litchfield, 860-567-4045; www.haightvineyards.com Hopkins Vineyard, 25 Hopkins Road (off Route 45), New Preston, 860-868-7954; www.hopkinsvineyard.com White Silo Farm & Winery, 32 Route 37 East, (off Route 7) Sherman, 860-355-0271; www.whitesilowinery.com DeGrazia Vineyards, 131 Tower Rd., Brookfield, (203) 775 ? 1616; www.digrazia.com McLaughlin Vineyards, Albert's Hill Road, (exit 10 off I-84) Sandy Hook (Newtown) 203-426 -1533; www.mclaughlinvineyards.com.