Charles Desrochers / The Recorder
Wallingford, Conn.’s Gouveia Vineyards prides itself on what sets it apart from the others: using only New England grapes and offering a truly unique and certainly casual wine tasting experience.
But the vineyards bear no grapes just yet. The vines, sitting atop 15 acres of cultivated land, are budding and the rolling hills surrounding them are lush with green, but Gouveia expects to harvest the grapes sometime in late summer.
Despite the overcast weather on Saturday, patrons kept arriving at the stone building that houses Gouveia’s winery. Their attire ran the gamut from shirt and tie to an old Walter Payton football jersey.
“We get so many age groups,” said Theresa Black, a bartender at Gouveia, as a group of college students were unpacking their bags of Doritos chips.
“I’d say that when it comes to wine tasting, it is as individualistic as art is,” said Black.
Black and the other employees are stationed at the bar, waiting to escort customers through the list of wines that they have to offer. Gouveia’s employees aren’t bossy, they don’t impose and they don’t pester. They simply wait at the bar for the customers to come to them.
This kind of service sets the tone for an experience that feels natural and homely. The winery and lounge area are situated to offer a view of the vineyards to make for a scenic experience. After staring out onto the landscape for several minutes, it’s beyond easy to forget this is a business establishment.
Gouveia offers seven red and white wines as well as two house blends. The vineyards’ chardonnays, rosé, cabernet and five other wines range between $15 and $22 per bottle.
If a guest prefers something other than wine, they also offer non-alcoholic beverages like soda, coffee and tea. They do have a restriction, however, against outside beverages.
Gouveia does not sell food so they have adopted a policy that allows customers to bring whatever food they want. There is no minimum requirement for how many drinks a person has to buy to enjoy the room.
If someone wanted to drink a $4 glass of Seyval Blanc alongside a Subway meatball grinder they can sit and enjoy their meal for as long as they wish.
“Sometimes we get parents who set up picnic blankets outside and watch their children run around,” said Black. Guests are also allowed to roam the vineyard as they please.
She says that they try and keep parties down to 10 guests but if they grow larger, rarely is the rule ever enforced. Gouveia Vineyards also permits a tour of their wine cellar, should a larger party of guests request one.
What Joe and Lucy Gouveia have done is create a wine tasting experience that is so approachable it is amazing to think that neither their standards nor their quality have been lowered. It’s high-class presentation with low-class dress code.
The vineyard is an inexpensive way to spend the afternoon. The options of food are limitless since guests eat what they choose to bring, and the wine is as good as any restaurant, but Gouveia’s local status makes it stand out.
With the semester coming to a close many of us will need some rest and relaxation in the coming weeks, Gouveia vineyards is as good as anything else.