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The Cellar: Local Favorites for Summer

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Hurricane Irene did more damage to grapes than to Rhode Island's buildings, but the folks at Newport Vineyards weathered the storm. Photo: Newport Vineyards

Did you know that quality wine is made locally? Few people are aware that Southern New England has its own viticultural appellation, which runs from Cape Cod and the Islands, along the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island into Connecticut. The nine vineyards that make up the Coastal Wine Trial runs through the heart of this appellation with many of them located right here in Rhode Island. Over the course of the summer and fall I will continue exploring ‘The Trail’, but first an update from some vineyards I visited last year.

Hurricane Irene and the 2011 vintage

At one point the 2011 coastal grape growing season was shaping out to be one of the best on record. The conditions were near ideal with warm temperatures and plenty of sun, resulting in high yields and expectations of a stellar harvest and a great vintage. Then Hurricane Irene swept through in late August and everything changed. Not only was the storm devastating in itself, but the wet and sluggish September that followed essentially halted ripening. With the moisture came mold and mildew breaking a lot of winemakers' hearts across the region, especially the smaller operations that don’t employ all the latest winemaking technology.

Newport Vineyards

Like I said, some vineyards and wineries were hit harder than others. The folks at Newport Vineyards, the largest grower of grapes in New England, were among those that were affected the least. Besides from sustaining a little saltwater damage from all the salt Irene sucked up from the ocean and brought with it overland, the grapes faired pretty well. As a result, Newport Vineyards has produced yet another solid lineup of wines made from a long list of varietals. Their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc ($17) is a winner in my book with its racy acidity and distinct grapefruit flavors. The barrel-fermented 2011 Muscat Ottonel ($23) and the 2011 Moscato ($20), their first release of this wine, are worth checking out as well, so is their Rose made from Cabernet ($15) and their unfined and unfiltered Pinot Noir ($20).

Greenvale Vineyards

Greenvale Vineyards, located very close to the water, was hit hard by Irene. While the good weather early on brought high yields, which resulted in a lot of grapes, the lack of ripening in the end resulted in grapes with low sugar levels. Despite all the obstacles, winemaker Richard Carmichael is pleased with the overall 2011 vintage describing it as leaner with less pronounced fruit. On a more exciting note, Greenvale has just released their 2007 Cabernet Franc. This wonderful medium-bodied wine has 15% Merlot blended in it and has been aged 10 months in a mix of American and French oak. The extra couple of years in the bottle served the wine well, smoothing out the tannins bringing the red fruit and spice to the foreground. I suggest aerating the wine for an hour and enjoying it with game or poultry. Greenvale has recently planted the Albarino grape, indigenous to northwest Spain, in hopes of making a straight varietal Albarino in the next 3-5 years. That’s exciting! How does the 2012 growing season look? So far so good!

Newport and Greenvale Vineyards are located just 2.5 miles from each other on Aquidneck Island’s Route 138. If you haven’t been down here I suggest you pack a picnic basket and get moving.


Steffen Rasch CSW is ready to answer any wine-related questions, comments or concerns you may have. Feel free to email him at [email protected]. And as always, don’t forget to follow GoLocalProv’s Wine Cellar on Facebook and sign up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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