A History of Connecticut Wine: Vineyard in Your Backyard

Chris Hogan

It wasn’t until 1978 that the state of Connecticut passed the Winery Act that allowed owners and winemakers to be able to have their own places to make the wine. Nowadays, there are over 30 wineries throughout the state alone, which made University of Bridgeport English professors Amy Nawrocki and Eric D. Lehman interested in pursuing the idea of writing a book on this subject matter.

Their new book; “A History of Connecticut Wine: Vineyard in Your Backyard” was released on March 18 and published by The History Press out of Charleston, SC. The volume, which is the first in depth publication on this topic, talks about history of CT wine before and after the Winery Act was announced, while also answering the question why people should go to these local wineries and taste wine.

“We wanted to make it very approachable and readable for people who love wine, have traveled in Connecticut and visited some of the wineries,” Nawrocki said.  “We were also thinking about expanding the readership to people who maybe weren’t even interested in wine at all but like to travel or wanted to experience something new.”

The timetable for the development of the book was over a nine month period, which started last April and concluded this past February, by spending close to 20-40 hours per week working on it, whether it was interviewing, tasting, traveling or conducting research.

They visited multiple wineries all over the state including nearby Jones Farms in Shelton off Route 8, which they focus on in chapter seven. Also toured were, Hopkins Vineyard in New Preston (New London County), Priam Vineyards in Colchester (Hartford County) and finally Sharpe Hill Wineries in Pomfret (Windham County), which has the number one wine in New England, called Ballet of Angels and the St. Croix grape grows very well there too.

Lehman says he learned a lot of unique tidbits from the talking with an array of wine owners and makers last summer.

“One thing I learned was that you really as a wine maker or owner had to pay attention to your particular land and climatic conditions are,” Lehman said. You have to pick the grapes and figure out what grape may do even better and what grew well for them. You needed to educate people about what you like and try it.”

Some other information they discovered was that most of the wineries used to be in and around the Hartford area but seemed to disappear and also the Black Rock Park section of Bridgeport once had a winery between the 1820’s and 70’s. Interestingly, there has been a lot of wine and grape growing in the CT since the early 1800’s and not many people knew about it according to Nawrocki.

The cover of the book is a photograph taken by Wally Koek of Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford. Next on the agenda for the two, is to write a volume on the history of Connecticut food from land to table. 

“I think we want them [the readers] to be inspired to try it [wine] for themselves,” Nawrocki said. “To make a chance because some people are not wine drinkers but there are other reasons to go to a winery like for festivals, music, hiking and scenic views.”