Keith Bishop, co-owner and winemaker of Bishop's Orchards in Guilford, was honored this past Friday, December 7th, as the 2012 Connecticut Wineperson of the Year. The honor was celebrated at the 32nd Annual Awards Dinner of Amenti del Vino, a premiere wine society. The event was also supported by the Connecticut chapters of the American Wine Society.
"The nomination and award was a complete surprise to me," Bishop told Guilford Patch. "It is truly an honor." The Amenti Del Vino is a premiere wine society that was established in 1971. It's goal is to enhance and identify fine wines and give recognition to distinguished wine producers.
"The award really recognizes what we've done as a winery, and how much we've grown," Bishop explained about the award. "It also speaks to how active we've been in promoting the Wine industry here in the state."
Bishop himself has done much to grown the wine industry in Connecticut. It was his idea to start the winery at Bishop's back in 2005, and he was the leader in implementing the project. "We wanted to make sure we were able to provide customers with everything they needed here at the marketplace," Bishop explains. "I wanted to diversify our products, and since we already had the fruits, it seemed like a natural fit."
Bishop also was instrumental in establishing the Shoreline Wine Festival that began six years ago. The event is held on the farm's property every year, and brings together 8-12 other farm wineries in the area for tastings, music, food, entertainment and the opportunity for wineries to sell their wines by the bottle to visitors.
Bishop's Orchards has also racked up the wine accolades since they started up several years ago, winning countless awards for their wines and gaining a reputation for producing excellent wines. They have won awards in local, national and international competitions.
"We're unique in that we make all fruit wines," said Bishop. "Apple, peach and pear are our three core fruits, but we've also worked with blueberry, raspberry and strawberry, plus the hard cider we produce."
"We're purist here as well, in that all of our wine is made from fruit grown here on the farm," continues Bishop. "And nothing goes to waste. After production, whatever is leftover from the fruit is composted and delivered to local farms."
As far as wine production goes, Keith really takes it from start to finish. He acts as the chief wine maker at the farm, leading every aspect of it's creation before it's turned over to his marketing team.
"Before starting up the winery here I had limited experience in the field," said Bishop. "I've done course work and worked with a consultant to really grow my knowledge. As I learned more about the science of it, I started to grasp the understanding of the art behind it. This gets into what are the senses experienced when someone drinks the wine. What you do in production intentionally, or sometimes unintentionally, gives it those distinct characteristics that people experience."
One of Bishop's most popular wines was one that was originally a limited edition. "For the 135th anniversary of the farm six years ago, I produced a special wine called "1871," also known as Celebration," said Bishop. "It's a semi-sweet apple wine, and it was so popular we brought it back and it's on our shelves now simply as 'Celebration.'"
Another popular wine is their Honey Peach Melba, an apple wine with peach, honey and raspberry with a smooth finish. "The honey is even from local wild flowers," Bishop added.
Their hard cider is also picking up in volume and popularity. "When you're working with different varieties of apples, the science is very precise," Bishop continued. "It's important to get the right balance of flavors."
"We all have our own unique tastes when it comes to wine," Bishop shares. "Just because it has a gold medal on it, doesn't mean everyone is going to like it. There are so many possibilities and varieties out there, especially when you're working with blends."
What can we expect next from Keith and his team at Bishop's? "We're going to start working with sparkling wines more," he concluded. "We've already rolled out a sparkling peach, and now we're moving towards a sparkling raspberry, maybe even blueberry. Hopefully that will be out Spring of 2013."