Solar panels line the outside of the barn-style winery at Priam Vineyards in Colchester as blue birds fly around the 16 acres of grape vines.
“It was always a very healthy farm and we wanted to keep it that way,” said Gloria Priam, co-owner and founder of Priam Vineyards. “We maintain practices to try to keep from spraying anything that is not sustainable.”
Priam said blue bird boxes are placed throughout the vineyards to get rid of insects. Since establishing the vineyard in 1998 and winery in 2003, blue birds and other wildlife have had a large presence on the property.
Next to the welcome sign is a plaque from the National Wildlife Federation certifying the vineyards as a natural bird and wildlife habitat.
“There’s nothing that goes into our water system here or into the vineyard that I wouldn’t want to consume myself,” Priam said.
In 2010, Priam Vineyards became the first winery in New England to to be completely run by solar panels. In addition to other sustainable practices, the winery leaves nearly no carbon footprint. Rather than utilizing the cork tree, the wine “corks” at Priam Vineyards are actually made out of sugar cane.
Even the wine selection pays tribute to the environment.
Salmon River Red, White and Rose were the first blended wines at Priam and were named because the vineyard sits on the Salmon River watershed. The Late Harvest Muscat Ottonel, a dessert wine, is bottled in blue-tinted glass as a homage to the bluebirds on the farm.
Many of the wine variations, including a bourbon-aged red wine, are made from the St. Croix grape, the first to be grown on the farm. The grapes are all picked by hand to avoid bruising from machines.
“There’s a lot of things you can play around with and a lot of things you can do,” said wine maker Ruuan Viljoen.
Originally from South Africa, Viljoen is continuously trying out recipes for new award-winning wines. Several Priam wines have won over a dozen international awards over the years.
“You can come and have a relaxed wine tasting, sit inside where it’s air conditioned or sit outside under the umbrellas,” said Jim Melillo, co-owner of Priam Vineyards.
Vilojoen said guests can look forward to new additions at Priam in the near future.
“We are going to launch three new products, which are not available in the state of Connecticut,” he said.
“A surprise to come,” Priam added. “I have all sorts of ideas for different things that would be fun to add.”