On a bustling late summer day, the vineyards at are blissfully quiet. There’s a wine tasting going on inside and a few people wandering around, but it would be easy to lose myself in the peacefulness of the setting.
As Wholesale and Marketing Representative Rebecca Horn guides me through the vineyard's operations I can see that behind the scenes Stonington Vineyards is the product of years of hard work, creativity and even a little luck.
Stonington Vineyards marked 25 years in business on April 25, 2012, but the winery at 523 Taugwonk Rd., in Stonington is celebrating all year-long.
In July they held their Summer Wine Festival, which featured music by Johnny & The East Coast Rockers, wine tastings and food from local vendors. They have also gotten back into wine competitions in the NextGen Wine Competition this past June.
“In 1987 little did I know it would turn into what it is,” Owner Nick Smith said. “We were running by the seat of our pants.”
Nick and his wife Happy bought the vineyard in 1987. Formerly a dairy farm, the previous owner produced wine on the property as early as the 1970s. Nick and Happy revamped the entire operation growing and producing different types of wines. Today, Stonington Vineyards produces seven types of wine.
“They were hard-core city folk,” Horn said of Nick and Happy with a laugh. “They visited the vineyard and then bought it.”
Nick and Happy now in their 70s are still very much involved in the day-to-day operations of the vineyard. Happy oversees much of the marketing and events and Nick focuses on the wholesale. And the staff has remained small with five full-time employees and a few seasonal employees. Some, like wine maker Mike McAndrew have been there from the beginning.
“Everyone loves to work here,” Horn said. “It’s very team oriented.”
With Happy and Nick having no plans to take a step back from the vineyard just yet, Stonington Vineyards is working on becoming more environmentally friendly by possibly installing solar panels. The vineyard tries to stay local with 90 percent of wholesales in Connecticut and by promoting themselves and other vineyards throughout Connecticut.
“There isn’t a critical mass of vineyards in Connecticut yet,” Nick said. “We compete with each other not against each other."
This week Stonington Vineyards is gearing up for another festival. The 16th Annual Wine and Food Festival takes place Sept. 15 and 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The weekend will feature live music by The Cartells and food from local vendors including , Little Sisters Grilled Cheese, The Cupcake Truck and more. Advanced tickets can be purchased on the Stonington Vineyards's website until Sept. 13. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.