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CT wineries want law changed that is hurting vineyards

New London

COLCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH)– Local wineries take pride in the grapes they grow.

“We will create literally a T and out of this wood the new vines and the new grapes will grow, so think of doing this for 14,000 plants,” explained Jim Melillo, owner of Priam Vineyards in Colchester.

He says it’s all that pruning and hard work which goes into making award-winning wines. Priam Vineyards just entered nine of its wines in a recent East Meets West competition.

“We took six gold, one double gold best in class, and two silvers,” said Melillo.

He is one of several winemakers who are calling on legislators to amend Senate Bill 647 which was passed into law last year to help local breweries with permits and purchasing but unintentionally hurt vineyards.

Priam Vineyards in Colchester

“We’re looking for literally three or four sentences changed in the entire bill,” said Melillo.

The law which goes into effect July 1 removes the requirement that vineyards grow at least 25% of their fruit.

Priam grows 100% of the fruit used in its wines. It does add some grape juice to sweeten some of the dessert wines but most of the others are all locally grown.

“If it costs us $2-4 million to build a winery, it should cost the next person $2-4 million to build a winery,” said Melillo.

While some say the law levels the playing field, Melillo says it does the opposite.

“Basically pretend that they’re a winery when in fact all they are is someone who’s using California wines that they’re bottling and slapping a label on it,” said Melillo.

Priam Vineyards in Colchester

State Senator Christine Cohen, (D) Guilford, who voted to pass the bill into law last year now wants lawmakers to take a second look.

“What we’re seeking to do is make modifications to re-incentivize farm wineries and help agriculture throughout the state,” said Sen. Cohen. “Don’t know what that’s gonna look like yet.”

Vineyard owners are anxiously waiting to see. 

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