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Get Your Passports Out And Hit The Connecticut Wine Trail

Get your passport stamped twice in Ledyard.

Ledyard is nestled in the rolling hills that border the eastern banks of the Thames River and if you’re visiting the coastal town of Mystic or trying your hand and one of the biggest casinos in the country, a short drive can take you a world away.

And although the village of Ledyard is quaint and the big Congregational Church in the town’s center rings of Americana, you'll want to bring your passport with you because Ledyard has two wineries that are a part of the Connecticut Wine Trail Passport Program.

Just a mile or two north of the town center you'll find which has 11 acres of vines planted in the peaceful valley of the South Eastern New England Appellation. Dr. Paul Maugle, the owner, grower and wine maker, lives on the property with his wife Betty, said he has seen all kinds of wild animals on the of wooded property.

The winery’s tasting room is perched above the quiet valley and looks down on rows of vines and a landscape shaped by glaciers. The location offers a brief reprieve in a natural setting.

A wine tasting introduces seven varieties of wine produced on the farm. Maugle specializes in St. Croix grapes, which are described as “intensely fruit-forward” and one sip introduces flavors of chocolate covered cherries and pepper.

Maugle said 60 percent of the grapes used for his wine are grown on the farm and 40 percent are attained from farms within 100 miles of his own vineyard.

“So you really get a good flavor of New England,” he said.

The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday at noon for guests to bring some snacks, buy a bottle and pull up a chair and watch the sunset. Guests with more energy can take their bottle on a stroll around the property or lay down a picnic blanket right in the vineyard.

The tasting room has lounge chairs grouped around the fireplace and tables scattered throughout. The outdoor deck and lawn seating have front row views of the live bands that perform on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.

Maugle said many guests stop in on to pick up a pizza, pasta dinner or a sandwich to bring to the winery for a late lunch or dinner. And for those who like to create new flavors with win and chocolate, the winery always has a stash of fresh truffles made by in Gales Ferry.

Maugle Sierra’s wines are: 1740 Ledyard House White, Ledyard Sunset White, 1740 Ledyard House Rose, Rendezvous, 1740 Ledyard House Red, Ledyard Sunset Red, St. Croix. Their three dessert wines are: Espiritu de St. Croix, Que Sera, Syrah, Aura and Vintner’s Reserve.

The Connecticut Wine Trail isn’t so much a “yellow brick road” but a guide for tasting the bounty of the state’s mild temperatures, according to the website. There are 24 participating wineries and no matter where you are in Connecticut, the site says you’re not more that a 45-minute drive from the nearest winery.

And in Ledyard, you’re not more than a 10-minute drive to two wineries. , a family farm dating back to 1896, produces fruit wines from apples and pears grown in the orchard. The farm also produces “the apple’s most natural expression as an alcoholic beverage: The English style hard cider.”

Holmberg Orchards did their first planting of wine grapes in 2010 and harvested their first crop of Pinot Blanc last year. For now though, they’ll be offering fruit wines and ciders made from fresh apples and tree fruit grown right in the orchard.

Families are welcome to walk the grounds and plan their return in the fall to .

Holmberg’s Orchards offers: Pearfection, Three Sheets Apple Wine, World Peach, Bleuphoria Blueberry Wine, Russet Hard Cider, Cortland Hard Cider, Macintosh Hard Cider.

Maugle Sierra tasting room is open year-around and Holmberg Orchards wine tasting barn is open from May through early November. Check websites for more specific hours and events.

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