If last Saturday’s crowds were any indication, Westport’s third annual wine festival has become June’s hot new destination for the young and fashionable. Gaggles of 20-something women in maxi dresses (or short-shorts and platform heels worthy of a couture runway) strode confidently up to vendor tables at the Westport Fair Grounds, hipster boyfriends in tow, empty glasses in hand.
They joined the sensible shoe-wearing set, ready to taste pours from ten participating wineries from Southeastern New England’s Coastal Wine Trail. The festival, renamed the Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate Market, is hitting its stride and attracting new, younger fans. The same goes for the wines on offer.
If you have a predilection for sweet, you have plenty to choose from. Vidal blanc — that cold-hardy, New England-loving grape — appeared on the tables of most producers who hail from Cape Cod, the southern coast of Masachusetts, coastal Rhode Island, and Connecticut. From syrupy to admirably balanced with acid, there is plenty of this white to go around.
But we think the drier styles of wines really show off what local vinegrowers and vinters can coax from our region’s short growing season.
An unoaked (or “barrel-free”) chardonnay made by Stonington Vineyards, near Mystic, Connecticut, is fresh and appley, a refreshing quaff that shows craft and intelligence in the glass. Chardonnay also teams up with vidal blanc in a lovely white blend called “Blessed,” made by Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard in Little Compton, R.I. Massachusetts’ own Westport Rivers poured a chardonnay and a riesling -- both spot-on, varietally precise, and delicious — as well as a perky prosecco-like libation called Farmer’s Fizz, packaged in a brown beer bottle. And summer would not be complete without a pinot noir rose from Travessia Urban Winery in New Bedford. The label says “medium-dry,” wine-speak for a hint of residual sugar. It offers fruitiness rather than soda pop sugariness, a winner in our book.
Massachusetts wine enthusiasts know that most of these local bottles, made in small quantities, can be tough to find in Boston wine shops. Fortunately, you’ll see some on offer at farmers’ markets throughout the Greater Boston area. But the blue-sky days of summer practically beg city folk to get on the road and visit these wineries in person. They are closer than you think.
Just don’t trip over the fashionistas prettying up the trail.
Coastal Wine Trail of Southeastern New England, www.coastalwinetrail.com.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at email@example.com.