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2022-05-24 | KEITH O'CONNOR


Worthington Vineyard & Winery opened their doors to hundreds of locals over the course of their two-day opening on Mother’s Day weekend.

Their Facebook posting thanking local customers for their patronage is as clever as their finely crafted wines.

“We also thank the many patrons who simply heard about us through the ‘grapevine.’ The best way we can show our appreciation for all of you is to continue to serve the community both in ‘wine’ and in spirit for what you all have done for us.”

The “us” is Mark and Karen Murdoch who began their journey as home winemakers with a crabapple tree in the front yard of their East Windsor, CT, home providing the fixings for their crabapple wine.

“It was a pretty good first wine for us and we eventually got into kits and making larger batches. Then we moved to Somers and there were grape vines on the land. I always wanted the opportunity to grow grapes, so we ended up planting about 60 vines over the next few years,” Murdoch said.

Not only did the couple grow Concord, Corot Noir, Cayuga, Seycal, and Canadice grapes in their yard, but also apples, raspberries, peaches, and blueberries, from which they made a variety of blends.

“Sometimes the wines were good, and other times not so good. But we learned each step of the way and the more we made, the better we got at it. We never sold them, they were for personal consumption, and we only kept about 10% for ourselves and gave away the rest as gifts or brought them to parties we were attending. Our friends loved them. In the fall, we would have parties and our friends would help us pick the grapes and then to process them. Don’t imagine Lucille Ball stomping on them from one of her old television comedy shows, we had machinery to do the job. But it was a great way for everyone to socialize and have fun together,” Murdoch said.

The Murdochs have always enjoyed visiting wineries across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, California, and even Europe, seeing and learning what others were doing. It wasn’t until five years ago that they began to cast a different eye on their travels.

“We were getting closer to retirement age and thought this (opening a winery) was something we could do. So, we ended up shopping around for land and looked at about 70 sites in New England, Pennsylvania and New York, only to learn that the Worthington Pond Farm property in our own town had come up for sale. We fell in love with the 98-acre property, which hadn’t been farmed in several years, and now we are putting it to good use,” Murdoch said, 

who leased the property for one year before purchasing it in 2020.

The Murdochs began by planting 800 vines the year they leased the property and now have planted 2,000 grapevines altogether.

“We have six varieties, hybrids that are good for a northern climate that have either been cultivated by Cornell University or University of Minnesota. Our three reds are Chambourcin, Corot Noir and Marechal Foch, and our three whites are Vidal, Cayuga White, and Frontenac Blanc,” Murdoch said.

In addition, they plan to offer apple, raspberry, and blueberry wines made from fruit purchased from local farms.

“It takes about three years to produce viable grapes and then another six months to two years or more to bottle," Murdoch said.

“The demand for an average size winery like ours is more than we can produce right now, we would need a planting of 6,000 to 8,000 vines. That is why for a while, as we have done to open our doors to the public, we will need to continue to bring in juice or grapes from other sources, from Connecticut, California or New York to make our wines,” he added.

The four wines and their descriptions provided by Murdoch that are currently on sale and being poured at Worthington Vineyard & Winery are:

Perseverance: “Perseverance represents the fact we persevered in getting through so many zoning board meetings and other challenges, eventually getting to where we are today. My wife and I are both engineers and she works with NASA and has patented hardware in space. The Mars Lander is depicted on the label as a gesture to those NASA engineers who have also persevered. Perseverance is a red wine made from the Petite Sirah grape from Suisan Valley, California. Alcohol: 12% Bottle Price: $20

Zinful Pleasure: “Our chef calls 

this our naughty wine because of its strong alcohol presence. It’s a red made from the Zinfandel grape I bring in from Suisun Valley in California. My wife and I have been making this wine for years and we kept the recipe and will probably continue to offer it for a while because of its ‘selfless pleasure' to drink.” Alcohol: 15% Bottle Price: $20

Worthington White: “We wanted a name for one of our wines that reflected the name of our winery. It is based on the Cayuga White grape which we were able to harvest last year and some of which went into the making of this wine along with others from Finger Lakes, New York. It’s turned out to be one of our more popular wines so far.” Alcohol: 12% Bottle Price: $20

Private Picnic: “This is a Riesling-based wine that is dry, not sweet, and good for picnics and the warm summer months. You can also have your own private picnic here on our grounds. You can pack your own picnic basket, bring your own blanket and enjoy our beautiful scenery. You don’t have to purchase our food, but you do have to buy our wine.” Alcohol: 12% Bottle Price: $20

While imbibing their favorite libation, wine lovers can enjoy some light fare from the kitchen of Worthington Vineyard & Winery staffed by Norman Mayette of Hamptons Catering.

“During our opening weekend, Chef Mayette offered sandwiches and salads alongside what he calls a Bento Box, which I call the equivalent of a charcuterie box filled with cut meats, cheese and crackers. He plans to change the menu each week, but initially offered our guests a roast beef and brie crostini or an Italian sandwich with ham and salami with roasted red peppers on a ciabatta roll," Murdoch said.

Although Worthington Vineyard & Winery has only been open for just over a month, Murdoch is already planning for the future.

For the time being, there can be no “sound of music” inside or outside on the grounds or “beer on tap.”

“We need a special permit from the state for entertainment, which we do plan on applying for in the future. You can entertain yourselves in the winter by bringing your snowshoes, cross country skis, or ice skates to step out on several of our frozen ponds, then come back into our tasting room where the fire will be 

roaring and you can enjoy a nice hot mulled wine,” Murdoch said.

“We are also well aware that some wives might be dragging their husbands along who are beer drinkers and we planned on having their favorite brew available for them. We learned that Connecticut does allow its wineries to serve beer, as long as it is from a Connecticut brewer, and there are plenty of them for us to choose from. But, again, we need a special permit from the state and are looking into applying for one,” he added.

In the meantime, Murdoch has already begun plans to build a new tasting room within the next year that would offer more space and the capacity to offer more wines.

The Murdochs now have a staff of 15 servers and five farm hands, albeit part-time, that they didn’t have to worry about paying when they were producing at home - their sons also help, Kevin, 28, works from their new home on the farm, and Alex, 33, lives in New Haven, but comes home on weekends - but the couple is not greedy.

“If we can achieve a reasonable profit level selling our wines on-site, we see no reason to sell them wholesale,” Murdoch said.

Worthington Vineyard & Winery is located on 359 Mountain Road. Hours are Friday and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

For those familiar with the land formerly referred to for many years as Worthington Pond Farm, the Murdochs are retaining the rental function of their property that offers a multitude of facilities to host your private event or group gathering from a covered bridge for weddings and other events to five patios for special celebrations and picnics. The rustic charm and natural beauty of Worthington Pond Farm can also be booked for use as the backdrop for engagement and wedding photos, senior and family portraits, Christmas cards and more.

For more information,

visit their Facebook page or call 860-614-5774

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