Jen Bonaventura and Chad Casey walk Wednesday through their vineyard, Bonaventura Vineyards, in Hartford, a “dry town.” Voters will decide Tuesday whether to allow alcohol sales in town. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

HARTFORD — Chad Casey and Jen Bonaventura have more than 1,000 grapevines growing at their fledgling vineyard in Oxford County. By fall, the mature grapes will be harvested and turned into wine.

The owners of Bonaventura Vineyard are facing one potential daunting roadblock that could scuttle their efforts and dreams — the town is still technically dry, because it has never held a vote to allow the sale of alcohol, Town Clerk Lianne Bedard said.

“There has never been a business in Hartford that has sold alcohol, so there’s never been a reason to vote on it,” Bonaventura added.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the town’s population is 1,203.

On Tuesday, Casey and Bonaventura are hopeful that voters will allow the vineyard to open a tasting room and sell its wine.

“For the most part, the feedback has been really positive,” Bonaventura said. “The residents like the fact that we’re going to be a small winery, only intending to make wines by grapes we produce here in Hartford.”


Voters will be asked five questions dealing with the potential sale of alcohol. Some questions involve the sale of wine, beer and liquor at licensed establishments from Monday through Saturday, and others cover the state’s old blue laws, which prohibit alcohol sales on Sundays.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall.

If residents approve the sale of alcohol, the vineyard will need to get its state and federal licenses before it can sell its wine and open a tasting room.

A row of grapes is marked with a handmade sign Wednesday at Bonaventura Vineyards in Hartford. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The couple purchased the 86-acre property in 2015 and immediately planted 300 grapevines. They have added more vines and different varieties of grapes each year, bringing the total number of vines to more than 1,000.

Bonaventura said it takes about five years before the grapes are ready and can be harvested to make wine.

“We’ve harvested the past three years and have bottled our own wine the past couple of years,” Bonaventura said. “Again, we can’t sell it yet, but we definitely had people — friends and family — try it.”


Bonaventura said her husband, Casey, is the winemaker.

“My husband grew grapes on a family property in Turner for a number of years and it was really his dream to have his own property where he could grow the grapes and produce wines from his own grapes,” she said. “I just got hooked on it through him. When we found this property, it had a lot of the characteristics that he was looking for. He’s been doing it for much longer and truly is the winemaker.”

The couple renovated an 1800 barn on the property for weddings and other functions. The barn will also be the future site of the wine tasting room, if residents approve the sale of alcohol.

Bonaventura Vineyards in Hartford includes an 1800 barn used as a wedding venue. The owners hope to also use it for a tasting room. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The two have reached out to residents by opening their farm and vineyard to let them know what they will be voting on.

“The feedback has been positive, a lot of support,” Bonaventura said. “We had an open house last month so we could invite Hartford residents to see. A lot of them had not been inside the barn or on the property. We wanted people to see the property, see the renovations, ask us questions.”

The town also recently held a public hearing with more positive feedback, which has the couple cautiously optimistic about Tuesday’s vote.

If approved, and once they obtain their licenses, Bonaventura Vineyard plans to join the Maine Winery Guild, which sponsors the Maine Wine Trail of nearly 30 wineries, cideries and tasting rooms throughout the state.

It would be Oxford County’s only stop on the Wine Trail.

Hartford residents will also elect a selectman Tuesday. Loando Brann, Susan Goulet and Clarence Hill are running for a vacant seat. Incumbent Lori Swan is not seeking reelection.

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