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Monday, August 22, 2016

Saltwater Farm Vineyard - Stonington, Connecticut

Oh how I love the town of Stonington.  
Located just 35 minutes north of where I grew up in Old Lyme, this town has such a different vibe.  This little coastal town is open ocean opposed to the sound, and there is so much to do.  The people are so friendly and approachable, without the pretentious vibe that many coastal Connecticut towns have.  Almost everyone sails, and the Dog Watch is the place to be.  I am within walking distance to restaurants, bars, a beach, shops, a vineyard and a brewery.  But this is not a love letter to Stonington (although I am sure that will come in time).  Instead, this is a post dedicated to one of the gems of Stonington, Saltwater Farms Vineyard.  

Beautiful spot located right outside the borough in Stonington.  Easy access off the highway, plenty of parking, and friendly staff.  Dog friendly and you are encouraged to bring food to enjoy on the vineyard.  Rich in history as an old airplane hanger and you can walk down the old runway between the vines.  A great variety of wines from chardonay to cabernets and we really enjoyed the rose. 

I had been to this vineyard many (many) times before, but never as a guest.  Every time I visited the vineyard, it was in a white shirt and black apron while working summers with a catering company.  The vineyard is a very popular wedding venue and I spent many late nights catering weddings at the vineyard.  I was excited to visit this vineyard just two miles down the road from my house for the first time as a guest. No more carrying carrying trays of appetizers or setting up 100 chairs.  Bring on the wine.

We parked in the parking lot and made our way to the entrance where we were greeted by one of the the vineyards friendly staff.  He pointed us in the right direction, and answered all my questions.  
Can we bring food -- They encourage it!

I think i'm going to like it heeeeeeeeere.

After the quick Q and A session, he showed us the main entrance into the vineyard, and pointed us in the direction of the gate leading to the vineyard and back patio (dogs are allowed in the outdoor areas but not inside).  But before we talk about the wines, and to really appreciate the vineyard, the restored building and the property, you need to read a little bit about the history. 

"Saltwater Farm Vineyard in Stonington, Connecticut, bordered by the tidal marshes of Wequetequock Cove, traces its agrarian roots back more than 350 years to the founding of Stonington in the mid-1600s.

In 1653, Walter Palmer, who lived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony after arriving from England in 1629, established a farm on some 230 acres of his land holdings surrounding Wequetequock Cove. Portions of Palmer’s original tract, including what is now Saltwater Farm Vineyard, continued to be used as farmland into the early decades of the 20th century, known then as the West Farm and owned by Herbert West, who was raised in North Stonington.

In the late 1930s, William J. Foster opened a small community airport on the property. Foster built a hangar there, designed by John W. Lincoln, an architect and engineer living in Stonington and a man credited with sharing in the creation of the modern Quonset Hut. Foster Field, also known as Westone Airport, functioned as an airport for several years before the U.S. entry into World War II, when the government closed such airports for public use.

In 1945, as the war was ending, Foster leased the property to Henry R. Palmer Jr. of Stonington, who offered commercial air service and flight training there. Palmer opened Aero-Marine Service at Foster Flying Field in February 1946. Palmer’s venture lasted only a couple of years and the hangar was used variously, and haphazardly, through the subsequent decades as warehouse, restaurant, light manufacturing facility and home to squatters.

In 2001, Michael M. Connery, a former partner at the New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and a Rhode Island native, bought the long-dormant property. In all, Connery purchased 108 acres and made the decision to convert the old airfield into a vineyard, at the same time maintaining a grassy landing strip. The vintage hangar was preserved and reimagined as a winery, largely through the design efforts of Stephen Lloyd, an architect in Chester, Connecticut. The building now showcases a vaulting roof, a milled aluminum exterior, original wood sheathing and, dominating the airy interior, massive timber trusses.

With a preservationist’s bent, and with a keen appreciation of Stonington’s past, the goal has been to sustain, in contemporary function and fashion, the two foundations of the property’s place in Stonington history: coastal farmland and a WWII-era private airport".

Airplane hanger turned vineyard - this spot reminded me of my last winery stop at Greenvale Vineyard in Rhode Island.  That vineyard was an old gentleman's farm and stable converted into a winery. And here in Stonington we have an old airplane hanger converted and restored to a winery.  I love that instead of turning these beautiful historic properties into more private condominiums, they can be restored and repurposed, preserving the areas history while celebrating its new life as a winery. 

You can head up to the lofted tasting room to sample some of the wines, ranging from chardonnays to cabernets.  Once you find a wine you like, you can bring it outside to enjoy one of the adirondack chairs or picnic tables on the lawn, or at the tables and chairs on the patio.  Or you can take your glass of wine for a walk between the vines or down the historic runway.  We grabbed a cold bottle of rose, grabbed a bowl of water for Olive, and enjoyed our wine with chips and salsa, a dog sleeping on my feet and a view between the vines.  
How all Sunday's should be celebrated. 

We settled on the rose which was a nice crisp dry rose.  The rose has a hint of strawberries and is aged in stainless steel tanks.  As far as Roses go (I am going to be an expert pretty soon...) this was high on my list of summer wines.  

At the vineyard, I was surprised to see that you can even leave the vineyard with a stamped passport.   Yes, a passport.   There are 34 vineyards in Connecticut, each one in the book with an area for a stamp.  Get all 34 stamped and you can be entered to win one of two grand prizes for a trip to Spain.  I am sad to say with this late start I probably wont make it, but shoot for the stars right?  
Stranger things have happened.  

There are 2 more vineyards located here in Stonington and North Stonington that I am so excited to try.  Saltwater Farm Vineyard set the bar high with its delicious wine, beautiful views and history. At only 2 miles from my house, I know I will be visiting here quite often. 
So many wines, so little time.  

Saltwater Farm Vineyard
349 Elm Street, RT 1A
Stonington, CT 06378
Tasting Room 860.415.9072
Events 800.818.7258

Summer Thursday Music Series
with extended hours and live music 
every Thursday in July and August from
5pm – 7pm

Labor Day, Monday, September 5th, 11am – 5pm, 
with live music 3pm – 5pm

Be sure to pay attention to the hours the vineyard and tasting room is open.  Because this is a popular wedding venue, the vineyard closes at 3 on the weekends, and reservations are required for all Saturday visits. 

Wednesday + Thursday: 11am – 5pm
Friday, Saturday* + Sunday: 11am – 3pm
*Reservations are required for all Saturday visits.

If you start to fill your passport, make sure you let me know which vineyards are your favorite, and what you thought of Saltwater Farm. 


  1. Thanks for this great post, i find it very interesting and very well thought out and put together. I look forward to reading your work in the future.


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