Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Norwich Bulletin Features Opeing of Passport Season for Connecticut Wineries

Passports open world of Connecticut wines
Program encourages visits to local wineries.
The Bulletin
Posted Jun 03, 2012 @ 11:16 PM
Last update Jun 03, 2012 @ 11:44 PM

Linda Auger sometimes gets some strange reactions when she asks visitors to her winery in Woodstock if they have their passports.

“I get the deer-in-headlights look,” said Auger, who runs Taylor Brooke Winery with her husband, Richard.

Auger is not asking for identification. Her winery is one of 32 in the state participating in the Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries program. In its ninth year, the program has proven to be a popular one among wine enthusiasts who have discovered the Connecticut Wine Trail.

“It’s to help promote grape growing in the state and its wineries,” Auger said.

The program is partially funded through a $47,500 annual federal grant and is run through the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council.

Chance to win prizes

From May through mid-November, passport holders collect stamps in their little blue books at each winery they visit. If they collect 16, they are eligible to enter into a drawing that includes a trip to Spain, a daylong chauffeured limousine trip along the wine trail or free bottles of wine.

“For some people, this is their thing to do for the summer,” Auger said. In 2011, more than 1,500 people completed their passports. The book is free, and available to anyone 21 or older who visits one of Connecticut’s participating wineries.

Maugle Sierra in Ledyard has been in the program since 2006, owner Paul Maugle said. Participation has helped the Route 117 winery, he said.

“It has helped our sales,” he said. “It brings people to our door.”

Winery tours have become a staple of Connecticut staycations, especially during summer, Maugle said.

“What do people do when it gets it really hot?” he asked. “They find some shade and a bottle of wine.”

A look at the guest book at Taylor Brooke shows that visitors are coming from within the state, but also from Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. The Woodstock vineyard, on rural Route 171, last year had 8,000 people enter its tasting room, which is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“That’s an awful lot of people coming through our door,” Auger said.

The passport program has boosted cooperation between wineries and complementary businesses such as restaurants. Maugle Sierra has an arrangement with Valentino’s Restaurant in Ledyard. When someone brings a Maugle Sierra cork to the restaurant, they get a 15 percent food discount.

“This brings all the wineries together,” he said. “We’re in it because we want to be in it.”

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