Fall foliage, Fenway Park and Cape Cod quickly come to mind when I think about New England. Wine, not so much.
Yet I have become aware that there are some good quality wines produced right here in New England. Westport Rivers is probably the most notable New England wine, particularly for their top-notch sparkling wines that are reported to have been served at the White House. We’ve had a chance to visit there as well as Sakonnet in Rhode Island and Truro Vineyards in Cape Cod. Nice not to have to travel all the way to California to visit a winery!
When Anne and Frank proposed a New England theme for the next wine tasting gathering, it sounded like a great chance to get to know more about our local wines. In these times when we’re increasingly conscious of the 2,000 miles our food items travel on average to get to us, sampling from local vineyards seemed especially appropriate. I have to confess, though, I anticipated the local wine would be a notable dropoff from say the Pacific Northwest or Spanish wine tastings we’d participated in. While I wouldn’t make a claim New England wines should be compared with the world’s great wine producing regions, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality and diversity of the wine. And perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was that I wound up liking a red the best of what we sampled, despite New England’s cool climate generally being more suited to whites.
Here’s the run down of what we sampled:
Newport Vineyard Great White was a popular choice–I was one of three who brought this bottle. It was the only New England wine made from grapes where I first stopped, and I couldn’t bring myself to buying the blueberry wine. This was actually quite good–refreshing, slightly sweet white. No one was complaining that there were 3 bottles on hand. Apparently the grapes in this wine are a state secret, no mention anywhere I can find online, guessing they blend the white grapes they have on hand. But a pleasant summer sipping wine for under $10 is a good find nonetheless!
2005 Running Brook Unoaked Chardonnay Still had a bit of butter in the taste though it had the unoaked label. Pleasant enough drinking wine to accompany the appetizers. We also sampled their Sauvignon Blanc, which was a bit on the tart side. If you’re going to try something from this winery I’d recommend the chard. They are based in North Dartmouth, MA.
2003 Westport Rivers Brut Cuvee Always a hit in my book, they make a nice, clean somewhat dry sparkling wine. This bottle brought by another guest was no exception and was definitly one of the top wines of the night. I’d actually wanted to bring one of their sparkling wines–definitely their strong suit–but could only find their Pinot Gris. I wound up sampling the Pinot Gris a bit out of order so might not be a fair taste, but definitely would say it doesn’t match up to what they do with the sparklers.
Turtle Creek Zinfandel My tasting notes say “A bit of spice, though rather thin, didn’t compare well to the full-bodied fruitiness of a California zin.” Interestingly, I found later that the grapes were sourced from Amador County, California. It looks like this Lincoln, MA, based winery grows their own Chardonnay, Cab Franc and Syrah, outsources other grapes like the zin.
Sakonnet Cock of the Walk Red This interesting blend included two grapes I hadn’t tried or heard of before– Lemberger & Chancellor–along with the more familiar Cab Franc. A medium bodied red with some complexity and a bit of spice, it showed that it is possible to produce a quality red wine here in New Englad! Went nicely with the grilled ribeye steaks that were served for the main course.
Truro Vineyards Cranberry Red Yes, this one blends red grapes with a bit of cranbery flavor. I was skeptical, but it was fairly tasty and I could see it being a natural for Thanksgiving. Fitting for a winery on Cape Cod to add cranberry to the mix, given that it is a signficant cranberry growing area.
Not to worry, there was food to go with all this wine being sampled. Our hostess Anne is a quite a cook, starting us off with her signature grilled pizzas and a great array of cheeses. The main course was grilled steak along with several varieties of salad–pasta, green salad and potato. And a wonderful spread of desserts!
We sampled quite a few New England wines at this tasting, but there are actually many more producers we didn’t try. Here’s a link to a site where you can find wineries throughout the six New England states. So in this age of the locavore, it is possible to drink well locally here in New England.