Connecticut boasts dozens of wineries, distilleries and breweries that use local farm products to produce adult beverages, resulting in a thriving industry that continues to grow. Not only can consumers enjoy these craft creations by purchasing them in stores and restaurants across the state – and often beyond – they can also visit the facilities where they’re made and sample each unique offering.
Wines, Ciders a Hit With Locals, Tourists
Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market and Winery in Guilford produces wine in apple, peach, pear, strawberry, blueberry and raspberry varieties, as well as hard apple cider made from their own fruit. Bishop’s is proud to feature area wineries in its farm market, which also sells baked goods, sandwiches, salads and more.
“All of the wine we make is produced from fruit grown on our 300-acre farm,” says Keith Bishop, the winery and market’s fifth-generation owner. “It’s 100 percent Bishop’s.”
Bishop’s offers wine tastings daily and hosts a variety of annual events, including the two-day Shoreline Wine Festival that celebrates fine wines from wineries and vineyards across Connecticut.
In North Stonington, Jonathan Edwards Winery lays on the New England charm with its winery, tasting room and vineyard, as well as a vineyard in California, giving Connecticut residents and visitors a taste of both coasts. Roughly 40 percent of its grape production is
“Being a bicoastal winery gives us a unique advantage,” says Jonathan Edwards, the winery’s co-founder and general manager. “Plus, being able to spend time with grape growers and winemakers in California – Napa Valley in particular – allows us to see the latest technology and learn about the latest styles in winemaking. We bring that knowledge back to Connecticut, and it sets us apart.”
Jonathan Edwards Winery offers complimentary tours daily, and its tasting room is open throughout the year.
Creating Sophisticated Spirits
After traveling to Europe and discovering eau de vie – clear, dry brandies distilled from natural fruits – Margaret and Louis Chatey returned to the U.S. and began the process of launching Westford Hill Distillers, one of the country’s first craft distilleries, which was founded in 1997.
“With all of the high-quality fruit we have in New England, we recognized an opportunity to produce some of these clear, dry spirits in Connecticut,” Margaret Chatey says.
The Ashford distillery, nestled on 200 acres that have been in the Chatey family since 1919, produces spirits made from raspberries, pears, cherries and strawberries. Also produced are aged brandies from apples and plums, and organic corn vodka, gin and rum.
Many of the fruits used to create Westford Hill Distillers’ eau de vie are grown in the state – like pears and apples from Lyman Orchards in Middlefield. Due to regulations, brandies cannot contain added sugars, so the fruits are fermented to draw out the natural sugars.
As a result, Margaret says eau de vie are “pure products that have the incredible aroma and flavor of the fruit from which they were made.”
Westford Hill Distillers sells products in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and California. While the Chateys don’t currently sell their spirits directly to the public, they host open houses at the distillery throughout the year and welcome tour groups by appointment.
“We take the time to produce high-quality spirits,” Margaret Chatey says. “We don’t cut any corners, and we do our best to use locally sourced materials.”