“Wining and dining” on the New England coastline probably conjures images of fresh fish, clam boils and lobster bakes. What may be a surprise is that New England does a fine job with the “wine” part as well. Southern New England has a unique micro-climate that is conducive to producing certain types of wine – particularly white and sparkling.
The Southeastern New England Wine Growing Appellation (a region where grapes for wine are grown) stretches from Cape Cod through the southern coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. At the heart of this region lies the Coastal Wine Trail – nine wineries from North Truro, MA to Westerly, RI. Six of the nine – three in Rhode Island and three in Massachusetts – are right here in the bay.
Newport Vineyards in Middletown is a 60-acre vineyard on East Main Road (Rt. 138). Run by the Nunes family for several generations, grapes were first planted here in 1977. In addition to whites and reds, Newport Vineyards is known for its sparkling wines, dessert wines and hard ciders. The grounds include a sizable gift shop stocked with wine accessories, apparel, specialty foods, unique gifts and baskets. July events include “Shakespeare in the Vineyard:” on July 27 and 28, the Rhode Island Shakespeare Company will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the winery grounds. Patrons can bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy great acting, a beautiful setting, the sunset and – of course – wine by the glass. 909 East Main Road, Middletown. 401-848-5161
A five-minute drive east brings you to Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth. Located
along the Sakonnet River, Greenvale has 24 acres of grapes on a farm that has been in the same family since 1863. The property is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and the restoration of its 5,000 square foot Tasting Room – originally built as a stable in 1863 – has won awards for historic preservation and adaptive re-use. The vineyard holds Jazz Tastings every Saturday afternoon from May through November, where you can sample wines while listening to live music. 582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth. 401-847-3777
Crossing the Sakonnet River will bring you to Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton. Founded in 1975 and situated on 115 acres, the vineyard produces a variety of wines including specialty wines like Ice Wine, Port and an award-winning sparkling wine. Thursday evenings are Summer Music Nights, where live music accompanies wine tasting and light fare from the on-site Coop Café. 162 West Main Road, Little Compton. 401-635-8486
Continuing the eastward trek into Massachusetts is Westport Rivers. Owned and operated by the Russell family, the 80-acre vineyard features a company store and art gallery in a historic 19th century farmhouse. The Summer Sunset Music Series runs on Friday nights through September 7; live entertainment will be featured from 6-8pm as the sun sets over the vineyard. It’s a picnic-style event, so pack some food or buy it from Wayne Gibson’s South Coast Local, who will be serving up a variety of BBQ. 417 Hixbridge Road, Westport. 800-993-9695
The new kid on the block is Coastal Vineyards in South Dartmouth and the proprietors did not get the typical start in winemaking. Dave Neilson’s love for agriculture, manufacturing and wine spurred him and his wife, Linda, to start Coastal Vineyards in 2004. They found a 14-acre parcel that had been farmed with corn, and over the next several years they prepared the soil, planted vines and developed the necessary infrastructure. By late 2008, they had a full-functioning winery. The vineyard is located on a private road, so check the website for detailed directions before you go. 61 Pardon Hill Road, South Dartmouth. 774-202-4876
Running Brook in North Dartmouth rounds out the local leg of the tour. Azorean owners Pedro Teixeira and Manuel Morais founded the winery in 1998, although Manuel has “been planting grapes since 1975.” The vineyard grows a variety of grapes on eight acres in Dartmouth and thirteen in Westport. There is free live music every third Sunday of the month with the Mid-Life Crisis Band, and visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch. The Rhode Island Shakespeare Company will also be making an appearance here on July 13 and 14 with their presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 335 Old Fall River Road, North Dartmouth. 508-985-1998
As if the wine weren’t enough incentive to visit these fantastic vineyards, you could also win a prize. Pick up The Coastal Wine Trail Passport at any one of the wineries and have it stamped at each place you visit. Each stamp you collect will enter you in a higher-valued drawing, with eight stamps by the end of the year entering you in all four drawings, including one for a seven-night round trip from Boston to Bermuda on Norwegian Cruise Line. Summer is here, so get out there and explore.