In case you haven’t heard, Newtown’s just got a new vineyard at the end of October! A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet owner Neviana Zhgaba and see the beautiful 41 acre farm that Neviana and her family have converted into a vineyard. Below she shares the story of Aquila’s Nest Vineyards and how she balances motherhood, working full-time, and her family’s business venture at Aquila’s Nest.
I know you’re living out of town right now, with plans to relocate to Newtown and build a home at Aquila’s Nest in the future. Can you share where you are originally from, where you live now, and how long have you owned the land that became Aquila’s Nest? How did you ever find this spot and decide on Newtown for your business location?
I’m originally from Albania and I moved to the US 12 years ago to start my Bachelors and then graduate with a Masters of Science from Fairfield University. We currently live in Naugatuck and plan to build a house in our property [in Newtown] very soon.
How do you balance motherhood, working full-time, and your family’s business venture at Aquila’s Nest?
It’s an extremely hard balance to strike at all times. I’m very fortunate to have a very strong support system at home, thanks to our parents and in-laws. My main priority during the day is my digital finance job, which I love and that I’m grateful to have had the support of great managers to grow in my career. My mother lives with us and helps with the boys’ distance learning, cooking and many other household activities. She has been very supportive while we drive the vineyard operations, and during the many times I’ve had to travel globally for my full time job. My mother-in-law came over from Albania to help out as well these first few months of the opening of the vineyard. It’s a family affair!
I’ve always been a very well organized person, as well as a night owl; that’s when I best focus on promoting and managing the vineyard’s virtual presence. I’m proud to have created an amazing team at Aquila’s Nest, where everyone understands the vineyard vision and contributes with their varied expertise in the winery operations. I try to focus on doing whatever I do best at all times, while relying on my family and my team on everything else, trying not to leave any gaps unfilled. Being a very energetic person by nature helps too :). I do wish I could have more time to work out, cook for the fun of it, and play more chess. #newyearsresolutions
Excelling in my career in Digital Finance will always be a top priority. As a woman in tech, I’ve invested so much into growing and becoming the professional I am today. We’ve loved every minute of seeing our sons roam free and grow up in the farm, and we look forward to seeing our community make memories in the vineyard.
Child(ren) and Age(s)?
We have two children, Alexander (7), and Eaven (5).
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
People are always surprised that I have two degrees in Software Engineering, I know six languages, and yet I’m very creative in artistic design and photography.
Favorite things to do with your family?
In the past 5 years our favorite activity to do with the family has been working and playing in our 41 acre farm. The ones that had the most fun while we built the vineyard and winery were our sons. They lived every little boy’s childhood dream: running around in grass and getting dirty in puddles, riding a tractor and pointing the water hose to every single thing they could manage to get wet (and shiny) including themselves and the big wheels of the excavator, chasing butterflies and all sort of insects, while learning a lot about how plants grow, how much work it takes to take care of them until you finally can see all the grapes hanging from the vines. They still have many more years left to taste the end product.
Favorite spot in Newtown?
Ferris Acres Creamery… I love their ice cream as much as I love our wines!
Can you share a bit about your vision for Aquila’s Nest? How did you develop the name, the brand, and the wines?
We envisioned our vineyard to be a place of inspiration and community connections, starting from our brand, the stories and Mediterranean historical/mythological figures our wines represent, the variety of the interior design conversational themes, to the wine experiences that we host with our local partners. Aquila’s Nest draws its meaning from our Mediterranean culture, family origins and personal interests. Ardian [Neviana’s husband & co-owner] and I both grew up in Albania, a country in the crossroads of Italian, Greek, Slavic and Turkish traditions. Ardian was raised in the Albanian countryside, where fruticulture and farming was part of everyday life.
Aquila’s Nest was inspired by mythological tales and our love for astronomy. All our wines are branded with the image of a constellation, the name of a woman drawn from an ancient Mediterranean myth, the inscription of a wisdom Latin phrase translated in English in the back of the label, as well as a customized design of the story that brings all these elements together.
Through our wines we aim to share ancient Mediterranean stories. In the winery you will peek at the constellations. At the vineyard we hope to inspire our community with myths of the past and stories of the present over a glass of wine, gathered around an intimate fire pit under the bright blue or starry sky.
Can you tell us about what you have planned for the holiday season?
Apart from our wine gift packages, we have partnered with various local small businesses to create weekly experiences for our community. We are hosting Decadent ChocolateTastings with Castle Hill Chocolate, Wine and Deserts Pairings with Loree’s Fine Food, Truffles Tasting infused with our Merlot wine by Sweet Pea Farm, Wine and Oyster Tastings with Lucas Oyster Bar, Wine Tastings at Reverie Brewing, Holiday Cork, Craft and Unwine with Celebrations Out Front, a Paint your Pet Wine Glass event with Annie’s Art Party, Stretch and Sip Unwine Yoga with Klear Greatness Yoga and Wellness, Sip, Salt and Unwine with the Newtown Yoga Center, Paint and Sip with Painted by the Shore. We host a community Piano Soirée every Friday, where anyone from our local community who would like to play our baby grand piano is welcome to do so. Every Saturday and Sunday we have live music in the afternoons as well.
Last question, I know this is going to be a tough one…What’s your favorite Aquila’s Nest wine?
Tough question indeed, it really depends on the time and weather of the day, the food you’re pairing the wine with, and also the mood you’re in. This week my favorite has been the Queen of Illyria Red Blend. It’s a bold, dense red wine, full of those “good for you” tannins. I’ve found myself sipping it by the wood stove late at night after we’ve wrapped up the day at the winery.
Aquila’s Nest Vineyards is located at 56 Pole Bridge Road in Sandy Hook with the following hours: Thursday & Friday 5PM – 8PM, Saturday 11AM – 8PM, and Sunday 11AM – 6PM. Indoor reservations required on weekends, and are two hours long, starting with a private group tour of the vineyard. and can be booked here. Thursday and Friday indoor seating, as well as outdoor seating is first come, first serve. Outdoor fire pits and heaters are lit at all times. Holiday wine gift packages are available for preorder as well as contact-less pick-up in the winery. For more information visit aquilasnestvineyards.com for follow along on Facebook & Instagram for the latest news.
All photographs by Kori Andrea Photography.
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