Crossing the Sakonnet River west we come to Aquidneck Island, home to two vineyards, one in Middletown and one in Portsmouth, both very tightly integrated into their communities as well as Newport tourism. Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth has been growing grapes since 1982. First the more traditional New England varieties Pinot Gris, Vidal Blanc, Cayhuga, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, and then in 1999 they planted Malbec on a higher elevation in the vineyard that wasn’t as close to the water. It’s warmer there, a different climate even on the same property, and Nancy Wilson, General Manager of Greenvale, says it’s ripening nicely. Three years ago they planted Albariño, a variety typically found in Spain. This fall is the first time the Albariño will be harvested and should be ready to bottle in 2016. Wilson says they like to change things around to keep things interesting.
Agri-tourism is very important to the business of running a winery and Greenvale is no exception. They host around 20,000 people a year at different events. They have jazz concerts every Saturday through mid-December, a Harvest Festival coming up in November and their annual Warm Up for Holidays in December. The farm is a gorgeous property and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Richard Carmichael is the winemaker at Greenvale Vineyards. Carmichael graduated from California State University, Fresno, one of the top Viticulture and Enology programs in the country, and worked in California and Virginia for many years until he came to Greenvale in 1997. Greenvale rents facilities from Newport Vineyards to produce their wines and their consistently producing more each year. They pick approximately two to three tons of grapes per acre with 80 tons picked this year and 65 tons in 2013, more than doubling the 35 tons picked in 2009.
Greenvale is probably best known for their white wines. Their Vidal Blanc is full of fruit and very crisp. The Chardonnay is French oak barrelaged for a fuller, more rounded flavor. Their Skipping Stone is a very popular, off-dry wine made from primarily the Cayhuga grape. Greenvale’s Cabernet Franc is made very much in a French style, barrel-aged with some Merlot added for a little smoothness. It shows how Rhode Island can produce red wines.
582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth. 847-3777