A tour of New England’s coastal wineries
Wine-lovers, you don’t have to trek to Italy, France, or Napa to enjoy a great grape. Coastal New England’s maritime climate and unique soil conditions can produce some outstanding grapes, yielding wines with complex flavor and a terroir all their own. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed wine snob or just a fan who wouldn’t know a red from a white, grab a pal for a trip to taste some of the best wine in the region.
Note that these vineyards — and others — belong to a network of wineries, the Coastal Wineries of Southeastern New England. You can grab a passport at any vineyard, and get “stamped” at each participating winery you visit. No pat-downs, no luggage check. If you want, accumulate stamps for a raffle entry, or just sip the wine and enjoy.
Set on some 75 acres of preserved farmland on Aquidneck Island, the family-owned Newport Vineyards is something out of a postcard or a wedding album. The vineyard yields award-winning wines, and knows how to pair them with locally-sourced fare served at the Vineyard Cafe or its upscale dining restaurant, Brix. Try an estate Sauvignon Blanc with a local farmhouse chèvre and tomato tart with basil oil and local field greens; or their Pinot Noir with a Not Your Mama’s BLT with house-cured bacon. At Brix, the vineyard’s more upscale restaurant, both the wine and food menus are extensive, and there’s even a separate cheese menu. You might pair smoked duck breast with an estate Riesling, or filet mignon with Gemini Red. Tours and tastings daily; cafe and Brix closed Sundays and Mondays. Menus subject to change. 909 East Main Road, Middletown, R.I. 401-848-5161. www.newportvineyards.com.
In nearby Portsmouth, R.I., family-owned Greenvale Vineyards is a stunning swath of historic farmland by the Sakonnet River, with some 30 acres in cultivation. The tasting room is a renovated barn, dating back to the 1860s. Go Saturdays for live jazz, and feel free to bring your own picnic. Pack cheese or something spicy to pair with the popular Skipping Stone, a refreshing aromatic white with a crisp, floral nose. Open daily. 582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth. 401-847-3777. www.greenvale.com.
Drive past the rolling green farmland and lichened stonewalls of Little Compton, R.I., to find Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, 163 picturesque acres, with some 33 acres in production. The coastal farm winery has produced quite a few award-winners, including Blessed Blend Red — a medium-bodied blend of Cabernet Franc, Lemberger, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, offering notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, and oak — and the 2013 Expedite Happiness — a light-bodied, un-oaked Chardonnay with aromas and flavors of citrus, green apple, and gooseberry. The café offers an extensive menu for pairings — from butternut squash tortellini and steamed pork dumplings to artichoke goat cheese grilled flatbread. Check online for details about cooking classes and live music. Open daily. 162 West Main Road, Little Compton, R.I. 401-635-8486. www.sakonnetwine.com.
The family-owned Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery in Westport is a charming, 80-acre vineyard set on a 435-acre farm. Go Saturdays for live music through Sept. 10. Feel free to bring your own basket and picnic. You might pair roast turkey with the Riesling, or grilled fish with the Pinot Noir Rose. Toast with Farmers Fizz — a sparkling prosecco-style rosé, full of strawberry, cherry and pomegranate, and traces of grapefruit, floral, and mineral. Tastings every day but Sunday, tours Saturdays. Closed Sundays. 417 Hixbridge Road, Westport. 508-636-3423. http://www.westportrivers.com.
Saltwater Farm Vineyard in Stonington, Conn. is a popular wedding spot, and for good reason: It’s breathtaking. The tract of farmland traces its history back to the 1600s, but the winery itself is a converted World War II-era airport hangar. The tasting room overlooks acres of vineyard and a preserved grass air landing strip. Try the estate Chardonnay, described as firm, clean, and vibrant with notes of citrus fruit and crisp Granny Smith apple. Or the 2013 Cabernet Franc/Merlot Blend, described as a dry, rich red with flavors of black cherry, currant, and dark chocolate. Open Wednesday to Sunday, with reservations required for Saturdays. 349 Elm St., Stonington, Conn. 860-415-9072, www.saltwaterfarmvineyard.com.
About 15 miles from the Long Island Sound, the 60-acre Preston Ridge Vineyard sits on a ridge overlooking a stunning backdrop of countryside. Nosh on Food Truck Fridays, and rock to live music on Fridays and Sundays. Bring your own picnic to pair, perhaps, with a bottle of Fieldstone White, a crisp, refreshing blend, made primarily from cayuga grapes, with citrusy undertones, or a 2012 estate Cab Franc, aged in French oak. Tastings Friday through Sunday. 100 Miller Road, Preston, Conn. 860-383-4278. www.prestonridgevineyard.com.