Start your wine exploration at McLaughlin Vineyards in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, 203-426-1533, located at exit 10 off I-84. The vineyard is open daily from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Wine writer Lisa Shea says that McLaughlin is a popular and scenic winery. "A narrow dirt road wends its way through woods and hills before the scenery opens up to their lovely vineyards," she says.
Stop two is nearby DiGrazia Vineyards in Brookfield, Connecticut, 203-775-1616, located on Route 25 at exit 9 off I-84. DiGrazia is open daily May through December and weekends only January through April. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Shea says, "DiGrazia is quite well known for its wines and has quite a large selection of them. They have monastic connections, which help them with several of their wines, and they win many awards for their finely crafted wines."
She adds, "One very popular wine is their 'Anastasia's Blush,' fruity and light. The [Autumn Spice] pumpkin wine is also exceptional."
The wine trail winds north to New Preston, Connecticut, for the third stop at Hopkins Vineyard, 860-868-7954: You'll see signs from the intersections of Routes 202 and 45 or Routes 45 and 342. Hopkins Vineyard is open daily for sales and tastings from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The winery is closed Monday through Thursday in January and February and closed Monday and Tuesday in March and April. Self-guided tours are available. The vineyards and winery overlook Lake Waramaug, a particularly picturesque view in the fall, and the scenic farm property has been in the Hopkins family since 1787. The winery is housed in a 19th century barn.
Stop four is Haight-Brown Vineyard in Litchfield, Connecticut, 860-567-4045, which you can find from Route 202 if you're coming from Hopkins Vineyard, or take I-84 to Route 8N at Waterbury to exit 42 and then follow Route 118 to the winery. The winery is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. with more limited hours in the winter and early spring. Haight Vineyard, now owned by the Brown family, planted the first Chardonnay and Riesling vines in Connecticut, and fall is a perfect time to stroll around the vineyard and enjoy New England wines in a charming setting. Tours are available May through November by appointment.