Albanian couple planting roots (and grape vines) in Newtown

April 16, 2019

NEWTOWN - An Albanian couple who want to put down roots in town think a hilly 40-acre property west of Sandy Hook is ideal not only for a home but a small winery.

Ardian Llomi and Neviana Zhgaba, who already have 7 acres of red and white grapes growing on their Pole Bridge Road property, are getting a mixed reaction from planners and neighbors, some of whom wonder how traffic for wine tastings would change the residential character of the neighborhood.

The couple says their goal is not to change the landscape of the neighborhood, west of Sandy Hook, near Interstate 84 Exit 11, but to create deeper community connections around wine making.

Ardian Llomi grew up in the Albanian countryside, where wine-making secrets were passed down through families and where fruticulture best practices were shared in the community, according to the couple’s website, Aquila’s Nest Vineyards.

“Having a glass of wine is the perfect excuse to bring people together with the goal of starting conversations and creating new ideas on how to better serve our community,” the couple writes on their website.

The idea, the couple says, is to “promote local art; talk about scientific discoveries and what their impacts are in our lives; encourage a healthy lifestyle by engaging with other local farms; organize activities for children to understand the value of the farming lifestyle and connect them to the outdoors.”

Among the grapes growing at the vineyard are classics such as cabernet franc, and cold climate hybrids bred in New York, such as Cayuga white.

The couple’s plans, if approved, would represent the only winery in Newtown. McLaughlin Vineyard in Sandy Hook operated for a generation until it closed in 2016.