T here are certain vistas that seem to belong in Connecticut, like the snow-covered New Haven Green in the dead of winter, or long stone walls edging property lines in more pastoral neighborhoods.
But winding, green grapevines as far as the eye can see? That seems more Golden State than Nutmeg State.
Winery life is thriving in Connecticut, however, and for New Haven-area residents anxious to get a taste of native vintages, Gouveia Vineyards is a delightful place to do it.
The Wallingford-based winery, one of a whopping 25 on the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association’s “CT Wine Trail,” was established in 1999 and opened its doors to the public for on-site visitors and tastings in 2004. But trying the wines, while certainly a highlight, is only the beginning.
Gouveia is a place to spend a whole day, or at least an afternoon. Its sprawling hills beg for aimless wandering and picnic spreads. Its generous indoor and outdoor seating make this a spot for committed lollygagging, something the proprietors seem all too happy to encourage. (In winter, people drink indoors, fireside, playing games and chatting with friends, enjoying a starker but still lovely view of the grounds.)
As noted on Gouveia’s website, visitors are welcome to bring their own food, and the winery even keeps local delivery menus on hand for those who’d like to order in. One hard and fast rule when it comes to carry-ins is that no outside beverages are allowed, including bottled water (soda, coffee, tea and water are available for sale, though). So it’s decidedly BYOF and decidedly not BYOB.
Clearly, many people find these rules acceptable. And why wouldn’t they, when they can enjoy an $8 tasting of five wines (four pre-selected and one of your choice), then buy a glass or bottle of their favorite and head outdoors for some quality sniffing and sipping?
The winery’s motto, “Come for the wine…stay for the view,” is particularly apt as mottos go. The 140-acre site features rolling hills of grapevines which visitors can traverse at will, feeling worlds away from home, work and all life’s stressors. “We’re only a few miles from home, and this feels like vacation,” I heard one visitor say.
Maybe drinking wine doesn’t scream “family-friendly,” but somehow families are a natural fit at Gouveia. It’s easy to imagine children playing by the small pond at the property’s entrance or running gleefully through the grass while their parents lounge nearby, a glass of Chardonnay or Cabernet Franc in hand, and some much-needed relaxation at hand. Well-behaved four-legged family members don’t have to be left out, either.
Gouveia currently offers eleven varietals. I’m told the most popular is the Cayuga White, which does well in cold, wet climates and is therefore a relatively good fit in Connecticut. Gouveia’s version is light and slightly sweet, with a hint of apricot.
But there’s wine for every palate. As far as whites go, Gouveia also produces two types of Chardonnay, the Chardonnay Oak and Chardonnay Steel—indicating the material in which they’re aged—as well as a Pinot Grigio, Seyval Blanc and Stone House White, a blended wine. I recommend the Chardonnay Steel, a crisp and bright change of pace from the oaky Chardonnays most of us are used to.
Reds include the Cabernet Franc—my favorite, as I tend to like full-bodied, earthy wines—a Merlot, the Stone House Red and the Epiphany Reserve, a higher-alcohol dessert wine. The Whirlwind Rosé is semi-dry, with a hint—thankfully not a deluge—of sweetness.
Prices range from $16 per bottle to $27 (for the reserve). If you don’t finish a bottle, a staff attendant will package it for you to take home.
Bottles aren’t available for purchase anywhere but the winery, which means trekking out there is the only way to get it. After your drive—beautiful in itself—ends in the gravel lot overlooking all those acres of greenery, you’ll be glad to have made the trip, and, I’d wager, to stay awhile.
1339 Whirlwind Hill Road, Wallingford (map)
Visiting hours change seasonally; check here.
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.