A program designed to help wine enthusiasts find vineyards is getting the cold shoulder from some wineries.
Some argue that the Connecticut Wine Trail is simply too expensive to participate in and its causing some confusion for customers.
"We make great wine for one thing and grow great grapes," said Jim Frey of Walker Road Vineyards in Woodbury.
Frey said his medals show how good and easy it's been to create some great wine. However, getting customers to his business has not been easy.
"Word of mouth is a very big deal for us and local customers who are repeat customers are very important to us," Frey said.
Frey said the state's Department of Agriculture has its Passport Program to help new customers find him for free. Enthusiasts are given a book which lists all 32 vineyards in the state. It encourages them to visit half of them for a prize.
It's not to be confused with the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association's Wine Trail Program.
"The passport program is open to all licensed wineries with a criteria set by the Connecticut Dept. of Agriculture to participate versus the wine trail program where that has minimum hours and schedules," said Keith Bishop of the CT Wine Trail.
So far, 25 vineyards have signed up for $2,400 a pop.
"It's basically all marketing," Bishop said. "The website consumes a fair amount of dollars to keep it up and maintain it."
The site allows users to plan wine visits and learn about the history of participating vineyards. However, customers won't find Frey's or six other wineries there because the list isn't a complete one.
Frey said it's because of the cost.
"Two thousand four hundred is meaningful for us," Frey said.
"We need that kind of revenue to sustain the organizational expenses we're carrying to promote the wine," Bishop said.
Bishop said the price tag has not gone up in the 10 years the site's been operational. That's in part to new members joining the group.
While the price tag may be steep, both agree anything that brings enthusiasts to their wineries is worth it.
Frey said for now, he'll use the $2,400 to cover his equipment and employee costs. He'll rely on word of mouth to encourage people to visit his vineyards.
For more on the Dept. of Agriculture's Passport Program click here.
For more on the CT Wine Trail, click here.
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