Food & Drink

Crystal Ridge Winery: Sunset Views And Estate Wines In South Glastonbury

The love story of MaryAnn and Harry James lives behind the acres of vines, fruit orchards and the breathtaking sunset views on the hilltop property in South Glastonbury that’s now home to Crystal Ridge Winery.

The couple’s relationship began when they were 15 years old, and by the time they spotted the property at the top of Belltown Hill Road nearly 30 years ago, they had welcomed children, then grandchildren. MaryAnn fell in love with its scenic landscape.


The James family had been in the construction industry for years, said their son, Butch, and one day when he and his father were driving home from a project, Harry asked, “What do you think about making wine?”

In 2004, they worked with a consultant to choose and plant varieties of grapes that would withstand the cold New England climate: cabernet franc, Dornfelder, chardonnay, vignoles, pinot gris. In time, their wines piqued the interest of Glastonbury-area restaurants like Max Fish, Bricco Trattoria, 2 Hopewell and Rooftop 120, and they decided to build a tasting room to further highlight their products.


The family lost MaryAnn to cancer in 2016, but her adult children and grandchildren, determined to carry out their vision and honor her legacy, worked tirelessly to open the rustic-elegant tasting room in January 2018.

“It was all hard, and it was such a great feeling when it was finally finished,” says Joanie James Barron, one of the James’ daughters. “A peace and a calm came over everything, and it felt good for everybody. Everybody put so much of themselves into it on so many levels.”

Today many members of the extended family have designated roles in the winery’s day-to-day operations. Butch is a co-founder along with his father; his wife, Tina, and their adult daughters Brandee and Denyelle handle the tasting room and event planning. Joanie and her son, Dan Barron, handle the creative side of things, she says, including marketing and brand experience. Another James grandchild, Tyler Campise, works in field control.

The winery, in its first season, is attracting guests quickly, family members say.

“I think the experience here is basically more of that quiet, serenity feeling; you come up here and just enjoy the view and keep it relaxed,” says Butch James.

"People come up and their wording is, ‘It’s a little hidden gem,’ and it’s not going to be hidden for too long,” says Tina James.

FEATURED AND NOTEWORTHY WINES: Crystal Ridge’s estate vignoles is popular, a medium-bodied white with “refreshing flavors of grapefruit and lemon,” and its chardonnay, light-bodied and dry, is noted with “bright citrus, apple, pear, vanilla and oak flavors.” The Vineyard White wine, a blend of all the winery’s whites, is “not as sweet as the vignoles but not as dry as the chardonnay,” says Brandee James.

The winery’s St. Croix rosé is French-style, “not as sweet as you would expect,” Brandee says, and she describes the landot noir, dry and medium-bodied, as “more of an old-world style, very earthy.”


In an attempt to have wines that appeal to every drinker, Butch James says, they brought in cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes from California’s Suisun Valley, but Crystal Ridge’s estate cabernet franc has become a favorite among the red offerings. “Rich, smooth and well-balanced, this wine boasts flavors of blackberries, black currants, blueberries and red plums,” a description reads.

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Crystal Ridge plans to release three dessert wines later this year, including a blueberry port-style wine.

FOOD: Crystal Ridge allows guests to bring outside food and also sells “bistro boxes” of snacks from Heirloom Market in Old Wethersfield.

PRICING: Crystal Ridge offers two guided tastings: a lineup of five estate wines ($12) made from its own grapes and a reserve tasting ($15), featuring merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Wines are $8 to $15 by the glass and $25 to $57 by the bottle.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Guests enjoy entertainment and activities like live music, Latin dance classes and flower-arranging workshops, and Crystal Ridge regularly hosts private events, including showers, engagement parties, rehearsal dinners and corporate gatherings.

An Oct. 18 vintner’s dinner with Max Restaurant Group will feature Crystal Ridge wines alongside locally sourced cuisine. Tickets are $125, available on


TASTING ROOM HOURS: During July and August, Crystal Ridge is open Thursday and Friday, 4:30 to 8 p.m., Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Hours will change in the fall.

Crystal Ridge Winery is at 257 Belltown Road in South Glastonbury. 860-657-1004,