Win­ery kicks off Pass­port pro­gram

Pro­mo­tion en­cour­ages vis­its to Con­necti­cut’s dozens of winer­ies

Connecticut Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Mayko

SHEL­TON — Jamie Jones looked across his 10-acre vine­yard as rain dropped down Fri­day af­ter­noon for what seemed the sixth time this week.

“It’s not a prob­lem yet,” he said, for his grape and berry plants. “But if (wet weather) con­tin­ues ... we could have re­duced yields this year.”

The Jones Fam­ily Win­ery on Wal­nut Tree Hill Road is home to 19 dif­fer­ent wines, 14 of which are made from grapes. The win­ery along with the 400acre Jones Fam­ily Farms — where berries are picked in the sum­mer, grapes and

pump­kins in the fall and Christ­mas trees dur­ing the hol­i­days —at­tract nearly 100,000 vis­i­tors a year.

It’s no won­der that Lt. Gov. Su­san Bysiewicz and Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Bryan Hurl­burt chose the Jones Fam­ily Farms as the place to kick off the an­nual Pass­port to the state’s 40 Con­necti­cut Farm Winer­ies.

This year there is a new twist to the pro­gram — vis­i­tors who use the pass­port to qual­ify for the more than six dozen prizes awarded can also win one of two, two-week trips to Spain.

And rather than fum­ble around with one of the 65,000 44-page pa­per book­lets avail­able, there will the option of us­ing a mo­bile phone app. Six se­niors in a Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut com­puter science course spent a year de­vel­op­ing two apps — one for An­droid phones that will be re­leased in the next week or so and an­other for Ap­ple phones that will be avail­able later.

To qual­ify for prizes, par­tic­i­pants must have vis­ited at least 12 of the listed winer­ies and have ei­ther the book­let stamped or the mo­bile app marked by each win­ery.

That will get them two bottles of Con­necti­cut-made wine. Those who visit 18 have a chance to win one of the Spain trips, a chauf­feured limou­sine trip for eight to a Con­necti­cut win­ery or an overnight stay at La Quinta by Wyn­d­ham in Dan­bury. And any­one who vis­its 35 winer­ies gets an­other chance to go to Spain.

The win­ery vis­its must take place be­tween from May 3 and Nov. 3, and the win­ners will be drawn on Dec. 5, said Re­becca Eddy of the state De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

Sales of Con­necti­cut-pro­duced wines have in­creased 120 per­cent since 2007.

That’s an amaz­ing statis­tic,” said Bysiewicz, “..its great for state tourism and state agri­tourism.”

The Jones Fam­ily Farms came into ex­is­tence around 1850 when, Jamie Jones said, his great-great grand­fa­ther, Phillip James Jones, ar­rived from Ire­land to visit his brother in Bridge­port. Phillip saw the rolling hills in Shel­ton and fell in love with them. He bought 300 acres and be­gan the fam­ily’s gen­er­a­tions of farm­ing here.

The Jones farms grew to 400 acres over the years. Jamie Jones added the vine­yard in 2004. He got the idea while at­tend­ing Cor­nell Univer­sity, where he grad­u­ated with a ma­jor in plant science.

“I saw all these farms grow­ing grapes there and thought, why can’t we grow them here and open a win­ery,” he said. “Now 15 years later we’re mak­ing 6,000 cases of wine a year and host­ing vis­i­tors dur­ing the week.”

The Jones Wine Tast­ing room, re­con­structed from their century old dairy barn, is open Fri­day toSun­day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. When June rolls around, Thurs­days are added, and in July and Au­gust, clos­ing time is ex­tended un­til 7 p.m.

“We want to have a fam­ily at­mos­phere,” said Tom Harbin­son, the fa­cil­i­ties and in­fra­struc­ture man­ager. “We also pro­vide wine ed­u­ca­tion and tast­ing classes.”

Jones said it takes any­where from nine months to a year to make a red wine and up to a year and a half to cre­ate a white wine.

While most of their wines are made with grapes, the farm also uses its own straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries. Jones buys apples from Beard­s­ley Cider Mill and pears from Bishop’s Or­chards that are used in fer­ment­ing five other wine va­ri­eties.

“This is a Val­ley gem,” said Bill Pur­cell, pres­i­dent of the Greater Val­ley Cham­ber of Com­merce. “Sum­mer nights here re­mind me of what its like in the Napa Val­ley.”

But Jones ad­mits the weather is a worry.

“Any ex­treme is a chal­lenge for farm­ers,” he said. “We like our weather in mod­er­a­tion.’

Yet, still he sees the bright side in this rain.

“Our Christ­mas tree trans­plants are lov­ing it,” he said.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Sev­eral of the state’s Pass­port book­lets pro­mot­ing farm winer­ies in Con­necti­cut.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

State Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Bryan Hurl­burt, cen­ter, speaks about the 2019 Pass­port to Con­necti­cut Winer­ies pro­gram at the Jones Fam­ily Farms and Win­ery in Shel­ton on Fri­day. With him, from left, are Terry Jones, owner of Jones Fam­ily Farms and Win­ery; Lt. Gov. Su­san Bysiewicz; and Michael O’Neill, as­so­ci­ate dean of Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut Ex­ten­sion.

Bysiewicz, right, holds one of the Pass­port book­lets as she speaks about the Pass­port to Con­necti­cut Winer­ies in Shel­ton on Fri­day. Be­hind Bysiewicz, from left, are Jonathan Ed­wards, pres­i­dent of the Con­necti­cut Vine­yard and Win­ery As­so­ci­a­tion; Terry Jones and his son, Jamie Jones, of Jones Fam­ily Farms; Hurl­burt; and O’Neill.

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