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Jamie Jones looked across his 10-acre vineyard as rain dropped down Friday afternoon for what seemed the sixth time this week.
“It’s not a problem yet,” he said, for his grape and berry plants. “But if (wet weather) continues, the harvest we could have reduced yields this year.”
The Jones Family Winery on Walnut Tree Hill Road is home to 19 different wines, 14 of which are made from grapes. The winery along with the 400-acre Jones Family Farms — where berries are picked in the summer, grapes and pumpkins in the fall and Christmas trees during the holidays —attract nearly 100,000 visitors a year.
It’s no wonder that Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt chose the Jones Family Farms as the place to kick-off the annual Passport to the state’s 40 Connecticut Farm Wineries.
This year there is a new twist to the program — visitors who use the passport to qualify for the more than six dozen prizes awarded can also win one of two, two-week trips to Spain.
And rather than fumble around with one of the 65,000 44-page paper booklets available, there will the option of using a mobile phone app. Six seniors in a University of Connecticut computer science course spent a year developing two apps — one for Android phones which will be released in the next week or so and another for Apple phones, that will be available later.
To qualify for prizes, participants must have visited at least 12 of the listed wineries and have either the booklet stamped or the mobile app marked by each winery.
That’ll get them two bottles of Connecticut-made wine. Those who visit 18 have a chance to win one of the Spain trips, a chauffeured limousine trip for eight to a Connecticut winery or an overnight stay at La Quinta by Wyndham in Danbury. And anyone who visits 35 wineries gets another chance to go to Spain.
The winery visits must take place between from May 3 and Nov. 3, and the winners will be drawn on Dec. 5, said Rebecca Eddy of the state Department of Agriculture.
Sales of Connecticut-produced wines have increased 120 percent since 2007.
That’s an amazing statistic,” said Bysiewicz, “..its great for state tourism and state agri-tourism.”
The Jones Family Farms came into existence around 1850 when, Jamie Jones said, his great-great grandfather, Phillip James Jones, arrived from Ireland to visit his brother in Bridgeport. Phillip saw the rolling hills in Shelton and fell in love with them. He bought 300 acres and began the family’s generations of farming here.