Have you ever wanted to leap into something big, bold and life-changing? A Suffield couple recently did when they purchased Priam Vineyards in Colchester, Conn. On July 1, long-time Suffield resident Ryan Winiarski and his partner Meredith Lanoue took over the 40-acre vineyard and 20-year old winery business.
The pair had always dreamed of a life in agriculture, and a combination of the pandemic lock-down plus the right opportunity led them to Priam. When COVID forced Ryan to close the Hartford office of his advertising agency Checkoff, home confinement got to be too much, and he started looking for something other than sitting in front of a computer in a basement office. While building a website for a Texas company called BuonVinoCellars.com, who specialize in selling premium wines, Ryan thought about his younger years working on Christian Farms picking tobacco and later working with Copper Rock Farm doing hay, and how much joy being outside brought him. A quick Google search for “vineyards for sale in CT” led him to the sale of Priam.
Their first meeting with the sellers and their real estate agent, a standard 30-minute affair, turned into a 2-hour+ evening. They hit it off immediately; Meredith and Ryan knew they wanted to buy, and the sellers knew they were selling to a team whose vision matched and exceeded who they wanted to take over the 40-acre vineyard. After months of negotiations and due diligence, the pair are excited to now be taking over the property and business.
From the first day, Ryan has dived in as the General Manager, upgrading systems, remodeling the space and working with the existing staff—which includes a talented winemaker from South Africa, Ruann Viljoen, his assistant and estate manager, Gustavo Rodriguez-Savala, an event sales team led by Kristine Herold, and tasting room manager and one of the most welcoming people you will ever meet, Alaina Zorzi—to make the transition seamless. Between weddings, weekly concerts (which are now free to attend), comedy shows, private events, wine and food pairings, food trucks and managing daily operations (the tasting room is open Tuesday- Sunday from 11a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and later on nights with entertainment), and managing Checkoff clients, Ryan has had a full plate. After two months of splitting time between Colchester and Suffield, Ryan, Meredith and their 18-month old daughter, Scarlett, planned to move from Ryan’s childhood home on Bridge Street to their new home on the winery property at the end of August. Meredith, who assumed the role of Creative Director for Priam, continues to work her full-time job at WM and care for their daughter, squeezing in time for the business and helping Ryan as they take on this new adventure.
What does the future hold? The pair plan to continue producing and selling the brand’s 14 award-winning wines, but also expand production and increase distribution to package stores and restaurants across the state. You can already find them right here in town at Suffield Pizza! They plan to make upgrades to the property to expand the event space—allowing them to host more weddings and private functions, and also make it even more fun and enjoyable to visit the property.
There are plenty of public events planned this year, including an Oktoberfest festival, more concerts and Halloween fun for the family, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas fun on the calendar. “We are so excited for this new adventure and while we’ll miss the Suffield community, we hope everyone will come down and support us, enjoy a glass of wine, and spend the day with us on the vineyard.”