This letter is written by Jeff Vernon, General Manager, Chamard Vineyards:
Many folks in Clinton have called Chamard a jewel over the years and we want very much to retain that designation and remain a beautiful working farm in our neighborhood.
However; we need a more dynamic business model to be a viable business in today’s competitive global wine environment in very harsh economic times. Liquor stores are filled with many good and great wines, from around the world, at price points well below the pricing for Chamard wines. This is because the production pressures facing Chamard are far greater than most wine producing areas in the rest of the world. In short, we are not commercially viable on a solely wholesale basis.
- Our vinifera grape yields per acre are fractions of leading regions in the world are able to produce.
- Additionally, disease, insect, and bird pressure force our growing costs to be multiples higher than those in more arid climates.
- Traditionally, about 50% of the grapes used for wine produced here at the winery come from off the farm. Our goal is to increase the grape production on the property, ultimately filling the cellar to its capacity in 2016 when the young vines begin to yield fruit.
We need customers to come to the vineyard and buy our wines at retail. Not only do we earn a higher margin selling at retail, we enhance the experience of the wine drinker, creating value when they experience beautiful views and open space of the vineyards.
- Maintaining beautiful vineyards, a winery, and farmland requires great effort and expense.
- To be break-even in an environment where our production costs are higher, our yields are lower, and we incur great expense to maintain a showpiece farm, we need to build more into every customer transaction and have larger transaction amounts.
- We look to build more value into every customer transaction through farm tourism. Additionally, selling food raises the transaction amount of customers, helping us with much needed revenue.
- Pairing wine with food also provides a safer wine-drinking environment.
These changes will happen within the existing farm buildings. No additional buildings or any other change in operations is planned for our farm tourism efforts.
- We have done an extensive traffic study. Increased traffic to the winery will have minimal to no impact on the adjacent roads.
- All operations will take place inside the building and have no impact on the neighborhood.
In the past we have focused on larger outside events, typically under tents to increase farm revenue. We have been granted the right to perform eight of these events during the year, ending at 10pm. We understand and appreciate that these events have an impact on our surrounding neighborhood.
- For the future, we have decided to theme our eight outside events on the celebration of Connecticut farming. Our events will be a combination of public farm festivals and farm dinners, while others will be private weddings, or corporate gatherings, etc. These private events will be tightly monitored and themed on a farm to fork type dinner.
- We will limit the music volume to remain within the CT DEEP noise statutes and we will require outdoor music to end at 8pm.
- We have already made the change with our event team for all events next year and have engaged a sound engineer, acoustic engineer and have purchased sound monitoring equipment. We are working on sound abatement solutions to minimize our impact on the community. This effort will be ongoing and we recognize that changes may be necessary along the way as we gain more knowledge, experience and feedback from our events.
We hope our neighbors and the Town of Clinton will embrace these improvements and recognizes the progress we have made in response to the feedback we have received since June. Please come support us at the public hearing on Sept. 5 at 7pm in the Town Hall. If you have any questions on any of our proposals and would like to meet or talk with me personally, please call my cell at 860-304-4903.
Thanks for you time and support,
Editor's note: The continuation of Chamard Vineyard's public hearing regarding their application before the town's Planning & Zoning Commission takes place Wednesday, Sept. 5, 7pm, in the Rose Room (downstairs) at Clinton Town Hall.