Food Interview

Rosé All Day at Westport Rivers

Fourth-generation winemaker Bill Russell raises a glass to summer sipping

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Wine, to Bill Russell, is a way of life. It weaves together his family, his profession, his past, present and future. So when a new cuvée at Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery comes along, there is cause to celebrate. “The Mayflower is only the second sparkling rosé we’ve made,” says Bill, proudly. “It’s not very often we bring out something new.”

Westport Rivers’ Mayflower was conceptualized nearly 10 years ago by the Russell family, including Bill’s parents, Bob and Carol. They founded the farm in 1982 and planted the first grapes there on what today encompasses 80 acres of grape vines (on a 400+ total acre farm) with Bill’s brother Rob, who now runs the farm. “They take a tremendous amount of thoughtfulness,” explains Bill of sparkling wines, of which Westport now boasts six among the winery’s plentiful vintages. Some rosés, he says, can take more than 20 years to come to fruition.

The newest Westport wine, says Bill, is made with the same trio of classic Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The vineyard’s idyllic locale on the South Coast makes for enviable growing conditions, which have been said to resemble France’s Loire Valley with its nearby river, rich soil, adequate drainage and manageable rainfall. The enviable continental climate here is favorable to viticulture and undoubtedly enhances the terroir of every Westport Rivers varietal.

The first-ever sparkler in the winery’s repertoire was the “RJR” Brut Cuvée (named for Bill’s father, Robert J. Russell). Aromatic to the nose with a crisp, clean finish, the label features a drawing of “The Sacred Cod,” the famed carved-wood effigy of an Atlantic codfish that hangs in the Massachusetts State House. It’s also an homage to a shared family pastime. “Dad is an avid fisherman. My brother and I grew up fishing with him on Buzzards Bay,” Bill says. (Hence, the name of their other operation, Buzzards Bay Brewing.)

Westport Rivers’ Blanc de Blancs, a Brut, is dry, lean and emanates aromas and flavors more easily detectable than the other Champagne-Method offerings. The Blanc de Noirs is a pink vintage sparkler with notes of berry laced with orange rind, mango and peach tea.

The Farmers Fizz is a prosecco-style rosé bursting with strawberry, cherry and pomegranate. The sparkling version of Westport Rivers’ estate-grown Pinot Noir, this is the new red label Pinot Noir version of the popular Farmers Fizz yellow label made from Chardonnay grapes. All of these sparklers, says Bill, add something special to even the most mundane day. “Sparkling wine gives your day a lift,” he explains. “I use wine as an excuse to slow my day down.”

Sparkling wine is also an ideal gifting wine, adds Bill, pointing to its vast pairing flexibility and keen presentation. “It dresses things up,” he says. Plus, rosés are the perfect pairing wine because of “how damn food friendly they are.”

Summer has always been unofficial rosé season, and though it seems the wine is more popular than ever (there’s no shortage of rosé swag on the market, from graphic t-shirts to “Rosé All Day’” sneakers), it’s long been a summertime staple in Europe, says Bill. Here in the U.S., Bill theorizes that rosé’s signature pink hue has long suggested to consumers that it’s a sweet wine, when that’s simply not the case. “There’s been a shift in that thinking,” he says, describing rosé as “a white wine with a red wine attitude.” Cheers to that.

Westport Rivers Winery
417 Hixbridge Road, Westport
508-636-3423