Wines From Apples, Plums, Even Tomatoes, but no Grapes

Staehly Farm Winery in Connecticut makes wine out of anything but grapes

Staehly Farms Winery's Pomodoro wine, made from tomatoes.

Visitors to Connecticut's Staehly Farm are often stumped by the winery's most unusual wine. Is that a taste of cantaloupe? Is there some grapefruit in there? Where does it get all that acidity?

The wine's name, Pomodoro, drops a clue. Yes, it's a tomato-based wine, an Old World-style family recipe. Tasting notes describe it as rich and robust, with flavors of apricot and smoky bacon, and its distinctive makeup earned it a double gold medal in the 2016 Big E Northeast Gold Wine Competition.

"I think I had 1 in 100 [tasters] who could place it as tomato," said Kevin Staehly, who operates the farm winery with his parents, Christopher and Gail.

"I think it's either love or hate; you won't be in-between," his father says.

The Staehly property got its start as a Christmas tree farm in 1985 (its history is honored in the winery's logo of a tree with an "S" initial in its center) and now boasts 15 acres of choose-and-cut trees. The business expanded with greenhouses in 2001 and its farm stand building in 2005, growing to become Staehly Tree Farm and Gardens. Visitors stop by to buy seasonal fresh produce, jellies and jams, pies, local cheese and eggs.

The idea for the winery, incidentally, came several years ago from Phil Markowski of Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, says Kevin Staehly. Markowski was harvesting Staehly Farm's sour cherries for the brewery's kriek lambic-style beer, and asked Christopher Staehly if he'd ever considered making wine.

"My father said, 'We've explored planting grapes, but we didn't really think it was for us,'" Kevin says. "He said, 'No, I mean with the fruit you've got here.' And that was kind of the catalyst that set things into motion."

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To read more about Staehly Farm and its unusual array of wines, visit the Hartford Courant.