The sun grows the grapes at Jones Farms winery in Shelton. Soon it will power machinery as well

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Congressman Jim Himes, center, chats with Jamie Jones as he takes a tour Friday of the winery which is now powered by solar panels at Jones Family Farm.

Congressman Jim Himes, center, chats with Jamie Jones as he takes a tour Friday of the winery which is now powered by solar panels at Jones Family Farm.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Jones Family Farms winery production will soon be getting a solar-powered boost.

Jamie Jones, winemaker and sixth generation Jones farmer, welcomed U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., to Jones Family Farms late last week to show off the operation’s newly installed — but not yet operational — solar panels.

The array has been installed on the winery’s production facility.

"We are eager to have the solar array working and powering our winery production facility,” Jones, who started the winery in the mid-1990s, said. “The sun provides the energy for the grapevines to grow and ripen the fruit in the vineyard, so it seems natural to harness the sun’s energy to provide the electricity to run the winery.”

Jones said installation of the solar array will mean lowering monthly electricity costs and continuing the family’s tradition of being “good stewards of the environment.

"We are excited to know the sun’s energy is now powering all aspects of the wine production,” Jones said.

“My family has always strived to make our world and community a better place,” Jones said. “This solar project is only one aspect of everything we are trying to accomplish, but hopefully sets the example of continued environmental stewardship.”

The panels now sit on top of the building that is home to the wine production facility.

The site has a history of its own. Decades ago, the building once acted as military facilities for soldiers stationed in Shelton as part of the United States Nike air-defense missile bases.

In Shelton, the missile launch area was on some 36 acres off Mohegan Road, which is now a recreational complex still called the “Nike Site.” The command center and base housing for the group was on 8.82 acres off Eagle Drive — land that had belonged to the Jones family until the Army came calling.

On July 8, 1955, the U.S. Army announced that missile sites would be set up in Shelton, among surrounding communities, as part of its Nike air-defense. The missile sites would launch first generation Nike Ajax anti-aircraft missiles meant as a last-ditch defense against Soviet bombers.

The Shelton base was part of the Bridgeport air-defense network and became operational in 1957. The base was decommissioned in the early 1960s.

In what turned out to be an ironic twist, the land was initially commandeered by the Army — and then was bought back by the family after the Joneses won a competitive bid against developers when the Army no longer needed the site.

In the late 1990s, the winery, under the stewardship of winemaker Jamie Jones, was born. These days, people from throughout the region make the trek to Shelton taste the winery’s collections of white, red, rose and fruit wines made on site.

“The Jones Family Farm is an important part of Fairfield County,” Himes said. “With summer around the corner, I appreciated spending the morning learning about the winery and discussing their multi-generational commitment to environmental stewardship.

“Seeing former military barracks transitioned into a hub for solar energy was a highlight, as I know the CT Green Bank played a critical role in supporting this transition to renewable energy,” Himes said. “As the Jones family likes to say, ‘be good to the land and the land will be good to you.’”