Jones' Farmer Blog

Behind the scenes and lessons at Jones Family Farms in Shelton, CT

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Spring 2018 at the Farm

As we kick away the last piles of snow around the farm, the life of the farm jump-starts into high gear away from the “Quiet” season of January thru March.

The Winery’s Tasting Room opened on Friday March 2nd.  Plan a visit during its spring hours (Fri-Sun, 11a-5p).  There is a wide variety of gift ideas, and it’s always a fresh experience to visit with new craft items from many of our local artists and vendors.


Interesting gift ideas for wedding, or other special occasions, available in our Tasting Room.

We have an exciting promotion occuring at our Winery this spring!  During the period from the Winery’s opening until Apr 29th, we have a “Spring Fling” contest.  3 visits during that period earns an entry in a great drawing for prizes. (Rules are on our website).

WineGlass2018Wild In the above photo you can see the “Philip Pavilion”, created entirely from lumber which came from trees on the farm that Philip Jones planted (many as a young man).  This served as inspiration for this year’s design on the commemorative Tasting Glass guests receive as part of a Wine Tasting Experience.


When visiting the Tasting Room, inquire about our new “Friends Of The Winery” Program.  You will learn about specialty wine events, be the first to learn about new wines, and accumulate points for each dollar spent in the Tasting Room toward earning special discount on a future wine purchase.  Ask our Winery staff about Program details and sign-up during your next visit!

We have several “Special Tasting”vertical tastings” planned for our wines that have several vintages, such as our Pinot Gris from 2014, 2015, 2016, and our Chardonnay from 2014 and 2015.


Out in the fields, our Christmas Tree transplanting activity has begun this week!  We pull trees from our nurseries where they have been growing from a seedling for 2 years.  This video from 2009 shows the same process we follow every year in the nursery.

Once pulled from our nursery we ready them in our trucks for transport to the fields.

Let the Planting Season Begin!

It planting in a new field, or renovating an existing field, we spot-mark each location where a tree will be planted,  and dig a hole to ready for a tree.


When the tree is transplanted, a good course of composting wood chops on top helps retain moisture around the plant, suppresses weeds, and amends the soil.

The Life Of Your Christmas Tree

Elsewhere on the farm, the straw is ready to soon be removed from the strawberry plants after having protected it from the harsh colds of winter.  It’s now time to absorb the sun, get growing, and then ripen as we approach a typical harvest start of early June.


As always, if you want to hear the latest updates about the farm before you visit – Give a call to our Crop Report message at 203-929-8425.  Our website is a great resource to learn more about the farm and all it’s seasons.


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Winery Opens 2016 season

Today, March 4th, is the opening day for our Winery’s Tasting Room!  We look forward to seeing some familiar faces visit again this year, as well as introducing ourselves to new guests.  The spring hours for the Tasting Room are Fri-Sun 11a-5p.

Behind the scenes, we always use the period between New Years and March to revitalize some of our spaces – such as the Tasting Room.

FBCover02g-IMG_20150131_145154762During the first weeks in January, the holiday decorations were put away and furniture moved to storage.  All of the counter tops in our room were sanded down and given several coats of urethane finish.  The wood for all the counter tops came from the farm, and we want to make sure they last for many years to come!

The building was historically a Dairy Barn, and although the guest foot traffic isn’t as heavy as the cows of days gone by, the floors were stripped and re-finished to maintain a fresh appearance.

IMG_20150922_122518453The spring furniture is brought back in, shelves get restocked with our award winning wines and farm made jams, local honey, maple syrup and other farm goodies are arranged for guests to choose from.

We look forward to seeing you back at the farm this year!

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Vineyard Expansion

Each new vine is encased in a mini “greenhouse” to help the plants take root in our New England climate.

This spring we planted nearly 900 new grapevines in the Jones Winery vineyard. Each vine is planted next to a wooden pole to encourage upward growth as the vine’s tendrils wrap around this temporary trellis. The plant is then enclosed in a small green cylinder that acts as a greenhouse, creating a warmer environment for the young vine to grow.

Roughly 900 vines have been planted this spring in the vineyard!

The new vineyard areas are planted with white grape varieties – chardonnay and a cayuga white-reisling hybrid developed at Cornell. In three years these vines will have matured enough to produce their first harvest of grapes for our winery. We’re looking forward to experiencing their influence on future wines!

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Time to Tie Down the Vines

Now that the vines have been pruned, it’s time to tie down some canes!

Now that pruning is complete, our winemaker and his team have moved on to trying canes in preparation for this season’s crop of grapes. Several canes on each grape vine are wrapped around the lower two trellis wires so that the growing fruit will hang above the ground and fill in the gaps between plants. The goal is to have two canes tied to the trellis to the left and right of the vine, for a total of four canes per plant. Several “insurance” canes are left standing upright in case the selected canes don’t begin to produce healthy bus and flowers. If this happens, we can simply prune the under-producing cane and tie down one of the insurance canes.

The goal: tie down four canes and leave 2 standing

All of this work needs to be done now, because once the buds begin to develop further they are easier to accidentally knock off the vine as we wrestle with the canes. Because of the extremely warm weather this winter and spring we have been leaving extra insurance canes in case the vines run into problems.

Canes are curved around trellis wires and secured with zip ties to ensure they won’t collapse under the weight of grapes in the summer.

Once the vines are wrapped on trellis wires, we simply zip-tie the ends just before the last bud. These ties help reinforce the cane so that it won’t be pulled from the trellis by the weight of developing grapes, and they make the job quicker for us!

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Pruning for the Future

Good wine is made in the vineyard…starting with winter pruning projects!

Winter is a critical time to prepare for this fall’s grape harvest…and even next year’s harvest. Our winery staff has been diligently snipping through over 6 acres of grapes with hand shears to help shape the taste of our upcoming vintages.

Pruning canes takes a trained eye

At this point in the year, the vineyard looks like a tangle of dried grape vines. The canes overlap and reach towards the sky. Without careful management of these vines through pruning, the plant would spend its energy growing many different canes with lots of fruit. By directing the growth of just a small number of canes, our winemakers can encourage the vines to put their energy into growing higher quality grapes.

Before: Last year’s growth is taking over the vineyard

After the pruning is done the vineyard looks completely different! The orderly rows of grape vines await spring’s warmth and the sun’s rays to produce literally tons of grapes this year. Here’s to another successful season!

After: Grape vines ready to focus their spring growth for the fall harvest

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Wildlife in the Vineyards

While harvesting grapes this afternoon, Farmer Shannon and I found this little fellow in the vineyard! At this point in his life as larva, he’s the Banded Woolly Bear, but come spring, as an adult he’ll be an Isabella Tiger Moth.

These caterpillars emerge from their eggs in the fall and remain that way over the winter, surviving the freezes by producing a cryoprotectant in their tissues. Once the weather warms, the caterpillars devour all the grass and weeds they can, they pupate, and then become adults and live through the summer.

According to legend, the wider that middle brown section is (i.e., the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter. But is it true?

I sure hope not, because this little guy isn’t too promising! As it turns out, though, larvae produced in the same clutch of eggs can vary from mostly red to mostly black, even when reared under the same conditions, and this variability pretty much invalidates that belief. In fact, the orange band will grow towards the ends of the body, with the black bands decreasing in size, as the larva matures.

Another fun fact: this little guy pictured in my hand is actually playing dead! If you remember back to my earlier post about the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar whose everyday attire is intended to resemble that of a snake, here is yet another example of creatures interacting with their surroundings!

Speaking of–Halloween is coming up and our first day of Pumpkin harvesting is this Saturday, the 24th. I can’t wait for apple cider!

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Trimming Shoots to Make Better Wine

Larry McCulloch trims excess shoots to help the plant produce healthy grapes

Winemaker Larry McCulloch has been spending a lot of time out in the vineyards. The vines will soon be setting fruit, but in order to produce the best quality grapes the new shoots will first need to be trimmed. It’s actually a little late in the season for this vineyard task, but a combination of other farm projects and rainy days have set us back a little bit. Although we’re still able to trim the shoots in mid-June, it takes a very practiced eye to pick out the best shoots to prune now that the leaves have grown in so thickly. Luckily, Larry has plenty of experience in the vineyard. He trims shoots using hand shears, so that there is roughly one hand width of space between the shoots where they meet the woody vines that were tied down earlier this spring. The shoots fall to the ground and sunlight begins to shine more directly on the remaining leaves.

Trimming extra shoots produces better quality wine for a couple of reasons. First, it allows the leaves to have better access to sunlight, which means they will have an easier time creating food for the plant and concentrating sugars into the grapes. But it also opens up the grape clusters themselves to the sunlight and increases air circulation, which helps prevent some of the fungal infections that can be common in our damp New England climate.

Each of these round projections will produce a flower, which will develop into a grape if pollinated

After Larry has finished trimming extra greenery, he tucks the remaining shoots into the upper levels of trellis wire, so that they will have a support system when they become weighed down by heavy grape clusters. Those grapes are already on their way to developing. Little flowers are starting to open out of the tiny green projections hanging on the vines in clusters. Once the flowers are pollinated, the grapes will enjoy the heat of summer as they grow and ripen.