DOAG: PASSPORT TO CONNECTICUT FARM WINERIES CELEBRATES 15TH YEAR OF GROWTH



April 24, 2019

PASSPORT TO CONNECTICUT FARM WINERIES CELEBRATES 15TH YEAR OF GROWTH

Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation

 

When Connecticut’s first farm winery, Hopkins Vineyard in Warren, CT, opened in 1979, they were in uncharted territory. Founders Bill and Judy Hopkins faced opposition and neighbors who thought they were crazy to think they could grow grapes in Connecticut.

“We did a lot of research on what varieties to grow and learned through trial and error at the beginning,” said their daughter, Hilary H. Criollo, who is the current owner and president of Hopkins Vineyard.

She readily points out that new wineries today have a wealth of information to draw from that were not available in 1978, when the Connecticut Farm Winery Act was passed.

Ten years later, the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council was established. Since 1988, the council has been working hard to educate current and future farm wineries, and to ensure that Connecticut residents and visitors to the state know all about the farm wineries.

In 2006, the Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries program was developed to promote and encourage visitors to Connecticut farm wineries.

Today, the Passport Program works cooperatively with 40 licensed farm wineries throughout the state and the Connecticut Wine Festival.

The Passport Program is run by the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council under the administrative authority of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.

In recent years, the council has annually distributed more than 60,000 passports through participating farm wineries and business sponsors.

This year, the Passport Program will offer the printed edition and is also launching an online app for winery enthusiasts to download to their mobile device. This will make it easier than ever to participate in the program.

In- and out-of-state visitors can participate at no cost by picking up a passport at a participating farm winery on or after the first Friday in May. Participants collect stamps at each winery until the program ends the first Sunday in November. This year, the program will run from May 3 until November 3, 2019, with a prize drawing on December 5, 2019.

To encourage participation, the Passport Program has partnered with various Connecticut businesses to offer more than 60 prizes, including chauffeured limousine trips by Gateway Limousine and overnight stays at LaQuinta by Wyndham in Danbury, CT.

By obtaining a minimum of 12 stamps, passport participants are eligible for the drawing, which also includes two bottles of wine from each participating winery, a custom hand-made wine backpack, and the coveted prize of a two-week trip for two to Spain.

In addition, incentives are being offered to encourage participants to download and use the mobile app. The first 1,000 users to sign up will be entered to win one $250 gas card. The first 100 app users to obtain the minimum of 12 stamps will receive a free ticket to the 2019 Connecticut Wine Festival, organized by the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association, to be held on Sunday, July 21, 2019.

The Passport Program has seen tremendous growth in the number of participating wineries and interest from visitors thanks to social media promotions, and support from wineries and business sponsors.

According to UConn’s 2015 Economic Impacts of Connecticut’s Agricultural Industry report, sales at farm wineries increased by more than 100% between 2007 and 2015.

All licensed Connecticut farm wineries are required to use a minimum of 25% Connecticut Grown fruit. This year, more than half of the participating wineries are also recognized as a voluntary Connecticut Grown farm winery, which means they use at least 51% Connecticut Grown fruit. Look for the Connecticut Grown logo on the passport pages to see which wineries are voluntary Connecticut Grown farm wineries.

“The Passport Program brings in visitors from Connecticut and the surrounding states that might not normally visit you,” said Criollo. “It gives us the opportunity to introduce them to our wines and gain future fans of Hopkins Vineyard”.

A Facebook event created at the start of this year for the 2019 passport launch has already reached more than 400,000 people with more than 22,000 responses from those interested in participating.

While the Passport Program has introduced participants to the award-winning wines being grown and produced here in Connecticut, it has also encouraged the wine industry to come together to work as one.

Whether it’s recommending a nearby winery for the next stamp, sharing their favorite restaurant for a bite to eat, or unique local attractions, the Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries program is creating unique experiences while visitors discover all that Connecticut has to offer.

Participating in the Passport Program? Share your journey through Connecticut’s farm wineries with us on social media by using #CTFarmWine and #PassportToCTWineries.

To learn more about the Passport Program and the participating farm wineries, visit www.PassportToCTFarmWine.com or www.Facebook.com/CTFarmWineries.