- Associated Press - Sunday, January 25, 2015

WALLINGFORD, Conn. (AP) - With the opening of a new winery in Northford, many people are calling the Wallingford area a destination location for wine lovers.

Rosabianca Vineyards opened its doors and its wine bottles to the public last week, fulfilling Charlie Rosabianca’s dream of owning a winery.

The winery in the Northford section of North Branford is about five miles from Gouveia Vineyards and Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery in Wallingford.

Every inch of the tasting room and every detail in each bottle is a tribute to Rosabianca’s father, Andrea Rosabianca, with whom he made wine for nearly 40 years. Andrea Rosabianca came to the United States from Amalfi, Italy, when he was 30 and always dreamed of having a farm.

“It’s a tribute to my dad,” Charlie Rosabianca said.

The wine label is based on a picture of Andrea Rosabianca with his arms folded, leaning on the side of a building in Italy.

Christina Wilonski, Charlie Rosabianca’s daughter, said she kept the photo of her grandfather in a safe place because she loved it so much. When her father opened the winery, she knew the photo had to be included.

“It’s really amazing to see someone realize their dream,” Wilonski said.

That photo she kept all those years was superimposed on another picture of Andrea Rosabianca overlooking the city and ocean of Amalfi. What looks like a scroll pattern around the label is Andrea Rosabianca’s initials that he wrote on a piece of furniture he finished. On the back is a brief description of the family history and winery.

“There’s a lot of meaning behind this label,” said Rosabianca. “We wanted it to be an experience when people came here. I wanted it to be a story.”

On the second floor of a barn at the winery, the staff at Rosabianca Vineyards served wine tastings to customers coming to check out the new space. The cozy room fits fewer than 10 tables, making for an intimate setting. Exposed beams, wooden floors, and a bar area made from pieces of Rosabianca’s house invite guest to come in and stay awhile.

On Friday night, Kaitlyn Dyer and two friends, Amairani Pina and Kathy Donovan, all of Wallingford, came for a tasting and to buy a few bottles of wine.

“Hey, so you guys had the ‘Chicco D’oro’ so what do you think of it?” Rosabianca asked as he chatted with the women during their tasting.

“I liked it because it was very dry,” Donovan said.

The name “Chicco D’oro,” given to a white wine made by Rosabianca, is an Italian phrase that means “golden berries.” Under the description of the wine, it says it has a “fresh and clean” aroma with flavors of pear, nectar, and apple cinnamon.

Each wine at Rosabianca Vineyards has an Italian name. Customers can choose from four whites, one rose, two reds, and two red blends.

Donnovan and her friends heard about the opening through Facebook pages of Paradise Hills and Gouveia Vineyards.

“I was just driving by and saw the sign for the vineyard,” said Dyer. “We like Gouveia and Paradise Hills a lot and we saw that they were open from a post on their Facebook pages.”

The Wallingford wineries have been more than supportive of the recent opening of Rosabianca Vineyards. The day that Rosbianca Vineyards opened, the owners of Paradise Hills sent a congratulatory gift basket.

“Anytime someone takes on the monumental job of setting up a vineyard and winery, our hats are off to them because we know how much work is involved,” said Richard Ruggiero, the founder of Paradise Hills. “When you have a bunch of (wineries) together, people can visit more than one winery in a day. Because we are very close proximity, I think it will attract a number of people to all three wineries.”

The staff at Gouviea Vineyards are also excited to see another winery in the area and have been sending their customers to Rosabianca Vineyards to try it out.

“It’s been a long time coming and they worked hard,” said Joe Gouveia, the owner of Gouveia Vineyards. “Another winery in the state, close by, is great because it brings people. People come from other towns and out of state. They like the idea to go to more than one place.”

For Rosabianca, seeing the customers come in and enjoy the wine over the past week and hearing the support from the other wineries has made his dream even more successful.

“We’re really happy for him,” said Lisa Rosabianca, his daughter. “Every night he comes home with this cheese-ball smile on his face so it makes it worth it.”

Rosabianca considers everyone who visits his family. The goal is to eventually build a 18,000-square-foot building on the property that has three tasting rooms and more to accommodate all the guests.

“We want to say, ‘welcome to the family,’ ” Rosabianca said. “Come down and be part of the family.”

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