June 26, 2018

Vineyard, winery development eyed in Suffield

PHOTO | Flickr via Warrick Wynne
PHOTO | Flickr via Warrick Wynne

A Suffield developer proposing a housing development in town is also eyeing a vineyard and winery along Route 159.

Developer Mark O'Neill, owner of Hamlet Homes LLC, is asking the town's Planning and Zoning Commission to change the zoning regulations of 13.7 acres at 414 E. Street South, along Route 159, to allow for the development of apartments, according to town records.

The parcel, along farmland abutting the Connecticut River, already permits a vineyard and winery, but town officials on Tuesday suggested the developer would only move forward with the project if town officials also allow him to construct 58 duplex units on the site.

A conceptual plan for the housing units has been submitted to town planners, but the development remains in its early stages. O'Neill could not be immediately reached for comment.

The zone change will be discussed at a July 16 public hearing.

Under the winery plans, Mark and Karen Murdoch, with more than 30 years experience producing wine, would plant approximately 10 acres of grapes and use another 10 to 15 acres for a vineyard and buildings. The structures will likely be built by Hamlet Homes, town officials said.

Billed as King's Valley Vineyard & Winery, plans say construction would begin in August for an April 2019 opening.

The Murdoch's detailed plan calls for producing a variety of wines, including cabernet, pinot noir, zinfandel, riesling and American varietals such as cayuga, marquette, and corot noi, among others.

Winemaker Thomas Payette, named "Winemaker of the Year" by Wineries Unlimited, would bring his 33-plus years experience to the vineyard as the couple looks to serve quality wines for western New England customers. At least six other part-time and seasonal workers will be hired by year five.

The vineyard will produce 1,800 cases in year one and 4,000 a year by year five, plans say.

The majority of King's Valley wines would be sold from its tasting room, but the Murdochs say they would consider selling to restaurants and liquor stores as the winery grows. A retail store will be housed in the tasting room, selling non-alcoholic beverages, picnic-style food, baskets, dry goods and decorations.

A winery along the Connecticut River, the summary plan says, is an ideal location for "viewing and relaxation." With more than 35 wineries in Connecticut, few are housed along the state's central and northern corridors.

In Oct. 2016, O'Neill received a special permit from the Suffield zoning commission to build a 12,000-square-foot brewery for the Broad Brook Brewing Co. before it moved to Suffield, according to meeting minutes.

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