WALLINGFORD — With the warm weather rolling in, participants in the Passport to CT Farm Wineries 2023 program can cool down with wine slushies from Gouveia Vineyards and Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery in Wallingford.
“The wine slushies are a popular thing that we’ve seen plenty of vineyards all over the place doing,” said James Gatcomb, Gouveia Vineyards manager. “Everyone really seems to enjoy them.”
“They’re super refreshing and definitely a fan favorite,” said Margaret Ruggiero-Mena, co-owner of Paradise Hills.
Gouveia quietly launched the addition of these cool fun drinks two weeks ago and then announced it to the public on Mother's Day weekend.
“People are going crazy for it,” said Allison Gouveia-Gatcomb, Gouveia Vineyards co-owner.
Gouveia offers a peach variety, a Frosé (their rosé wine) or get a mix.
“It’s a mix that you add the wine to, you throw it into the machine and within an hour not even it makes it into the nice (slushy) consistency and then serve,” Gouveia-Gatcomb explained.
Gouveia-Gatcomb shared that the Frosé seems to be the most popular.
“We also offer wine flights, wine by the glass, wine by the bottle, Sangria and I think we’re going to add another non-flavored slushie and make that a white wine,” she added.
Paradise Hills offers a red, a white and a swirl slushie.
“I love our sparklers,” Ruggiero-Mena said. “That’s topped with our state grown sparkling wine.”
Paradise Hills is also offering wine flights and just launched a brand new wine club.
“It’s a three bottle mix club; it’s hand selected by our winemaker and the family,” Ruggiero-Mena said. “We also partnered with kato corner where we're going to be offering local Connecticut farm-fed cheeses for the summer.”
The Passport to CT Farm Wineries Program is hosted by the CT Farm Wine Development Council, a voluntary council administered by CT Department of Agriculture.
“The program is for any licensed farm winery in the state to participate and it’s a great way for us to get word out there about the wineries to create awareness,” said Cara Sawyer, Preston Ridge Vineyard and a member of the CT Farm Wine Development Council. “And also to drive traffic to all the vineyards across the state.”
It officially launched on May 12.
“I believe we’ve had more than 500 new downloads and then more than 4,200 pageviews on the app, so a pretty strong start,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer also shared that things went well preparing for this year's program.
“There are two new wineries on the trail Worthington Vineyard & Winery (Somers) and Kingdom of the Hawk Vineyard (North Stonington),” Sawyer said. “So it’s been really nice seeing how it’s grown over the years. But it’s been great, pretty seamless.”
There are 38 different wineries throughout the state to visit this year.
“We love being a stop on the Passport to CT Farm program,” Ruggiero-Mena said. “We’ve been doing it for so many years now.”
The department released the Passport App last year (2022) which gives guests the opportunity to collect stamps on their phone.
“Before it was the little books that you had to carry around and had to get an actual stamp at the counter,” Gouveia-Gatcomb said. “To be honest we kind of miss that because we really got to see people and their excitement and it was just a really fun thing; we would have stacks of books by the end of the year.”
No purchase is required during the winery visits. When you enter the winery, click check in on the app, click “Stamp My Passport” in the Passport section and you’re good to go.
“We made a few little tweaks to make the app more user-friendly and winery-friendly, but as far as I know it kicked off pretty smoothly and it’s been a really seamless process,” Sawyer said.
A new tier structure prize system was introduced back in 2018. The prize categories are 12 to 17 stamps, 18 to 34 stamps, and 35 plus stamps. The more stamps the bigger the prize.
“The 35 plus stamp level is the Winemaker Level and there are two grand prizes: a Visit to Madison Beach Hotel (Curio a Collection by Hilton), Spa & Dining at the Wharf Restaurant in Madison, CT and the other is a stay at The Hopkins Inn & Restaurant in Warren, CT. And a runner up prize is a chauffeured limo ride to certain CT farm wineries of your choice,” Sawyer said.
There are an assortment of 12 different prizes for the next level down.
“We tried to get a large assortment of companies or organizations to donate prizes or purchase prizes from them. They encompass from across the state like the Hyatt Place, The Whaler’s Inn in Mystic, show at the Oakdale, Essex Steam Train and so on,” Sawyer said. “The next level down you get the taster, which is two bottles of wine from participating wineries on the trail.”
Collect as many stamps as you can and redeem them by Dec. 31 to be entered in the grand prize drawing. After Dec. 31, you will begin your Passport anew. Your expired stamps will still be accessible in case you want to relive your past adventures.
“It’s a great way to kind of get around the state and if you’re really into wine visit and try all the wineries,” Sawyer said.
All those 21 years of age and over are welcome to spend the summer and fall traveling Connecticut to visit the participating wineries.
“Even though it’s a small state I think Connecticut has a lot to offer in all different areas of the state and I think this program really has the chance to show that while enjoying wine in the meantime,” Gouveia-Gatcomb said. “And people just don’t go to the wineries; they end up going to the different shops and you see the scenery. I just love the program. I hope that they continue it for years to come.”
The Passport to CT Farm Wineries Program can be found online at https://ctwine.com/events/passport/ or https://portal.ct.gov/DOAG/ADaRC/ADaRC/Passport-to-Connecticut-Wine-Country