Chronological / Connecticut / Destinations / Hotels & Resorts / United States / Wines & Spirits

The Connecticut Wine Trail

The Hill Team, with Brenda and Maralyn known as the Tandem Tasters, have traveled the Oregon wine trail, as well as several wine regions in France, Virginia, and California. We are all looking forward to re-visiting the Temecula wine region, near San Diego, California, this spring. These areas are well known for the excellence of their wines. Less is known about the Connecticut Wine Trail. Yet one of the most pleasant ways to see the small state of Connecticut is to take it vineyard by vineyard. The Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council now encompasses 28 wineries throughout the Nutmeg State.

Darien Cheese Shop is a favorite stop to stock up for the wine trail, Connecticut
Darien Cheese Shop is a favorite stop to stock up for the wine trail

I am proud to say that, when I was Director of Tourism for that region, I was responsible for naming the Northeast Corner of Connecticut, “The Quiet Corner.” Then I met Maralyn Hill, who was in charge of Public Relations for the “Better Yet Connecticut” Campaign. As they say, the rest is history.

Eventually, Norm and Maralyn lived on the shore of Candlewood Lake, as the wine trail was beginning to blossom. Ever since, we have been writing books and articles, while traveling these wine, history, and food trails.

Here are some of our tips for a few stops along the way from the New York area to Providence or Boston, along the Connecticut coast and meandering through the colorful Connecticut countryside. I start in the spring, when daffodils, lilacs, dogwood and apple blossoms are in full blooms of lavender, yellow, pink and snow white.

Since I lived in Westport and Darien, along the shore, during my teen-age years, I always stop at Darien Cheese Shop for cheeses from the local farmers. If traveling inland, we all love the village of Washington Depot and a shop for cheeses and bread called The Pantry. This and a bottle of local vineyard wine make for a perfect spring picnic at Lake Riga, where we used to camp.

If staying overnight in this unspoiled area of Litchfield County, we choose the Mayflower Inn. Since my children lived in the old village of Woodstock Hill, Connecticut, during their teenage years, we stop in the Quiet Corner for another overnight stay and delicious wine dinner at the Inn at Woodstock Hill. Both of these inns were featured in our book, “Our Love Affairs with Food and Travel.” They have stood the test of time.

If you travel these wine trails during the autumn harvest, we suggest a stop at one of Woodstock’s local cider mills. There, you can purchase a bag of apples, local cheeses, and freshly pressed cider straight from barns on the farms, such as Bishops or Healeys.

Taylor Brook Winery is a favorite stop, Connecticut
Taylor Brook Winery is a favorite stop

From Woodstock Hill, the Hills travel a few miles down a country road to Taylor Brooke Winery, known in history books as Taylor’s Corners. This was once the homestead of Henri Caldwell.

The next day, we meander south for about 5 miles down the historic Route 69 trail to the village of Pomfret. Sharpe Hill Vineyard serves delicious lunches in their wine garden, overlooking grapes and flowers in the country. On our way towards the Mystic shoreline, if dates are between Memorial and Labor Days, we cannot resist a stop for lunch in Noank. Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough reminds us of our lobster feasts in Rockland, Maine. We sit for hours in the warm sun and sea breeze to devour freshly caught lobsters, served on old wooden picnic tables.

If you are traveling through Connecticut any time of the year, be sure to stop in Stonington Harbor. This charming hamlet is a short drive or boat ride from Mystic and Noank. We enjoy the local cafes in Stonington. Esquire magazine named the fried cod sandwich at Stonington Cove Fish Market one of “America’s best.”

Then, it is on to historic Essex, where always we stop at The Griswold Inn for a change of pace– handcrafted local and Irish beers and freshly popped hot popcorn in the old tap room.

As former residents of many regions in the beautiful state of Connecticut, the Hill Team could write another book about the gardens, food, wine, and history of this pocket in New England. Perhaps we will. Although somewhat spoiled by our warmer climates, the Hills love to return to Connecticut’s back roads, villages, beaches, vineyards, lobster pounds, and woodland hills.

Connecticut Wine Trail

Darien Cheese Shop

Mayflower Inn & Spa

Inn at Woodstock Hill

Bishops Farm and Orchards

Taylor Brooke Winery

Sharpe Hill Vineyard

Abbotts Lobster in the Rough

Stonington Cove Fish Market

The Griswold Inn


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