As mentioned, the East Bay is home to the oldest vineyard in New England: Sakonnet Vineyard, now known as Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard since it was purchased by Alex & Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian. Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard was started in 1975 and is probably the best known local winery to many Rhode Islanders. Ask any woman who grew up locally and odds are she’s been to at least one bachelorette party, if not more, at Sakonnet. Rafaelian’s purchase of Sakonnet saved it from possibly becoming housing plots in the very picturesque and desirable town of Little Compton, and for that, wine and agriculture in general should be thankful.
There’s been much growth and improvement at Sakonnet over the last few years. There’s now Carolyn’s Café on the property, which is open Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays from 11am–5pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 11am–6pm. The winery hosts Concert Series on some Saturday afternoons, and Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards through savvy marketing Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard is the Official Wine of the Boston Celtics. As has always been the case, the winery is host to many events, weddings, anniversaries and corporate functions, and is open seven days a week for tastings ($10/person) and complimentary tours.
In 2015, the vineyard will be celebrating its 40th anniversary and its current winemaker, Elaine Phipps, has been with Sakonnet for almost 20 of those years. Phipps started in the fields and worked her way up to winemaker under the tutelage of the previous Sakonnet winemaker, John Sotelo. Phipps works closely with the vineyard manager and has been responsible for all of the wine produced at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard for several years now.
The wines at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard run the range from the very fresh and crisp Vidal Blanc (current release 2011), to signature reds like the non-vintage Rhode Island Red – with a label designed by RISD students, along with several sweeter wines like the non-vintage Sirius, which is also 100% Vidal Blanc but comes across much more sweet-tart like a Moscato.
The Vineyard created a new white in 2013 named Blessed Blend, a blend of Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc that is a touch off-dry and is so named as the grapes were blessed by two Armenian priests. For the more traditional there is a 2011 Chardonnay Reserve which is barrel-aged in French oak for that heavier white style, and a 2011 Cabernet Franc which comes across with a lot of vegetables, pepper and spice.
162 W Main Road, Little Compton. 401-635-8486.