Get Ready for the 2017 CT Wine Festival

Who’s Ready for the CT Wine Festival???!!!! Personally I can’t wait.

Every year some of Connecticut’s best CT Grown wine producers come together to celebrate their community and delicious wines. Every year I go home with a new love of CT Grown wine and usually a bag full of favorites.

This year the festival has a record number of wineries participating –  16 in total!  Along with the wineries there will be delicious local food, live music, and small business vendors. You can drink, eat, and shop your way around the festival while listening to some awesome music. It is a great day to browse and see some of the local gourmet options Connecticut has to offer.


What to expect:

  • Grape stomp competition – on Sunday afternoon they have a grape stomp competition. It’s super fun! The winners win free wines from one of the local vineyards. Who doesn’t want to stomp grapes like Lucy?
  • Bring your Passport to CT Farm Wineries – You won’t be able to get stamps from all 16 winery participants, but the Passport does have a Wine Festival page!
  • Live music – Always a great compliment to wine
  • You are provided with a tote bag for wine purchases! This is perfect for taking home your favorite wines.
  • You get to taste New and Special releases from all 16 Wineries!!

Tips on How to Make the Most of the Festival:

  • Buy Grape Stomp Tickets before they sell out. Seriously it’s so much fun to participate. If you don’t get tickets in time make sure to go and cheer people on. It a lot of fun to watch.
  • Map out your favorite wineries –Since there will be so many wineries in attendance this year I would pick your top three wineries to stop at and then choose another three you have never tried. Then see where the day takes you after that.  Also, snacking and drinking water in between tastings will help! 😉
  • Wear comfortable shoes – You will be walking around quite a bit. I would suggest wearing flat sandals, flip flops, or sneakers.
  • Wear light and comfortable clothing – Make sure to check the weather to see what the temperature will be on the day you attend. I wore a light sundress last year and it was perfect. I was very comfortable walking around the festival. Also, sometimes they have photo booths and photographers walking around taking pictures, so you might want to look camera ready 😉
  • Hydrate – Since you will be tasting wine and walking around in the sun, make sure to hydrate. You can purchase water from local food vendors or bring your own empty water bottle to fill at water stations.
  • Make sure to BRING YOUR ID. You will not be allowed entry if you forget your ID.
  • No pets, outside food or drink are allowed.
  • Parking – Parking is surprisingly easy. The local police will guide you to park in the field parking lots across from the festival. It’s a quick and easy walk across the street to the festival once you have parked.
  • Have fun!! It’s a great day out for you and your significant other, family, group of friends, and/or co-workers. There is something for everyone. Whether you are a wine lover, foodie, music buff, shopaholic, or just feel like stomping some grapes, you will have a great time.

Favorite things from last year:

  • Grape stomp – So much fun to cheer people on!
  • Wine selections – I brought a lot of new releases and wines I’ve never tried before home. Please see here for the list of my favorites
  • Getting to try new local food was so great. There were “boozy” popsicles I was obsessed with and some great barbecue.
  • My girlfriends and I had a great girl’s day out! Great wine, delicious food, watching the grape stomp, and girl talk made for a great day!

On your way back home I suggest stopping by Sunset Winery for a wine slushy (super refreshing) or chocolate and wine pairing and Miranda Winery for a refreshing glass of Vhino Verde. You might as well since you’ll already be in Goshen right?

CT Wine Festival Date: Saturday, July 22nd from 12-7pm & Sunday, July 23rd 2017

Time: 12-6pm (both days)

Location: The Goshen Fairgrounds – 116 Old Middle Street, Goshen, CT – located approximately 1/2 mile south of Goshen center on Route 63.

Grape Stomp Info:  CT Wine Festival is once again offering our very popular Grape Stomp contest where you will participate in a live Grape Stomp for a chance to win some spectacular wine trail prizes. Participants must be 21 years or older, sign a waiver and be willing to get grapes stuck between your toes. Space is limited to 60 participants, so sign up early! Registration is limited to 1 per person as we need all of the participant’s names. ADMISSION TO CT WINE FESTIVAL IS REQUIRED! Stomp is Sunday July 23rd from 2:00-3:00PM

Wineries Participating in 2017:

  • Bishops Orchards Winery
  • Brignole Vineyards
  • DiGrazia Vineyards
  • Holmbergs Orchard and Winery
  • Hopkins Vineyard
  • Jonathan Edwards Winery
  • Jones Winery
  • Miranda Vineyard
  • Paradise Hills Vineyards
  • Priam Vineyards
  • Savino Vineyards
  • Sharpe Hill Vineyard
  • Staehly Farm Winery
  • Sunset Meadow Vineyards
  • Taylor Brooke Winery
  • White Silo

Exhibitors Participating in 2017:

  • Accents
  • Andiamo Tours
  • Carla’s Pasta
  • Cutco Cutlery
  • Glass Act
  • Gourmet Creations
  • Keep Me Clean
  • Kelly’s Crystals
  • Lakonia Greek Products
  • LeafFilter North of Connecticut
  • Lil” Jewels
  • Liberty Insurance
  • Little Farms on Main
  • Pearl Odyssey
  • Power Home Remodeling Group
  • Pure Romance
  • Recycled Bottle Crafts
  • Renewal by Anderson
  • Rhineland Cutlery
  • Savor
  • Silpada Jewelry
  • SilverLeaf Resorts
  • Sky Property Services
  • The Olive Oil Factory
  • Thomas Jewelry
  • Traveling Vineyards
  • Waddell and Reed
  • Walk by Faith Doggie Bakery
  • Word Couture

Questions? View answers to FAQs here or call 860.216.6439 or email

2016 Rkatsitelli Wine Spotlight from Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery

Still can’t wrap my head around how awesome this wine grape variety is! The Rkatsitelli grape was widely planted in Eastern Europe and is considered one of the oldest known grape varieties in the world. Planted in the country of Georgia in 300 B.C. The name means “red horn” in Georgian. This wine from Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery is super delicious! The vines were planted in the 60’s, the wine was fermented in stainless steel, with partial MLF. It was very bright with complex acidity, crisp mouth feel, and pleasant minerality. If you are ever in the finger lakes or see this in the package store, seriously suggest picking it up! #sorryformywinenerdrant #ithadtobedone

A Little History About the Winery:

4th generation owned, Meaghan Frank is taking over her family’s winery. Wooohoo for more ladies in wine! The Winery was established in 1962 by Dr. Konstantin Frank – a refugee from Ukrain who came to NY during World War II. His father was from Germany and managed a small winery in Ukrain, so he grew up working in the wine industry. When he came to America he spoke 9 languages but no English. However, he was eventually able to learn enough English to communicate his wine desires. He planted his first grape vines in 1958 on Keuka Lake and never looked back!

Why Are The Wines so great?

Well there are 11 total lakes in the Finger Lakes Region and they have many different soil types due to the glacial impact of the last Ice Age. For example the Shale Acidic Soil creates a good mineralogy in a Dry Rieslings and lends itself to the cool climate hearty grape varieties. This is a big reason why Riesling really excels in the region. Then they have Limestone where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are often planted. These grapes truly excel there, especially with the lake effect combination. The lakes cool the region and in winter and warm it up in the summer which allows them to produce top quality Vinifera.

Visiting The Winery:

At Dr. Konstantin Frank they always offer free tastings for their guests. This is because they are off the beaten path on Cayuga Lake and think that since you’ve journeyed that far, you deserve some free wine 🙂 They have an International Winemaking Team
consisting of winemakers from South Africa, Australia, Germany, and California. This gives them the ability to create 30 wines for their portfolio including a line of sparkling wines. When you visit, sit back, relax, and enjoy your wine with a side of awesome East Coast history.

Location:  9749 Middle Rd, Hammondsport, NY 14840

Schedule A Tasting: Advance Reservations and booking payment are required for all groups of 12 or more. Groups of 12 or more will be charged with a non-refundable fee of $5 per person and will get to keep their Dr. Frank logo glass. Please call 800-320-0735 for a reservation. Cancellations must be made up to a week in advance otherwise reservations are non refundable.

Make sure you make the trip to the Finger Lakes and Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery!

From Making Wine in her Chef Pants to becoming a Professional Winemaker… Maureen Macdonald talks about her Professional Winemaker Journey

In this week’s “Winemaker Interview,” Maureen Macdonald talks about  going from bartender and chef,  to full blown professional winemaker and winemaking consultant. 

Winemaker: Maureen Macdonald – On Staff Winemaker & Winemaking Consultant at Musto Wine Grape Company, LLC. (Visit) and one of the founding members of the Women Winemakers of Connecticut (website)

Location: 101 Reserve Rd, Hartford, CT 06114

Musto Wine Grape Company Hours: Monday – Friday: 9:00AM-4:00PM, Saturdays: 9:00AM- Noon

Wine Class Options: Free Mini Wine Classes on Saturdays, each with a different theme

Why did you become a winemaker? What first attracted you to winemaking? 

I first developed an interest in winemaking while I was bar-tending at a fine dining restaurant. I was fascinated by wine enthusiasts who would come in and rejoice over a certain vintage of a premium wine offering. Everyone had a story as to why that particular wine was special to them; a memory of a special occasion. It sparked my interest in being able to create a product that would have this effect on people. I was lucky enough to share this interest with a patron at this establishment, and as luck would have it, he taught at a college that offered wine making classes. I enrolled, and the rest is history. I have now been making wine for almost a decade.

How were you introduced to winemaking?

I was introduced to winemaking via the academic route. I first took classes in viticulture and advanced horticulture to learn about grafting, pruning, and vineyard installation. All of this knowledge built upon my previous collegiate studies in botany and environmental science. I then took classes in oenology which taught me how to make my first batches of wine.

What are the biggest challenges for a winemaker on the East Coast?

A large challenge for winemakers on the East Coast can often be the lack of varietal choice within the Vitus Vinifera family. Due to colder growing climates, many vinifera varietals struggle to prosper in New England. While we do have many excellent winemaking French-American hybrid varietals to grow in this area, a big challenge for commercial winemakers is educating the public on them. Many consumers will eagerly try a new Pinot Grigio or Cabernet Sauvignon, but when you offer them a nice glass of Seyval or Marquette, they may give you a puzzled look. A significant portion of my job when working with these varietals is educating the consumers about their flavor profiles and food pairing abilities, just like the vinifera grapes that they are familiar with.

What makes making wine at home so great? What makes making wine at home so different?

Making wine at home is great because you can do it in your pajamas! The convenience factor is certainly a benefit as you can experiment at your leisure and have complete creative control over your end product. It is much more challenging in some aspects than on the commercial level as I certain tannins and additives are hard to measure out for such small batches. And I certainly do appreciate working in a commercial winery with the ability to rinse down everything into a floor drain at the end of the day. Cleaning up at home can be more painstaking in comparison.

Tell us about your harvest process

Harvest season is all about the preparation. I like to take weekly readings of Brix, TA, and pH of the grapes to track their ripening process and compare to previous vintages. I will also take some field estimates to help me gauge my anticipated yield for the season. I will make sure that all of my equipment is in good shape, supplies are ordered, and coworkers are informed as to picking and processing schedules. Then it is just time to wait until the grapes are ready, and pray for good weather. Once harvest season is underway, I become a finely tuned machine of crushing, pressing, and setting yeast, checking on all of my varietals daily. While it is a lot of work in many different directions, I find a certain rhythm to it, almost like a dance. You just keep moving with each grape and wine until it gets to the end point of stable wine. I will work a lot of long hours, have a lot of physically and mentally trying moments, but at the end of the day it is worth it. I just remember that this wine will make someone very happy at some point and my efforts will be appreciated. Hopefully someday, someone will have a special moment with this wine.

How does your wine making approach differ from other winemakers? What is your general winemaking philosophy?

I think I am unique within my local field as my area of expertise and focus is with French-American hybrids. Many winemakers start out by making Cabernet Sauvignon, in hopes of generating the next Opus One. I was fortunate to start at an active farm winery, working with many varieties of excellent quality French-American hybrid grapes. I developed an appreciation for their own unique wine making capabilities and learned as much as I could about making them into the best representations of their varietals. My goals were to make excellent quality wines out of local grapes in hopes of educating and exciting the public about the new varietals of grapes. I’d like to think I accomplished that to some extent, through the many wines that I have commercially produced.

In regards to a winemaking philosophy, don’t try and force a round peg into a square hole. Don’t grow a hybrid grape in hopes of generating a vinifera style wine. Embrace the grapes for the wines that they are able to make, and if you really want the next Opus One, do the research on sourcing premium grapes from a premium growing region and expect to pay for such quality. Not every wine has to be a deep, rich, tannic red wine to have with a filet mignon. Some wines can be light, fruity, acidic, and meant for refreshment on hot summer days or just relaxing and socializing with friends.

How do you know you’ve got a good vintage?

As the summer progresses, hot days, little rain after verasion, low disease pressure, you can start to see these factors as the signs of a good vintage. After crush I conduct an analysis of the grapes to see if they require any added acid, sugar, or water. If little additions need to be made to the must, it is another indication of a good vintage. Throughout the fermentation process, checking the vital factors of Brix and pH are critical as well as checking the aroma of the wine daily. I find that the overall health of that wine is detected in its aroma. Many faults and flaws can be fixed or avoided by observing the aroma.

Are there any new winemaking techniques or tools you’d like to experiment with?

I’ve always wanted to make sparkling wine. I am currently working on a commercial level project, preparing wine to be force carbonated. This is like swimming in the shallow end of the sparkling wine production pool. I’ve seen the traditional method champenoise done, and I understand the process, however that is my next big adventure in wine making. Who doesn’t love sparkling wine?

Which wine growing region has had the most influence on you?

While my first exposure to wine was California produced wine, and I still favor their product, as far as the region that has had the most influence to my personal winemaking style, I would have to say New England and Long Island. I have had the privilege of visiting over 50 wineries in the region and seeing the many expressions of the hybrid and vinifera varietals has given me a priceless education and influence on my winemaking style. The North Fork of Long Island made me fall in love with Chardonnay in its various styles and forms, from crisp and acidic steel productions, to decadent, buttery, and almost unctuous barrel fermented products. I wasn’t much of a Chardonnay connoseuir in my early career, and I will always remember a bottle of Harbes Farm Winery Chardonnay that was so incredibly rich and buttery, I wanted to dunk lobster in it. That bottle peaked my interest in Chardonnay production and influenced and inspired my Chardonnay research and production.

What is one aspect of your job that might surprise people?

I find many people do not realize that wine making is a full time job. Many folks assume that I spend my winters skiing or traveling to warmer locations. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. While I do like utilizing my bits of extra free time in the colder months to explore new wineries and attend as many educational opportunities as possible, the slower paced winter months are when I get my best cellar work done. This is the time for experiments, bench trials, researching new fining and nutritional additives and preparing wine for bottling. This is when I form the young wines into their mature expressions, preparing for potential epicurean greatness.

What do you like best about your job?

Its hard to pick just one thing about my job that I like, so I’d have to say the diversity. Along with being a winemaking consultant to vineyards, I also run lab services from Musto Wine Grape, running tests for home and commercial winemakers who may not have the proper equipment. I get to teach classes about winemaking topics and am now branching out to the vast “interwebs” with winemaking blogs and podcasts. Basically, my favorite part of my job is helping people make their wine better and sharing my passion for winemaking with them. Nothing is more exciting and satisfying than working with a client and seeing them have a eureka moment with a wine and seeing how to get it to its full potential.

What is your favorite wine that you’ve made and what makes it your favorite?

Sometimes it is not the wine that was made under the most ideal conditions that you are the most proud of. I once had a small batch of Cayuga that was fermented with an experimental yeast and I was not very satisfied with the results. Rather than dwelling on the lackluster results, I looked at it as a challenge. I blended this wine with some beautiful Riesling and then infused it with elder-flower blossoms and back sweetened it. The result was a dynamic, unique, dessert style wine with rich floral and honey tones. While the wine was very different form my initial concept, the end product was very different and creative and I was very pleased with it.

Who are your favorite winemakers and why? OR What is your favorite wine and why?

women winemakers of connecticut

I recognize the bias, but my favorite winemakers are my fellow female winemakers in the state. These women are very talented, creative and have helped me create a community of sharing and trust that proven exceptionally valuable to me in my career. They are a tremendous resource, both personally and professionally and nothing makes me happier than their success. When any one of us turns out a new spectacular wine, it is a win for all of us, showing that young women can make beautiful wine, in any location.

As far as my favorite wine, Faust Cabernet Sauvignon has a special place in my heart and palate memory. I remember the first time that I had a taste of this wine, and it was like drinking pure oxygen. I was astounded at the smoothness to it and the depth of flavors. I had never encountered a wine like this and it peaked my curiosity as to how someone could possibly make something so perfect. Even now when I open a bottle of it, I am still struck with the same sense of awe. It is truly a special product.

Is beer ever better than wine?

When you have completed your final pressing of the season, feeling incredibly tired, hands cracked, purple and sore, clothes soaked in wine, beer can be the nectar of the gods.

I want to give a big Thank You to Maureen for giving us a peak into the life of a Connecticut Winemaker and her journey to become one. Make sure to stop by Musto Wine Grape Company if you are ever interested in making your own wine at home! #GirlsMakeWineToo #MustoCrushCrew

The Musto Wine Grape Experience:

Visiting Musto Wine Grape when the grapes from California just arrived is like stepping back in time. The store is located in the Hartford Regional Market which houses many different agricultural businesses. The market was built in the 1950’s and housed many different agricultural businesses over the years. Musto Wine Grape is the only fresh wine grape and juice provider of it’s kind in the market.

The market definitely has an “old school” vibe. When you are walking on the dock/store at Musto Wine Grape you will usually notice that there is an overwhelming amount of languages flying through the air. Making wine at home is a time honored tradition for many cultures. Many Italian and Portuguese families make wine together every year and have been passing down this tradition for generations. Many people of Russian or Albanian decent use the wine grapes to create their country’s specialty liquor. So you have many cultures and generations of people converging all at once. It is not uncommon for you to hear 3 different languages being spoken on a Saturday morning when purchasing your winemaking products.

Musto Wine Grape focuses on education and high quality products for their winemakers. No matter if you are a newbie winemaker starting out, or a skilled winemaker making 200 gallons in your home, Musto has everything you need to create the wine of your dreams at home.

To get started making your own wine at home visit!

Frontenac Gris in CT

Super excited about Hawk Ridge Winery’s new release of their Frontenac Gris. A gorgeous golden starw color. The wine has notes of honey dew melon and honey suckle. The wine is well balanced and deliciously unique. Can’t wait to taste more of what Hawk Ridge Winery has to offer when they open this June! 🍷 #drinklocal

Hawk Ridge Winery is scheduled to open June of 2017. They are located in the rolling farm hills of Watertown, Connecticut. Email for more information about the winery.

Winemaker Interview: Chamard Vineyards

In this week’s “Winemaker Interview,” Kristen Parsons talks about how family tradition set her on her winemaking path. Through hard work, perseverance, and her passion for wine, Kristen was able to position herself to achieve her winemaking goals. 

Winemaker: Kristen Parsons

Winery: Chamard Vineyards: Winery & Bistro (Visit)

Location: 115 Cow Hill Rd, Clinton, CT 06413

Tasting Hours: OPEN Monday – Saturday 11:00AM – 9:00PM, Sundays 11:00AM – 8:00PM

Tasting Options: Enjoy a tasting & a snack!

Why did you become a winemaker? 

kristen filtering image

I grew up in an Italian family where wine was part of our celebrations. No one in my immediate family made homemade wine, but distant relatives and family friends did. I developed a palate for wine at a young age and fell in love with it. During my time at Babson, where I was focusing on the entrepreneurial studies of opening a vineyard and winery, I decided that I wanted to learn every aspect of the business. I took several internships during the summer and winter where I first studied the business end, marketing and finance, then hospitality, viticulture and enology.

After this, I found that I had a passion for working in the fields and in the cellar and crafting wine. I then went out and studied in Italy for a semester at Lorenzo de Medici and learned about Italian wines, just furthering my desire to make wine. Upon returning and graduating I decided to continue my education and went to school for Enology and Viticulture at Washington State University to realize my dream of making wine. Professionally, I have been making wine for close to seven years.

How were you introduced to winemaking in Connecticut?

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I was introduced to CT winemaking at Chamard Vineyards when I held an internship during my years at Babson College. Funny and wonderful how I ended up making wine here after all these years. I felt like I was coming home, and the crew that was here made it even better.

What are the biggest challenges for a winemaker in Connecticut?

The greatest challenge for a winemaker in CT is growing the grapes. It is a short growing season with a very humid climate. Wine is not just made in the cellar but is grown in the fields. The cost of growing grapes in CT is high and the yields are low. Grapes must be brought in to make enough wine to support the vineyard.

What makes Connecticut wine so great? What makes CT wine so different?

Bringing added agricultural production to the state. Making wine from CT grapes is difficult due to the terroir and crafting a quality wine from such grapes is more challenging. This forces CT grape-growers and winemakers to really study their craft and be extremely dedicated and resourceful.

Tell us about your harvest process

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When harvest is nearing we begin testing the grapes for sugar and acid levels and then begin placing lugs in the rows of grape varietals that will be ready for harvest first. The grapes are hand picked into the lugs and collected into the back of the trailer pulled by a tractor. They are brought to the wine cellar where we have the destemmer -crusher and press cleaned, sterilized and ready to go. The white grapes are crushed and pressed into a pre-chilled tank. The red grapes are crushed and pumped into a vessel for fermentation on their skins.

How does your wine making approach differ from other winemakers? What is your general winemaking philosophy?

I cannot say how my wine making approach differs from others. I do make sure that any juice adjustments of acids, sugars or tannins are made prefermentation. I do not like adding any acids or tannins to the wine post fermentation because I feel that it negatively affects the flavors of the wine. I test, taste, and document the juice everyday through fermentation. I like to take my time and taste and test the wine the whole way through its life. My general winemaking philosophy is to try and make wine that is as much as posssible vin de terroir, that is to make the wine to express a sense of place rather than the stylistic efforts of the winemaker. I like to be as natural as possible and bring out the best of the grape. I learned this from a very inspirational winemaker, Randall Graham.

How do you know you’ve got a good vintage?

kristen with grapes image

A good vintage comes from a good growing season. On the east coast that is a long, warm and dry season with no rain around harvest.

Are there any new winemaking techniques or tools you’d like to experiment with?

A simple technique that I have always wanted to try is to ferment grapes on their indigenous yeast. I would like to try this wild, spontaneous fermentation to add a greater and diverse range of flavors and increase the aromatic complexity to the wine.

Which wine-growing region has had the most influence on you?

This is so hard to say! In Italy I experienced how grape growing and wine making was a way of life and how wine was a part of the culture. This began my romance with wine. I worked viticultural research positions throughout central Washington State during my time in college. This is where I fell in love with viticulture, the beautiful vineyards, the terroir and the resulting wines.

Upon moving back to the East coast, in VA and then CT I had to learn a whole new growing region and how to care for grapes in a new climate. This would be my first time growing grapes that I myself would be making wine from. Here I learned first hand that you grow the wine in the vineyard, that the viticulture is as important as the oenology.

What is one aspect of your job that might surprise people?

Wow, that is a hard question. Perhaps all the manual labor involved. Maybe the amount of time spent cleaning and sterilizing. Perchance the length of time (sometimes years) that it takes to complete a vintage.

What do you like best about your job?

kristin with wine glass

Everything! Especially guiding the wine through the whole process from start to finish, watching it evolve and mature, the changing tastes and aromas. To see how each growing season can affect the resulting wine.

What is your favorite wine that you’ve made and what makes it your favorite?

I guess that would be the first wine I ever vinted, not because of the varietal, but because of the memories and intricacy of the process, which produced a very complex and layered wine. It was an oak Chardonnay that I barrel fermented in French oak barrels ranging from brand new to 5 years old from several different forests. I used five different yeasts and surlies aged it over a year. It was vinted in 2007 and I have but one bottle remaining.

Who are your favorite winemakers and why? OR What is your favorite wine and why?

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One of my first inspirational winemakers was Randall Gram. He is the proprietor of Bonny Doon Winery in Santa Cruz, CA. From the beginning Randall was a leader in innovation in the wine industry from cyro-extraction to microbullage. He has always thought way outside the box. He embraced Biodynamic viticulture and producing wines of place.

Another of my inspirations is Charles Smith, the proprietor of K Winery in Walla Walla Washington, among many others to date. I studied near his winery in Washington when he was just beginning his venture into wine. He was a rock and roll manager and now a self-taught wine maker. He began with a love of Syrah, one of the great Rhone varietals, and he brought new and bold ideas and attitudes to the wine community. He worked on a label “The Modernist Project” with intent to create wines true to both the varietal and the vineyard that could be imbibed right away, which is the way wine is consumed today.

I will name but one more inspirational wine maker, Jef Stebbin (pictured above), a California winemaker, whose first harvest was with Opus One, with a UC Davis degree in fermentation management. He came to the east coast with his profound knowledge of chemistry where I got the chance to meet him and learn from him. He embodies the patience and passion of winemaker and teacher and has passed on to me some great information that I share with my fellow winemakers. Visit Jeff at his new winery, Maple Springs Winery in Bechtelsville, PA!

Is beer ever better than wine?

I have to say, after a hot, long day of harvest a cold beer is  what many winemakers reach for. I would have in the past, but have since discovered gluten allergies. I myself would enjoy a nice stout with roasted barley.

I want to give a big Thank You to Kristen Parsons from Chamard Vineyards for giving us a peak into the life of a Connecticut Winemaker. Make sure to stop by Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, CT for some delicious wines made from a very passionate Connecticut Winemaker! #GirlsMakeWineToo #MyCTWineTrail

The Chamard Vineyard & Bistro Experience:

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Visiting Chamard Vineyards is like taking a trip to the French country side.  Once you turn into the driveway you are surrounded by a myriad of beautiful grape vines and transported to a Chateau style winery. You can enjoy delicious wines while taking in the gorgeous views of a fountain and pristine vineyards.

A tasting includes samples of 5 wines and a Reidel glass which is your’s to keep. Each tasting is $10.00 per person. Chamard can accommodate parties of up to 10 people without a reservation. Stop in and sip on some tasty vino while you wait for your table at their Bistro.

The Bistro pairs delicious foods with the wines made on the property. Many of the vegetables and fruits that are sourced for the bistro are from Chamard’s on premise garden. Very much a farm to table atmosphere, Chamard Vineyards is a fantastic place to sip great wine and enjoy delicious food with family and friends. I hope you enjoy your visit! Cheers!


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Winemaker Interview: Sunset Meadow Vineyards

In this week’s “Winemaker Interview,” George Motel Jr. talks about his dual experiences as a viticulturist and winemaker. George is second generation in the family business and proves that hard work in the vineyard translates to delicious wines in the tasting room.

Winemaker: George Motel Jr.

Winery: Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT (Visit)

Location: 599 CT-63, Goshen, CT 06756

Tasting Hours: OPEN Sunday, Monday, and Thursday from 11:00AM-5:00PM, Friday & Saturday 11:00AM- 6:00PM

Tasting Options: Taste a selection of wines paired to your palate!

Why did you become a winemaker? 

george jr

We started growing grapes at Sunset Meadow Vineyards in 2001.  After extensive research and a degree from UC Davis, my father and I started making wine in 2005 and opened up our tasting room in 2008.

What are the biggest challenges for a winemaker in Connecticut?


The biggest challenge for a winemaker in Connecticut begins in the vineyard.  Assuming you can avoid the natural threats such as spring frost or drastically low winter temperatures, the biggest challenge is ripening the fruit to achieve balance on the vine.  Ripening the fruit to the desired brix content can be a struggle depending on the growing season.  The vines require a specific number of degree growing days to meet this desired level.

What makes Connecticut wine so great? What makes CT wine so different?

dog and bottling line

While the weather conditions in CT can be somewhat harsh at times, the climate is very conducive for growing certain varietals.  The natural acidity level is typically achieved in many of our white wines due to cooler temperatures and helps make for a very crisp, fruitful refreshing product.  Many of the CT varietals are unknown to most, but stem from cold tolerant and resistant northern areas where they were developed to handle our weather “extremes”.  These varieties are unique and distinct in flavor and can compete with many world-class wines.

Tell us about your harvest process.


Once we have achieved our desired brix level on a particular variety of grapes we pick them immediately.  At this point we remove the protective netting we use against birds, deer ect..

The grapes at SMV are then harvested by hand and brought onto our crush pad where they are crushed and de-stemmed before continuing on the winemaking process.

What is one aspect of your job that might surprise people?

dog and barrels over view

Making wine has always been romanticized but few people outside of the industry know the dirty work that goes into winemaking.  Whether it’s picking ice wine at 2am in December or trying to finish pressing whites at 2am in September, you have to be there.

What do you like best about your job? (possibly the fact that you get to work with your adorable dog Churchill everyday? 😉 )

cute with dog's head on the barrel

My job is unique because I have the flexibility of managing the viticulture process as well as the winemaking.  I’m blessed to work with my family as we continue to expand and promote our local, sustainably grown product.

What is your favorite wine that you’ve made and what makes it your favorite?

We are blessed to have had many of our wines receive very prestigious awards in competitions all over the country.  We have also received multiple medals as well as best in CT multiple times in the Connecticut Specialty Foods competition.  These wines medaling include our Cayuga White, Blustery Blend amongst others.

CayugaWhite Purchase HERE

BlusteryBlendPurchase HERE


I want to give a big Thank You to George Motel from Sunset Meadow Vineyards for giving us a peak into the life of a Connecticut Winemaker. Make sure to stop by Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen, CT for some delicious wines made from a 2nd Generation Connecticut Winemaker! #NextGen #MyCTWineTrail

The Sunset Meadow Tasting Experience:

When you visit Sunset Meadow Vineyards you are greeted by friendly tasting room representatives. You are given a list of over 15 Wines to choose from and the tasting room representative is happy to pair your tasting to your palate. For an extra fee you can do the extended Wine & Chocolate pairing which I highly recommend! During the summer time they even have Wine Slushies (AMAZING).

The tasting room is decorated with every type of wine related item you can think of. From wine bottle umbrellas to funny wine t-shirts you can find a gift for any wine lover and something for you too.

Once you have finished your tasting I suggest you take a glass or a bottle outside to the patio where you can sip and chill while overlooking the vineyard. Sunset Meadow is a great destination to visit with family and friends. I hope you enjoy your visit. Cheers!

chair and wine in vineyard