This article appeared in the September 18, 2013 edition of the Ag Report.
Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council:
Moving the Industry Forward
Jaime Smith, Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Preservation
The Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council, established in Connecticut General Statutes Section 22-26c, is a volunteer council under administrative authority of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and chaired by the Commissioner of Agriculture. All licensed farm wineries are eligible to participate in the councilís activities.
The Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council meets quarterly to:
- Discuss pressing issues affecting the industry.
- Inform the agency of activities and happenings within the industry.
- Identify industry-related marketing opportunities.
Since January 2013, the council has accomplished the following:
- Produced the 2013 Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries program.
- Exhibited at the Connecticut Conference on Tourism, interacting with and educating nearly 300 people about Connecticutís farm wine industry.
- Supported legislation passed by the Connecticut General Assembly that prevents the seven-year exemption on vineyard acreage requirements from starting anew with a change in the proprietorís name or farm ownership.
- Produced the promotional brochure entitled Your Guide to Connecticut Farm Wineries.
- Supported Commissioner Reviczkyís work to obtain the ability for wineries to sell bottles of Connecticut wine in the Connecticut Building at the 2013 Big E.
- Organized the Connecticut Farm Winery booth in the Big Eís Connecticut Building for all 17 days of the fair.
Additional plans for the remainder of 2013 and 2014:
- Crafting a memorandum of understanding between the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protectionís Liquor Control Division to help ensure the stateís farm wineries are meeting the requirements for acreage and Connecticut Grown product percentages.
- Better understanding vineyard production acreage and potentially increasing the required percentage of Connecticut Grown fruit in Connecticut produced wines.
Vineyards and farm wineries are a rapidly growing sector of Connecticut agriculture. In 2006, 18 farm wineries were licensed in the state, compared to 34 today. Another two are expected in 2014, which will bring the number to double that of only eight years earlier and more than in any other New England state.
The Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries is one of the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Councilís major programs, and features participation by 31 Connecticut farm wineries and the Connecticut Wine Festival, each of which has its own stamp.
People who visit at least 16 of the participating locations and have their passports stamped are eligible for a year-end drawing to win a variety of prizes.
The program begins May 1 and ends the first weekend in November. A passport can be picked up and stamped at any Connecticut farm winery or the Connecticut Wine Festival. Every farm winery and the Connecticut Wine Festival has a page in the passport with contact information, directions, and hours of operation.
There is no purchase required to obtain a stamp at a winery, but patrons must be 21 years of age or older to participate.
Once 16 stamps are obtained, a passport can be returned to any Connecticut farm winery to enter into a December prize drawing. Among the 65 prizes being offered in 2013 are bottles of Connecticut farm wines, tours of Connecticut wineries, and overnight vacation stays. Those who submit passports with all 32 stamps also will receive a free ticket to the 2014 Connecticut Wine Festival.
The council established a subcommittee this year to evaluate current prizes, make suggestions for new ones, and assess ways to increase the number of passports returned for the prize drawing. While the number of passports returned increased from 1,428 in 2009 to 2,022 in 2012, the number returned has yet to exceed five percent of the number issued.
Increasing visitor participation in the program would result in increased patronage at Connecticutís farm wineries, along with heightened awareness of the industry and its diversity as a multifaceted tourism destination.
Among the councilís other recent efforts to increase revenue for Connecticut farm wineries is its support of Commissioner Reviczkyís work to obtain the ability for Connecticut farm wineries to sell bottles of wine in the Connecticut Building during the 2013 Big E in West Springfield.
In 2011, Massachusetts passed a law allowing Massachusetts wineries to sell wine by the bottle and offer tastings at Massachusetts agricultural events. The same law permits out-of-state farm wineries to sell at Massachusetts agricultural events as well, providing a new opportunity at the Big E, a long-standing agricultural event that previously did not allow wine sales of any kind in the Connecticut building.
After a challenging battle lasting more than a year and a half, on August 6, 2013, the West Springfield License Commission unanimously voted to issue seven special-use permits to the Connecticut farm wineries attending the 2013 Big E. As a result, Priam Vineyards, Jones Family Farms and Winery, Bishopís Orchards Winery, Arrigoni Winery, Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Sunset Meadow Vineyards, and Sharpe Hill Vineyards all have the opportunity to sell Connecticut wine by the bottle this year in the Big Eís Connecticut Building.
The Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council works cooperatively with the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association, a trade membership association with an elected board of directors. Together, the organizations cross promote the Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries and Wine Trail programs. They also work together to support various pieces of legislation and marketing efforts.
A complete list of Connecticutís farm wineries can be found at http://www.ctgrown.gov/farmwinery. More information the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council, including meeting agendas and minutes, can be found at http://www.ct.gov/DoAg/WineCouncil or by contacting Jaime Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-713-2559.