STONINGTON - You know it's harvest season at New England's wineries when the gorgeous green and purple fruit adorns the vines, ready to begin the long process of becoming Pinot Grigio or Cabernet Franc.
"This is the best time of year to visit," says Ebbie Elmer, the tasting room manager at Stonington Vineyards, a boutique farm winery that offers daily tours of the facility. "Up here, we have a handful (of vineyards) and they're only about 10 minutes apart, so it's fantastic because it’s the perfect day trip."
The local landscape is now a unique path that leads visitors to a collection of vineyards. The Connecticut Wine Trail -- comprised of 25 wineries -- stretches from the Long Island Sound to the Litchfield Hills.
Connecticut has been called one of the fastest growing wine regions in the United States. And it's easy to follow. The Connecticut Vineyard & Winery Association's blue signs and map help guide visitors through the trail.
"Within probably a half hour of anywhere in the state, you can get to a good winery," says Jonathan Edwards, owner of Jonathan Edwards Winery, a vineyard that blends Connecticut charm with Napa Valley style in North Stonington. "October is pretty much every winery's best month."
A visit to a vineyard can include a sample in the tasting room.
Nearby, Saltwater Farm Vineyard, known for it's wedding venue, offers an urban vibe and a sleek style. The wine-making facility has a unique history.
"This is the hangar for the airfield and it dates back to the ‘30s," explains owner Michael Connery, pointing out the grapes growing near the runway.
He believes the CT Wine Trail has provided structure for the local wine tasting experience. "People take very seriously getting the passports stamped at various wineries," he says, referencing the Passport to Farm Wineries, sponsored by the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. "It really has been a boon to the whole wine business in Connecticut."
In a move that's collaborative not competitive, the wineries encourage tourists to visit several locations to appreciate the different nuances of the business.
"Each vineyard has it’s own personality," says Elmer. "You can have a totally different experience, they all look different. It’s almost like visiting someone’s home."
Paul Zimmerman, visiting from Michigan, took in two vineyards in one day: "Not being huge wine aficionados, it’s fun to get a sense of the different vineyards and the different facets within the wine."
Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington is hosting a Harvest Festival on October 3rd & 4th from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Hopkins Vineyard in Warren is holding it's annual Wine and Cheese Festival on October 24th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Click here to learn more about the 2015 Passport Program, which enables tourists to enter to win prizes -- such as trips -- after obtaining a number of vineyard stamps.