DOAG: 2018 PASSPORT TO CONNECTICUT FARM WINERIES BEGINS



May 16, 2018

2018 Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries Begins

Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation

The 2018 Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries (Passport) program began May 4, 2018 and runs through November 4, 2018.

The program, sponsored by the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council (FWDC) and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg), encourages people to visit Connecticut wineries to enter to win a number of prizes.

In order to take part, Passport program participants pick up a blue passport booklet at any participating winery or The Connecticut Wine Festival and start visiting Connecticut wineries to collect stamps. Forty wineries are included in the 2018 Passport program, up from 37 in 2017.

Also new in 2018 is the reduced number of winery visits needed to qualify to win a prize. In 2017, participants had to visit 16 wineries to be included in the drawings. In 2018 participants just need to visit 12, but are encouraged to visit additional wineries to qualify for more prizes. Participants must be at least 21 years old to take part in the program.

The new Passport prize structure for 2018 includes more prizes and additional opportunities to win. The complete rules of the program can be found in the Passport.

The 2017 Passport program had 57 prize winners including Teri Thompson of East Lyme, CT and Christine Middleton of Oakdale, CT who both won the Grand Prize of a two-week trip for two to Spain.

In 2017, 65,000 copies of the Passport were produced and distributed to participating wineries and sponsors. Approximately 2,500 Passports were returned at the end of the season that qualified for prize drawings.

The last day to turn in Passports to enter to win a prize for the 2018 season is November 4, 2018.

The Passport program not only helps wine lovers find Connecticut vineyards, it also helps Connecticut wineries find new customers.

“Our information gets into the hands of approximately 65,000 people via the Passport itself,” said Linda Auger, of Taylor Brooke Winery.

“And of course the email and Facebook marketing done by DoAg is priceless.”

Auger said the Passport program has helped bring in customers from the other end of the State to her winery.

“I don't think many of these people would have come all the way to Woodstock, had it not been for the Passport,” said Auger.

Joe Gouveia said the Passport program brings customers to Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford.

“It brings new customers in that might not know of our vineyard,” said Gouveia.

The Passport program, like the Connecticut wine industry, has experienced tremendous growth in recent years.

According to UConn’s 2015 Update of the Economic Impacts of Connecticut’s Agricultural Industry report, the wineries sector saw a 130% increase in direct sales and a 165% increase in number of jobs from 2007 to 2015—the largest percent increase of all sectors for direct sales and jobs.  

The report finds that Connecticut wineries are enjoying rapid growth and popularity in response to increased demand for local wines, which in turn has increased derived demand for local grapes. Sales for winery products were $85.8 million in 2015, up from $30 million in 2007.

Connecticut wineries have also benefited from an increase in the number of consumers interested in purchasing locally grown agricultural products, touring agricultural areas, and participating in on-farm dining and entertainment.

Some Connecticut wineries, which can offer stunning views and bucolic settings, now offer on-farm dining and extensive menus.

Hilary Hopkins Criollo, President of Hopkins Vineyard in New Preston, said their outdoor venue offers a scenic location in the Litchfield Hills and views of Lake Waramaug.

Visitors to Gouveia Vineyards also enjoy scenic views from the 207-acre farm, which is preserved in perpetuity for agricultural use only through the DoAg Farmland Preservation Program.

“Many people come here and bring a picnic lunch, and enjoy wine and the view with their picnic,” said Gouveia.

Connecticut farmers have been growing grapes and making wine since Colonial times. The Connecticut state flag even includes three fruit-bearing grape vines.

Commercial wine production began in 1978 with passage of the Farm Winery Act, which permitted winery owners to sell wine wholesale and to the public.

The Hopkins Farm was one of the first farms in the state to take advantage of the Farm Winery Act when Bill and Judith Hopkins transformed their dairy farm into a vineyard in 1979.

The Hopkins Farm was designated a Century Farm by the Connecticut Agricultural Information Council in 1977.

The Taylor Brooke Winery began selling wine made from grapes grown on their original 4.2-acre farm in 2003 after receiving a Connecticut Farm Winery Permit.

In 2004, they built a new barn that included a grape processing area and a wine tasting room which allowed them to begin retail sales from the tasting room.

In 2013 and 2015 the Taylor Brooke Winery received financial assistance through the DoAg Farmland Restoration Program for activities associated with bringing new land into production.

“We bought 13 acres in 2013 and planted 5,000 more vines the following year,” said Auger.

The Taylor Brooke Winery has also taken advantage of the DoAg Farm Transition Grant for financial assistance to supported expansion of their wine making, bottling, and storage operations.

Auger said their winery has seen steady growth in jobs and sales over the past 14 years, and they are now taking advantage of a 2017 Connecticut law that established a Farm Brewery Permit.

“In 2016, we purchased an additional 26 acres adjacent to our other land and are building a brewery,” said Auger.

For more information about the Passport program visit www.ct.gov/doag or www.facebook.com/CTFarmWineries.