When Joe Gouveia decided to open a vineyard in Wallingford, people thought he was crazy.
It was the early 2000s and the Connecticut wine industry was still in its infancy, with only a handful of other vineyards up and running and no real indication that Connecticut, with its short growing season ill-suited to most grape varieties, could sustain more vineyards. But Gouveia, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Portugal many years earlier, had long dreamed of opening a vineyard in the style of those of his native country. When he saw a 140-acre farm for sale in Wallingford, he visited and fell in love with the view, which reminded him of those he had seen in Portugal as a kid.
He opened Gouveia Vineyards in 2004. Today the vineyard, which celebrates its 15th anniversary in September, is one of the most popular in Connecticut and a destination for wine and picnic enthusiasts that regularly draws daytrippers from across the state and beyond.
On a recent Saturday, the view that first captivated Gouveia stands out immediately. Driving up a gravel farm road to the centrally located tasting room, The Stone House, I take in a 360-degree, sun-soaked scene of these rolling vineyards. The most expansive view is westward, where, in the early evening, spectacular sunsets light up the Connecticut countryside. More than a dozen wines, made from a variety of estate-grown grapes, as well as grapes from California and elsewhere, help complete the European-esque experience of the visit.
Tastings are available ($12 for samples of six wines, plus you take home the glass as a souvenir) or you can buy bottles (most range between $18 and $28). You can enjoy the bottles inside or outside on the farm grounds, and visitors can bring their own food and picnic as they enjoy the scenery and their wine.
“Our motto is: come for the wine, stay for the view,” says MaryAnn Pauley, a wine server who has worked at the vineyard since it opened. “Several of the [white] wines are made just with our grapes, so they’re 100 percent estate wines,” Pauley adds. “The reds, on the other hand, we do grow the red grapes here but they are supplemented with grapes from California. So they range from 50 percent ours to 80 percent ours.”
The most popular white is the Cayuga, made with Cayuga grapes grown at the vineyard, while the most popular red is the Stone House, which has a mix of estate-grown and California grapes.
During my visit, we enjoy the Stone House red as we take in the storybook views. Not far from New Haven, Gouveia Vineyards is a pastoral oasis that’s worth a trip.
1339 Whirlwind Hill Road, Wallingford
Spring & summer hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.