A long dirt and gravel path off Alberts Hill Road meanders through wetlands in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, roughly a half-hour drive from Naugatuck.
The front half of the path is lined in skunk cabbage and dandelions, which doesn’t sound particularly appealing. But for anyone willing to travel its length there is a real hidden gem awaiting them; a delight for the eyes, ears and pallet.
McLaughlin Vineyards sits at the end of that path, seemingly a million miles away from civilization and yet it is only about ten minutes from the center of town and the famous flag pole, which is depicted on one of its wine bottles.
“The location is spectacular. Even though it’s minutes off (Interstate) 84 it feels like you’re in another world. You can pretend you’re in Napa. You can pretend you’re in Spain,” said Dee Dee Morlock, manager of McLaughlin Vineyards, a year-round farm that is only closed on Mondays and Tuesday and some holidays.
The 160-acre family-owned winery produces six vintages – four white and two red – from its own grapes, maple syrup from its own trees and wildflower honey from its own hives. The comprehensive agricultural business also features wine tastings, hiking trails, musical performances, educational seminars, a 50-acre wildlife and bald eagle sanctuary, a country store, and many other offerings and activities.
“It’s beautiful. I think it’s quaint. It’s set back and the wine is good. The (Blue) Coyote, we’ve never tasted anything like it. It’s spicy and complicated,” said Melissa Dorish, of Meriden, during a recent visit, her second to McLaughlin Vineyards.
“Complicated in a good way,” added Diana Tramontano, originally from Connecticut and now living in Paris, France.
Morlock said the McLaughlin family established their winery in 1979, making it one of the oldest family-operated vineyards in the state.
Although Connecticut is generally known for its white wines, Morlock said it’ll be a really good year for red wine at McLaughlin and perhaps elsewhere because of the warm, dry weather the state has enjoyed thus far. “It makes the roots dig down deeper and work a little harder,” Morlock said.
The McLaughlins are working on a port wine from an old family recipe, which may be introduced to the public later this year. The labels on their bottles feature local landmarks and are created from the work of local artists. The country store and tasting room double as an art gallery. The creative talents of local artists adorn the walls in exhibits that change from time to time.
“We like to support all the local artists and food vendors. We bring in organic artisan cheeses made in the Northeast region of the U.S.,” Morlock said.
The country store includes McLaughlin Vineyards’ products, gifts, the arts and crafts of local artists, farm fresh eggs, and a specialty food area with Connecticut-made products.
The music concerts kick off for the season on May 13 and continue every Sunday, Memorial Day and Labor Day through October. “People are invited to bring picnics,” Morlock said.
Other upcoming events include Newtown’s Vintage Baseball League games, and a wine and chocolate class will be held on Saturday, May 12, 6 p.m.
For more information call toll-free 203-426-1533, or toll-free at 866-599-9463, or visit the website at www.mclaughlinvineyards.com.
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