Litchfield, CT --
Contact: Janet L. Serra
Ph: 800-663-1273
Email: lhcvbnwct@aol.com
For Immediate Release

Europe too costly this summer? Not for the lucky winners of Connecticut's "Wine Country Passport" drawing. The free passport is a handy booklet with a page of information for each of the 24 vineyards on the statewide Connecticut wine trail. Vineyard visitors who have their passport stamped at 14 of the 24 stops will be entered in a drawing for valuable prizes. Lucky winners will enjoy a 13-night stay for two at the Benaldaena Palace, a four-star property in Spain overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to the two big winners, 15 closer-to-home weekend getaways for two will be awarded at the Courtyard by Marriott in Norwich.

Eleven wineries in the leafy Litchfield Hills provide a scenic start to a winery tour. Many of the vineyards in this area are located on hilltops with wonderful views. A good many wineries are family owned and some are historic farm properties with picnic areas to add to the day's pleasures.

A good beginning is the state's oldest established winery, Haight-Brown Vineyard, situated on ten acres atop Chestnut Hill just outside Litchfield. The first Chardonnay and Riesling grapes here were planted in 1975 on land that had been a family farm. Haight offers free tours at 2 p.m. on Saturdays by reservation, as well as tastings and the chance for a "Vineyard Walk" with the Vineyard Manager for $8.50 at 11 am on Sundays. Picnickers can head out to the terrace or to tables on the property.

This summer Haight-Brown is resuming a popular feature in cooperation with the New England Railroad Museum, a five hour vintage train ride that includes a visit to the winery. Check with the Vineyard for upcoming dates and details.

Hopkins Vineyard offers vistas of the blue waters of Lake Waramaug from its hilltop site. 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. In addition to red and white table wines, Hopkins produces sparkling wines, Rose and a dessert wine. Wine tastings are offered and favorites can be ordered by the glass or by the bottle, along with snacks and sandwiches, at The Hayloft, a wine bar with a stunning lake view.

In the wooded northern Litchfield Hills, visitors can discover the Jerram Winery, located on a hill in New Hartford above the Farmington River. Samples of Jerram's nine varieties take place in a restored 1903 Arts and Crafts Creamery that also serves as a contemporary art gallery. The outside deck is a fine place to enjoy a picnic lunch with wine.

The intimate family-owned Connecticut Valley Winery, also in New Hartford, beckons with a variety of 11 wines made with local hybrid grapes and hybrid blends, served in an inviting tasting room with hardwood floors, beams and a stone fireplace. One of their wines, Chardonel, is a special blend of Chardonay and Seyval grapes. The vineyard has won an award from the Grand Harvest Awards held in CA., as well as a silver and bronze medal at the Big E.

Goshen's two wineries each can boast of award-winning vintages. Sunset Meadow, named for the wonderful sunsets viewed from their 40-acre spread, won prizes at the 2008 International Eastern Wine Competition of four of their 2007 wines, Twisted Red, Sunset Blush, Vidal Blanc and Cayuga White. Miranda Vineyards also took honors for its Woodridge Red and White wines. Here, old-world techniques passed down through the vintner's family for generations combined with the latest modern technological advances results in handcrafted, small batch wines for the discerning connoisseur.

Further south in Sherman, White Silo, a century-old dairy farm, makes fruit wines from the raspberries and blackberries grown on the property. Visitors are invited to tour the fermentation, bottling and corking rooms located in a 1850s barn, to sample sweet or dry fruit wines, and admire work by local artists. The terrace is a fine place to enjoy wine, or a White Silo specialty, blackberry sangria.

One of the largest operations is the 45-acre DiGrazia Vineyards in Brookfield, founded in 1978 and now producing 28 wine varieties. DiGrazia grows hardy French Hybrid grape varieties to make dry, semi-dry and dessert wines. The winery features one-hour guided tours of the production and bottling facilities followed by tastings.

McLaughlin Vineyards in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, a 160-acre farm tucked into the hills, has been in the same family since the early 1940s. Here you can hike trails along the Housatonic River, picnic at the edge of the vineyards, pick vegetables in an heirloom garden and browse a selection of wines. McLaughlin offers special events on weekends, from jazz or bluegrass concerts to talks on wine tasting.

A historic final stop is one of the newest vineyards, the Jones Winery, in Shelton. Jamie Jones, the sixth generation of Jones farmers on this land, planted the first grapes in 1999 and continues to expand each year. The farm's vineyard and berry harvests supply the makings for both traditional grape wines and specialty fruit wines. A sampling of wines is offered in the tasting room located in the nineteenth century barn.

A visit to the eastern section of the Wine Trail along coastal Connecticut leads to more wineries and the chance to complete stamps in the passport and be in the running for the big prizes. For hours and driving directions to Litchfield Hills wineries, contact the wineries listed below. A map of both trails is available at www.ctwine.com.

1. Connecticut Valley Winery, 1480 Litchfield Tpke (Route 202), New Hartford, 860-489-9463; www.ctvalleywinery.com.

2. Digrazia Vineyards, 131 Tower Road, Brookfield, 203-775-1616; www.digrazia.com.

3. Haight-Brown Vineyard, 29 Chestnut Hill Road (off Route 118), Litchfield, 860-567-4045; www.haightvineyards.com.

4. Hopkins Vineyard, 25 Hopkins Road (off Route 45), New Preston, 860-868-7954; www.hopkinsvineyard.com.

5. Jerram Winery, 535 Town Hill Road (Route 219), New Hartford, 860-379-8749; www.jerramwinery.com.

6. Jones Winery, Jones Family Farms, 606 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Shelton, 203-929-8425; www.jonesfamilyfarms.com.

7. Land of Nod Winery, 99 Lower Rd., East Canaan, 860-824-5225; www.landofnodwinery.com.

8. McLaughlin Vineyards, Albert's Hill Road, (exit 10 off I-84). Sandy Hook (Newtown) 203-426 -1533; www.mclaughlinvineyards.com.

9. Miranda Vineyard, 42 Ives Road, Goshen, 860-491-9906; www.mirandavineyard.com.

10. Sunset Meadow Vineyards, 599 Old Middle Street (Route 63), Goshen, 860-201-4654; www.sunsetmeadowvineyards.com.

11. White Silo Farm and Winery, 32 Route 37 East, Sherman, 860-355-0271; www.whitesilowinery.com.

For more information, a copy of the Connecticut Wine Passport and a free copy of UNWIND, a 112-page color guide to lodging, dining and all the attractions in the Litchfield Hills of Northwest Connecticut, write to the Northwest Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, call (860) 567-4506 or visit the web site at www.litchfieldhills.com.