In this week’s “Winemaker Interview,” Maryann talks about how her Grandfather’s winemaking influence and her love and care for the vineyard help create delicious Connecticut wines at Gouviea Vineyards.
Winemaker: Maryann Houde
Winery: Gouveia Vineyards (Visit)
Location: 1339 Whirlwind Hill Road, Wallingford, CT 06492
Tasting Hours: OPEN Monday – Saturday from 11:00AM-8:00PM, Sundays 11:00AM- 6:00PM
Tasting Options: Enjoy your wine with a view!
Why did you become a winemaker? What first attracted you to winemaking?
I’ve been making wine for 5 years. I wanted to follow the tradition of my grandfather. As a kid, I remember crushing grapes in the backyard and making wine in the cellar. This was very intriguing to me.
I have fond memories of Sunday dinners sitting around the table at my Noni and Papa’s house eating delicious pasta and sauce. My brother, sister and I were only kids but my grandfather would let us have a little wine mixed with soda. I remember how everyone wanted to nap after dinner!
How were you introduced to winemaking in Connecticut?
We had heard about a vineyard that just opened in Wallingford back in 2004 and my husband and I wanted to check it out. Gouveia Vineyards was the first vineyard we had ever gone to. We were amazed that this beauty was in our home town. I got a job in the tasting room in 2010 and that is where it all began for me.
What are the biggest challenges for a winemaker in Connecticut?
I would say that most winemakers in CT have a hand in growing the grapes for their wine. Maintaining the vines that you grow on your own vineyard is very challenging due to the climate and susceptibility to disease.
What makes Connecticut wine so great? What makes CT wine so different?
The great thing about CT wine is that our vineyards and wineries grow and make wine from a lot of grape varietals that are different from other regions.
Tell us about your harvest process.
Towards the end of August we start checking sugars in the vineyard. This helps us to determing an estimate for harvest. We’re busy cleaning and tuning up our equipment. When the grapes are about 22 Brix, we pick a date, and we’ll put the word out and gather our team of volunteers to help us pick.
We start crushing the same day that we harvest. The grapes are trucked in from the field, weighed and go right into the crusher. The winemaking begins.
How does your wine making approach differ from other winemakers? What is your general winemaking philosophy?
Wine makes itself. You crush the grapes and they’re going to become wine one way or another, good or bad. I want to care for the vines as best we can during the growing season so when harvest comes, I can make sure the grapes become the best version of what they’re supposed to be.
A lot of times, the circumstances are not ideal in the vineyard or the cellar so you must work with what you have and not be afraid to take a different and sometimes unorthodox approach if necessary.
How do you know you’ve got a good vintage?
I know the vintage is good when I see smiles on peoples faces who come and visit the winery. When I listen to their comments about the wine, and see how much they’re enjoying it, I know the vintage is good. If it’s making people happy, It’s a good vintage.
What is one aspect of your job that might surprise people?
How messy it is. You get dirty! It’s not uncommon to take the occasional wine shower!
What do you like best about your job?
I like the variety. Everyday is something different. One day I could be in the vineyard, the next in the cellar and the next giving a wine tour and talking to customers.
What is your favorite wine that you’ve made and what makes it your favorite?
My favorite wine that I made is my 2012 Petite Syrah. It was the first year I made wine at home the old fashioned way. The grapes were stomped with our feet. It’s my favorite because my family made it together. It came out really nice, too.
Who are your favorite winemakers and why? OR What is your favorite wine and why?
I read the memoir of Robert Mondovi and that was very inspirational. He really forged the way for the California wine region. He was a risk taker and a visionary and wanted to make the best wine for every level of wine consumer. Through personal account, Joe Gouveia. I connect with his philosophy because it reminds me of the old-world style of winemaking back in the days of watching my grandfather crush grapes in his backyard.
You don’t need to do a lot to make a good wine.
Is beer ever better than wine?
Jesus didn’t turn water into beer…
I want to give a big Thank You to Maryann Houde from Gouveia Vineyards for giving us a peak into the day in life of a Connecticut Winemaker. Make sure to stop by Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford, CT for some delicious wines made by a passionate Winemaker! #MyCTWineTrail #DrinkLocal
The Gouveia Vineyards Tasting Experience:
Visiting Gouveia Vineyards is like visiting your favorite mountain getaway. You enter the driveway and are immediately transported to a peaceful, beautiful, vineyard property with rolling hills and gorgeous views. The tasting room is open and airy creating a relaxing tasting experience. You can enjoy a tasting of 4 pre-selected wines and a fifth taste of your choice. Each tasting is $12.00/person and you can keep your wine glass.
Once you finish your tasting you can sit down and enjoy a bottle overlooking the vineyard or take your wine outside to the outdoor picnic area. Gouveia Vineyards is a great place for larger groups because they have a lot of space and allow you to bring food to their facility. Gouveia Vineyards is a great place to visit with family and friends. I hope you enjoy your tasting. Cheers!