WALLINGFORD — Toast National Wine Day Thursday with a glass of your favorite wine and learn more about the wine-making process.
“National Wine Day is a great opportunity to visit a local winery and enjoy one of your favorites or sample something that you have never tried before,” said Cara Sawyer, Preston Ridge Vineyard and a member of the CT Farm Wine Development Council. “It's the perfect day to celebrate all the different wines made around the state along with enjoying the unique culture of the many wineries of Connecticut and around the world.”
Gouveia Vineyards and Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery allow residents to enjoy a wide variety of selections and specials from a local winery.
“We’re one of the few farms in the state of Connecticut that actually grows 100% of our Chardonnay,” said Al Ruggiero, president of Paradise Hills. “It’s a very difficult grape to grow in Connecticut, but Paradise has always been geared towards making quality wines and we felt we wanted to work with some of the best grapes that we can.”
Paradise Hills received its first National Gold Medal for Chardonnay in 2016, and followed up with another gold medal and good reviews in 2019.
“Our red wines include Casa Rosso, Washington Trail Red, St. Croix and Sapore Dolce (sweet),” Ruggiero said. “And our white wines include Casa Bianco, Traminette, Temptation and La Bella Rosa (sparkling wine).”
Paradise Hills started making sparkling wine, champagne style, about four years ago.
“The sparkling wines have shown very well nationally as well including a Gold Medal for our Notte di Amore in Virginia at a national wine tasting and was considered the best sparkling wine that year on the East Coast,” Ruggiero said.
Not far down the road, Gouveia Vineyards currently offers about 15 varietals.
“Our white wines include Chardonnay Oak, Pinot Grigio, Seyval Blanc and Muscat,” said Allison Gouveia-Gatcomb, co-owner of Gouveia Vineyards. “And our red wines include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel and port inspired Chocolate Epiphany Reserve.”
Gouveia also offers Summer Sangria, which features seasonal fruits, and both vineyards carry the popular wine slushies.
“Our most popular drinks are Landot Noir and the President's Choice,” Ruggiero said. “We do a big celebration here on President's Day. It's actually a fun event.”
“Of course right now our Rosé is such a wonderful flavor. It almost has a natural strawberry flavor to it and people really enjoy that one,” Gouveia-Gatcomb said. “And then probably our Stone House Red or our Cabernet Franc. People love blends and our Stone House Red has been our staple from the beginning.”
The Chardonnay and the Cayuga are the most popular drinks and best sellers for both vineyards.
“The Cayuga has a citrusy light, almost like an apricot flavor and it’s really versatile. It has a natural sweetness to it, but not an overbearing type of sweetness,” Gouveia-Gatcomb said. “People really love and enjoy that one and it comes in a blue bottle which people remember.”
You can enjoy your favorite wine by the bottle, by the glass, or by the flight.
“If you come in for the very first time or even if you’ve consumed wine you should always start with a wine tasting. What we do is little flights of wine containing four samples of any wine we produce,” Ruggiero said. “Usually if you know nothing about wine, the servers at the bar kind of gear you in the right direction.” Specials offered at the winery locations
“It’s also National Chardonnay Day so we’re going to offer Chardonnay at 10% off,” Ruggiero said. “Also become a part of the Wine Club. People get four shipments a year of three bottles at a discounted price, get 10% off of everything throughout the year of wine, merchandise etc. and get exclusive wine made just for you.”
Gouveia is offering 10% off six bottles to go and 20% off 12 bottles to go.
“That’s a great one for picnics, weddings and other gatherings,” Gouveia-Gatcomb added.Making local wine
It’s a very long and tedious process to get from grapes to the wines their customers love.
“We’re excited for this next growing year,” said Margaret Ruggiero-Mena, co-owner of Paradise Hills. “We've had great weather and we’re looking for people to come and enjoy Connecticut agriculture with their family and friends.”
“Growing and vineyard production is a year round endeavor,” Gouveia-Gatcomb said. “In the winter the grapes are sleeping but we are quite busy pruning everything.”
With the warm weather and early spring this year wineries had a small window.
“So we had to really work fast and diligently to get everything pruned before the grapes started to wake up so the nutrients stayed in the core in the vines that are still there,” Gouveia-Gatcomb said.
After the grapes are harvested they are crushed. The crushing process depends on the varietals.
“White wines get crushed and pressed the same day and then the juice will get fermented that day. In about two weeks it will become wine,” according to Marcelo Mena, Paradise Hills wine maker. “Then all the steps after that, especially with Chardonnay, will be clarification (filtering), destabilization (put through a cooling system), transferring and bottling.”
Approximately six to eight months from the picking day the wine-makers think about bottling and releasing it within a year, according to Mena.
“White wines you always drink in the vintage from the year before,” Mena added. “Red wines it’s always a year and a half to two years before because it needs a longer aging process. For the red wines, the day we harvest we crush but we don’t press.”
Paradise Hills, 15 Windswept Hill Road in Wallingford, consists of 65 acres of land with about 9 acres planted.
“The farm has been here since 1997 and we planted our first vines that year,” Ruggiero said. “And we opened it to the public in 2011.”
Gouveia Vineyards, 1339 Whirlwind Hill Road in Wallingford, consists of 140 acres of land with a little over 26 acres cultivated.
“The vineyard is going on its 19th year,” Gouveia-Gatcomb said. “We’re open all year round, 7 days a week.”
Paradise Hills can be found online at https://www.paradisehillsvineyard.com.
Gouveia Vineyards can be found online at https://www.gouveiavineyards.com/.