Rhode Island Wine and Waterfalls

A few months ago I found an article online guiding the reader through a day trip through Rhode Island that included a little hiking, several waterfalls, and various vineyards along the way. I love all of those things, so I texted my best friend Angi, we picked the date of Sunday, October 7, 2018 to go on said day trip, and we patiently awaited a new adventure. Neither of us are strangers to RI wineries in general, as we spend every 4th of July weekend in Newport, RI, followed by a day touring the RI portion of the Coastal Wine Trail. The vineyards and wineries more inland, however, were brand new to us.

The weather report wasn’t looking spectacular for our day trip, so we decided to forgo the waterfalls portion of the day and simply “do wine.” Truth be told, I’m glad it ended up this way, as it allowed more time for an extra winery visit than we had planned.

Leyden Farm Vineyards & Winery

Ang and I hopped in the car and drove about an hour south of my house, where we’d start our day at Leyden Farm Vineyards & Winery. First, let me start by saying the drive from Worcester, MA to West Greenwich, RI was simply beautiful. Rustic homes and farms, one pumpkin stand right after another, lots of small town charm, long winding back roads, and foliage that was just starting to glow. The drive itself with no destination at all would have been worth it, but alas, much wine awaited us.

Ang and I each bought a tasting, and then were instructed to go out back, choose to sit wherever we wished, and then go up to the tasting bar for each of our five selections. They had quite a bit of fruit wines, which Angi chose to taste. I tend to stay away from the sweeter styles and fruit wines when there are other options, so I went for their dry white and four dry reds, which included a Sangiovese, Merlot, “Romeo’s Red” (a blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Landot Noir), and a Pinot Noir. I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty certain not all of these grapes are estate grown, as many of them struggle to grow in our New England climate. What I found odd was that every single red I sampled was exactly the same bright ruby red. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Merlot such a bright shade of ruby. I should have asked more questions, but to be honest, I just wanted to taste some wine and enjoy a relaxing day with my bff! Sometimes I really need to force myself to draw the line between tasting wine for work and tasting wine for pure enjoyment. This day was for enjoyment.

What I did love was that several of their labels were pictures of dogs, and some of the wines were even named after their dogs. I think we all know how I feel about dogs! #dogmom

We enjoyed our wine on the quaint patio overlooking what appeared to be a Christmas tree farm and a lake with a fountain in the distance. It has a beautiful atmosphere and is a wonderful place to enjoy a relaxing day with people you love. We certainly could have stayed for a while and made ourselves comfy for a few hours, but there were other vineyards to see and wines to taste, so we got back in the car to head about 30 minutes north to Johnston, RI.

Verde Vineyards

Another stunning drive through winding New England back roads, and we arrived at Verde Vineyards, and incredibly quaint and rustic farm winery.  Of course the first thing I did upon arrival was hop out of the car and squeal with delight over the backyard chickens running about. I have this weird thing for birds. I love them. LOVE THEM! Chickens, ducks, turkeys, and of course parrots (I am a parront to two macaws, after all). Living in the city, I don’t really have the yard space to own my own chickens and ducks, but mark my words, when I eventually move out to the country, that’s one of the first things on my to-do list. Get chickens! Okay, back to the wine…

Before we even reached the tasting room entrance we were pleasantly greeted by two gentlemen, one of which was the owner, Giacomo (Jim) Verde. Sadly for us, they were completely sold out of white wines, so we were only able to taste the two reds. For $3 per tasting, you can’t really complain, and good for them for creating a product people love enough to buy out! Jim was proud to explain to us that Yankee Magazine had called him “the greenest vineyard in New England,” and not because his last name means green in Italian, but because his energy bill is $0. The farm creates all of their own energy. Angi and I truly enjoyed their reds, so we each walked out purchasing a bottle of St. Croix, a hybrid grape, that we will open during our annual Friendsgiving dinner and share with our closest friends. This vineyard was a charming farm that would be a delightful place to spend an entire day. Pack a picnic, grab some friends and family, head over to Verde Vineyards, buy a bottle, and just enjoy the small town feel. You won’t regret it.

It was suggested by the guys at Verde Vineyards that we add an additional winery visit to our day, and who are we to ignore a great recommendation? Back in the car it was for a quick drive north to the town of Chepachet, RI.

Mulberry Vineyards

I truly can’t get over the simple rustic beauty of every vineyard we visited. The moment we pulled up to Mulberry Vineyards, both of us fell in love. The owner, David Wright, was crushing Merlot grapes, and his wife Melissa was upstairs working the tasting bar, where she greeted us with a huge smile and warm welcome.

The Wrights are truly “living the dream.” They own and operate this gorgeous piece of vineyard property, and produce some truly delicious wines. Like most vineyards in New England, they do source their grapes from other areas of the country that are better suited for growing, and the result is some seriously high quality wines.

Alongside our tasting, Melissa gave us a little plate of the Merlot grapes David was crushing. I find this fascinating, to taste the grape at the exact brix and acidity level the winemaker desires to create the perfect wine. I thought this was such a great touch to add to the experience. The Merlot was fabulous, by the way, and I walked out purchasing a bottle to take home and enjoy.

Tavern On Main

After three fabulous wineries, we were starving, so on the way to our next winery we passed by what looked like a quaint tavern to have lunch. We had no idea what we were walking into. Usually we’ll take a moment to look up a menu online, assess the wine list, all that jazz. Not this time. We wanted to just pick a random place by the looks of it and see what we could find. Wow, were we glad we did. Tavern On Main in Chapachet, RI is one of those hidden gems you want to revisit as often as possible.

You never know what to expect on a wine list in a small town bar or grille. Actually, I take that back. I usually expect the wine list to be full of mass produced, cheap crap wine. Ang and I were pleasantly surprised to see their wine list contained two wines from the very vineyard we had just left, Mulberry Vineyards! I ordered a glass of red, Ang ordered the white, and we thoroughly enjoyed a glass of high quality, locally made wine. In addition, the menu blew us away. The menu was so diverse and had such enticing selections, it took us a bit of time to narrow it down and figure out what we wanted. The decision got a lot easier once I realized they had a seafood dish that was 100% lobster, crab, and butter. No bread crumbs, no carbs, just pure keto-friendly savory goodness. Ang and I started by splitting a bowl of steamers, and then I savored that lobster/crab/butter dish like nobody’s business. Heaven!

Purple Cat Winery & Brewery

Our final destination for this awesome day was a block or two down the road from the tavern, Purple Cat Winery & Brewery. This place is just plain fun. There was live music as we walked in, and people were enjoying tasting flights of both wine and craft beers. As if we didn’t eat enough delicious business at the tavern, for some reason I felt the need to order a charcuterie plate to enjoy with my tasting flight. I’m glad I did, as it was the perfect compliment to the nine or so wines we were able to taste, and it helped me stay away from the bowl of non-keto friendly CheezIts.

After the tasting, we decided to close the day by ordering a glass, relaxing on one of the several comfy couches, and kick our feet up. They closed at 6pm, we were still there at 6:20 (ooops), so we figured we overstayed our welcome and headed back home. Purple Cat was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed their “Trolly Car” red blend, which is what I ended up ordering by the glass.

And That’s A Wrap…

When we think about great wine regions of the world, Rhode Island isn’t one of them. In fact, no where in New England comes to mind. Despite that, what I have found is that we are incredibly fortunate to be home to many wonderful rustic farm wineries, some bigger commercial wineries, and some that are just plain fun. I don’t expect a big, bold California style Cab when I visit our local wineries, nor do I expect a grassy New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. What I do expect is a unique flavor, some great blends, perhaps some unexplored hybrids, a few fruit wines here and there, and truly something to be proud of. New England has it all, and wineries, vineyards, and amazing cuisine are at the top of the list. We don’t need to compete with the Finger Lakes or California, that would be ridiculous. But we can stand on our own when it comes to local flavor and charm, and appreciate it for exactly what it is.

Vineyard Hopping on the Coastal Wine Trail in CT!

On Sunday, May 24, Dennis and I decided to visit some Connecticut wineries on the Coastal Wine Trail we hadn’t been to before. Vineyard hopping is something we really enjoy doing, and it was a gorgeous, sunny, eighty degree day here in New England, so what could possibly be more fun?

We drove a little over an hour from Worcester, MA and arrived at the first winery of the day, Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington, CT.

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It is $15 per person to taste seven of their wines. We ended up getting the tasting for free because I work for a local winery in Massachusetts, and they extended an “industry courtesy.” Awesome! So we selected our wines and got to tasting!

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We started with the 2012 Estate Pinot Gris. This was a really nice wine with plenty of pear and apple on the palate. Next up was their 2012 Estate Chardonnay. It was very strong with oak, which is fine with me. I like a well done oaked Chardonnay! There was still plenty of lemon citrus on the palate. Next we tasted the 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay. This wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged in oak. I loved this wine. It had plenty of green apple notes and was quite smooth. Much less oak was apparent than the Estate Chard. The fourth wine we tasted was the 2013 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This I loved! It showed a nice amount of citrus on the palate, but a lighter more subtle style of grapefruit, not the New Zealand style. Moving onto the reds, we next tasted the 2012 Napa Valley Merlot. This surprised the heck out of me. It was much more tannic than your typical Merlot and had a great deal of oak. I’m not a big fan of Merlot, but this I liked because it was much more powerful than your typical Merlot. To finish off the dry reds, we tasted the 2013 Lodi Zinfanel. I have to be honest, I didn’t like this one at all. I am a HUGE fan of Lodi Zin, but this one was very bitter for the varietal and lacked the jamminess typical of a Zin. Finally, we finished the tasting with their dessert wine, called Dark. This was their 2012 vintage from Napa Valley, and is a Petite Sirah infused with brandy and aged for 3 years. This was pretty nice for an infused dessert wine, which I’m not usually a fan of.

We decided to each get a glass and wander around the vineyard to enjoy the beautiful weather. I got a glass of Pinot Gris, and off we went!

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Next stop… Saltwater Farm Vineyard in Stonington, CT.

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This is such a pretty winery and vineyard. The winery part is an old restored WWII-era private airport. We each did a tasting (which they also gave us complimentary because I work for a local vineyard) of their four wines. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was absolutely lovely. It is half estate grown, half Long Island grapes. It had a really nice crisp citrus flavor with a finish of tropical fruit. The second wine we tasted was the 2013 Estate “Gold Arc” Chardonnay. These grapes were fuly estate grown and aged in French Oak. Next, the 2013 Cabernet Rose, which is 100% Cabernet Franc. These grapes are partially sourced from Palmer Vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island in Riverhead, NY. This tasted extremely watered down. I expected more from a Rose Cab Franc. Finally, we tasted the 2013 Pinot Noir. This was Dennis’s favorite of the four. Some of these grapes were also sourced from Long Island. There were very obvious notes of leather (which I love in a red), but it was extremely acidic for a Pinot Noir. It was barrel aged for one year. Once again, we bought a glass of wine each and went to explore this stunningly beautiful vineyard!

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Our last winery of the day, we headed to Stonington Vineyards in Stonington, CT, which sits on 58 acres of beautiful land.

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By this point, we had already visited 2 other wineries, tasted 11 wines, and had 2 full glasses of wine each. The palate was a bit compromised at this point, lol. We tried each of their wines, but I’ll be damned if I remember any of them! Apparently I didn’t even take notes here, like I did at the other two vineyards! LOL I do recall them being pretty good, and I especially recall the staff at the tasting bar being incredibly nice. Sorry I don’t have more detailed info reviewing this vineyard, but I guess that’s an occupational hazard. lol

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To wind up our day, we dined out for dinner and enjoyed some fantastic New England seafood before we headed back home. These vineyards were all beautiful with great wines, and we look forward to going back this summer to enjoy some live music and/or a picnic! If you live in the CT/RI/MA area, I highly suggest visiting these beautiful vineyards!

Cheers!
Missa
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