Southeastern Connecticut might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of vineyards and wineries, but it's actually a bit of a hot spot.
While you'll never confuse this part of the country for the Napa Valley, you can spend a few days exploring the wineries, and if you find one that you like, it could become a permanent part of your rotation.
The area around Stonington, Connecticut is particularly popular with winemakers, likely because of the abundance of farmland. The area’s maritime microclimate mimics that of Bordeaux, France’s premier wine-making region, which also adds to its value.
Here are some vineyards and wineries in the Stonington region, including Westerly, Rhode Island and Ledyard, Connecticut, that you can check out the next time you're in search of some local vino.
You’ll find Stonington Vineyards on Taugwonk Road, which you can access directly off the I-95 between Pawcatuck and Mystic. The winery dates back to 1987 when Nick and Happy Smith bought the 58-acre property. A state-of-the-art tasting room was added to the venue in 2014, making Stonington Vineyards a destination for wine lovers.
About 90% of the winery's output is sold through its tasting room, although it is available at a few restaurants and wine shops in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Wines available at Stonington Vineyards include Chardonnay, Rosé, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and a white blend, so take your pick.
Saltwater Farm Vineyards
The most centrally located winery on this list is Saltwater Farm Vineyard, which sits just outside of downtown Stonington on the Wequetequock River. The vineyard is a sight to behold, as the tasting room is inside a fully-restored airplane hanger from the 1930s, and the outdoor area features breathtaking views over the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, an 1800-foot grass landing strip, and, of course, the vines.
Wine varieties available here include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and a red blend. The winery is open every day of the week between Memorial Day and Columbus Day but closes on Mondays and Tuesdays in the fall and winter. There are on-site concerts on Sundays in the spring, and since the location is so busy, you'll need reservations on Saturdays.
Jonathan Edwards Winery
There's an unusual story behind Jonathan Edwards Winery, as the owner went to the Napa Valley to learn winemaking techniques in 1999. As a New England resident, however, his goal was to return to the East Coast, which he was able to accomplish in 2000 when he purchased Crossroads Vineyards. The result is Napa-style wines being available at this North Stonington vineyard.
Wines made at this vineyard include Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc, in addition to some blends. The vineyard is on the site of a farm from the 1700s, as well, with its historic farmhouse still standing. This atmosphere makes the Chester Maine Road location a unique place to visit.
Maugle Sierra Vineyards
Up in Ledyard, Maugle Sierra Vineyards sits in a heavily forested area just off the Colonel Ledyard Highway. The winery was opened in 2002 by Paul and Betty Maugle and possesses over 11 acres of vines in a picturesque location. Everything at this location is handcrafted and local, just like the Maugles envisioned nearly 20 years ago.
As for the wine, Maugle Sierra Vineyards has a variety of red and white blends and even a Rosé. All of the wine is fruit forward and can be enjoyed with a meal or on its own. The tasting room is open seven days per week and has extended hours on Fridays. Band play throughout the week, as well, so check their listings if you're interested in listening to some music while you sample some exceptional local wine.
Tapped Apple Winery and Cidery
The Tapped Apple Winery isn't in Connecticut, but its Westerly location is literally steps from the border, so we'll include it here. This winery, as its name suggests, has apple-based wines and ciders, although you'll also find a red wine and some cherry wine on the menu.
Getting to the Tapped Apple Winery is as easy as heading to downtown Westerly, as it sits right on High Street. The venue is open every day of the week with extended hours on Friday and Saturday, and there is free parking available. The winery also tends to bring in multiple bands every week, making it an exciting place for a night on the town.
Stop By Today
These wineries provide a nice pit stop on a weekend outing or a convenient place to pick up a bottle for your next dinner party. Keep it local by trying a few of these Connecticut and Rhode Island-based vineyards because you never know if you’ll find a new favorite for your cellar.