The Russell family keeps adding reasons for you to visit Westport. Having opened a taproom at their Buzzards Bay Brewery last year, they are now opening a wine bar, at Westport Rivers Winery. What was once office space has been transformed into the Russell Gallery Wine Bar where you can sample wine by the glass. Bill Russell, the younger son in the family operation, says it will be baby steps as they get going; for now they are open Fridays and Saturdays from 5-8pm.
The winery – noted for the quality of their sparkling wine in particular – will pair their wine for tasting at the bar with some simple foods from local producers: Pain D’Avignon bread, crackers from Effie’s Homemade and cheese from Shy Brothers Farm as well as Westfield Farm in Hubbardston. The new spaces will give Westport the opportunity to expand operations, especially with regard to interactive education. With their new space, Westport Rivers is looking to do wine classes, which Bill says will “engage people with wines, and compare and contrast varietal styles, both locally and globally.”
Bill explains that these classes represent more of a return to form than a completely new project: “We were running a food and wine education center with farm-to-table dinners back in the ‘90s, but the whole locavore thing hadn’t really popped yet; we were a lone voice in the wilderness.” When the head chef at that time became pregnant and decided to retire, they converted the space they were using for the center into a home for their parents. “We’ve been thinking about ways of getting back into this ever since,” Bill says, and with the new wine bar space, they’ve found one. With times changing as they have in the food world, the public ought now be far more receptive, and they also have far more local partners to work with. “It wasn’t like this before,” he explains. “There have been so many new farmers coming into the local area doing small-scale biointensive agriculture.”
If that terminology sounds complicated, consider its simpler meaty manifestation. On Thursdays from 4-7pm, their Buzzards Bay Brewery does a BYOG (bring your own grillables) where they open up the grill to whatever the public brings, and they of course provide the beer. Round the Bend Farm out of South Dartmouth often comes by and sells their sausages. Indeed, within a five-mile radius around the winery, Bill proudly says he can get stripers, littlenecks, local meats and, of course, their own wine and beer. It’s no longer such a wilderness.
Like we’ve seen with their facilities, the Russells do not stand still with their drink. They recently rolled out a prosecco-style called Farmers Fizz for the summer. It’s made from three clones of chardonnay, a pinot gris and a pinot blanc and is unconventionally bottled in 650mL tallboys normally used for beer. Perhaps you can try it with musical accompaniment at the Sunset Music Series, a picnic style event from 6-8pm every Friday and some Saturdays, where you can watch the sunset over the vineyard while eating a revolving variety of South Coast local food, with clambakes from Compton Clambakes & Cater ing and Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms providing a raw bar. 417 Hixbridge Road, Westport. 508-636-3423.
Comings and Goings in Warren: Kate Dickson and husband Brian O’Donnell have purchased the site of the Cheese Plate on State Street, and are aiming to reopen it as Bywater at the end of the summer. The purchase puts to bed the unsettled turnover of owners at the Cheese Plate. Kate and Brian are also owners of the Wooden Midshipman in Warren, a local art and craft gift shop that they will continue to run. They are looking to serve New England coastal cuisine and, in keeping with both the Wooden Midshipman and Kate’s work on Discover Warren, the focus will be on local, seasonal food. 54 State Street, Warren.
McBlarney’s County Tap takes root in the former Fat Belly’s location in Warren. Opened in April, they boast live music and a menu as expansive as their event-capable interior and beer garden. They don’t have a Blarney Stone, but what they do have is 28 beers on draught, which can apply similar effects. 632 Metacom Ave, Warren. 401-289-0887.