The French philosopher and novelist, Albert Camus, once said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” And the second spring that paints New England’s countryside each fall remains second to none. Thousands flock to New England annually to bask in autumn’s glow while locals gather their families to converge on apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and harvest festivals. And within the postcard-perfect villages and painted, rolling hills of southeastern New England lies a little-known collection of flourishing vineyards.
The Coastal Wine Trail softly meanders from the coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Fourteen wineries and vineyards dot the trail, embracing the fertile soil and warm gulf streams of coastal New England. And fall is the perfect time to explore this coastal wine country. The summer crowds are gone and the splendor of the changing leaves are in full effect in this undiscovered haven. Here’s a taste of some of the wineries found on The Coastal Wine Trail.
Greenvale Winery – Portsmouth, Rhode Island
A canopy of cheery oranges and brilliant yellows dance overhead as the wind swirls off the Sakonnet River. Dust motes drift in sunbeams pouring in from high windows while rough hewn beams oversee the well-worn floors. In the far corner of the153-year-old Victorian stable-turned-tasting room of Greenvale Winery sits a modest barrel displaying various estate wines and their respective awards.
Margaret, the soft spoken yet insightful host behind the bar, delights in walking guests through the eight wines on the tasting list. Beginning with the their Pinot Gris, an easy-on-the-tongue dry white with tokens of nectarine and and lemon. Finish the flight with their medium bodied Elms Meritage, a red blend marrying Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.
Glass in hand, amble through the 24,000 vines hugging the curves the Sakonnet River. Linger atop one particular hill among the vines and watch as sailboats leisurely float by. Before leaving, grab a bottle of their award-winning Vidal Blanc or Chardonnay. The crisp, dry Vidal Blanc intones apple and tropical fruit notes while the buttery Chardonnay pairs perfectly with fresh New England seafood.
Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard – Little Compton, Rhode Island
“It all depends on the weather. I don’t try to manipulate the wines, I work with what nature gives me.” mused Elaine Phipps, Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards Winemaker. While sipping on an exclusive sample of her latest vintage, Elaine discussed the art of blending wines and crafting varietals. Behind her, banners of stylized Asian spirituality symbols draped from the walls, each depicting a different wine label.
The neon colors and bold prints deeply contrast the rich fall colors and weathered clapboard siding that greets guests visiting Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard. Strewn throughout the 45-acres, guests lounge in sturdy rocking chairs positioned around fire pits and braziers.
Back inside, Elaine pours a glass of a customer (and judge) favorite, her 2013 Expedite Happiness. Composed of 100% Chardonnay, this un-oaked white bursts with bright green apple and citrus. It won Gold in both the 2015 Winemaker Challenge International and the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competitions. Rounding out the tasting flight was the medium-bodied dessert wine NV Amrita. Inspired by Hindu mythology where amrita prevails as the nectar of the gods and the drink of immortality, This sweet wine brings to mind honeysuckle and peaches.
Newport Vineyards – Newport, Rhode Island
Amongst the ancient oak, beech, and maple trees that adorn Aquidneck Island colonies were established, a nation born, and fortunes were made. Fertile soil, Gilded Age mansions, Quaker craftsmanship, and a historically renown seaport all helped shape the Sailing Capitol of the World known as Newport, Rhode Island. And Newport Vineyard, ideally located on historically preserved farmland, seamlessly blends Newport’s past with it’s present.
The glow of contemporary “barrel stave” lights gleam in the polished concrete floor of the airy foyer and The Market Place. Here, stained wine barrels hold up displays of locally made organic soaps, whitewashed nautical pieces, and their selections of over 30 estate-grown wines. To the far right, guest must pass the vintage Nunes Motor Co. sign on their way to Brix, the vineyard’s fine dining restaurant.
Natural light bathes the newly renovated tasting room, with its high ceiling, skylights, and numerous industrial styled tables. Large commercial glass doors roll up to expand onto the patio and give an unhindered view of the vines. Situated in the middle of the expansive space lies the tasting bar. While there are over 30 different wines to sample, many of which taking Best in Show awards, the Vidal Ice Wine certainly deserves a spot on any tasting flight. Regionally famous, ice wines are produced by allowing the grapes to remain on the vines until the third hard freeze, then harvested and pressed frozen. This method allows for the sweetest, most concentrated juice.
Today, Newport Vineyards rightfully claims “New England’s largest wine grape producer” title. Perfectly situated with a long and placid growing season, Newport Vineyard produces more than 20,000 cases a year, making it a prominent Rhode Island destination.
Saltwater Farm – Stonington, Connecticut
With complexity and depth to rival the colossal wooden beams spanning the barreled roof, the lightly oaked Estate “Golden Arc” Chardonnay surprises with a buoyant layer of toasty caramel and vanilla beans. Lining the back wall of the pre-World War II airplane hangar, now Saltwater Farm’s winery, stand four massive stainless steel tanks. Here, Winemaker’s bustle about checking gauges and drawing samples. Wafting from the tanks, the enticing aroma of fermenting estate-grown Cabernet Franc grapes permeate the lofty tasting room and event center.
It doesn’t require much imagination to envision the planes taking off and landing in what was once the small airport’s runway. Now surrounded on both sides by vines, the 1800 feet stretch of lush green grass sees more brides than bi-planes. Amid saltwater marshes, the romance of the 108-acre vineyard and venue remains in high demand by brides-to-be. Not only has Saltwater Farm been featured in TODAY, People Magazine, and the Boston Globe, but it also made Bride Magazine’s “Top 50 Most Romantic Wedding Venues in the US”. Last year alone, over 75 brides exchanged vows before Saltwater’s Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cab Franc vines.
Langworthy Farm – Westerly, Rhode Island
The smallest winery along the Coastal Wine Trail resides a mere half mile from the beach in the coastal town of Westerly. Peaking out from behind the stately three-story Colonial farmhouse known as the Langworthy Farm Bed and Breakfast, the boutique winery overlooks a modest vineyard. Soft autumn light streams in the small tasting room, warming the polished knotty pine walls and tasting bar. Behind the bar, a large picture window allows guests a glimpse into the wine making process.
Langworthy’s first vines were planted in 2002 and within a year guests of the bed and breakfast were treated with exclusive tastings of the farm’s first year Chardonnay. By 2005, Langworthy produced 5 different wines and decided to open their doors to the public. Today, they offer 12 wines made from grapes grown both on their farm and from surrounding vineyards.
Along with their Chardonnay, other notable wines to sample include the crisp, dry Rhody Riesling, a white wine with peach and apple aromas. Or the silky, French Oak aged Napatree Cabernet Sauvignon. Monthly tasting events, such as their November “Harvest Soup Fest” and December “Chocolate and Wine” Wine event, provide the ideal time to visit Langworthy Farm.
Stonington Vineyards – Stonington, Connecticut
The crimson reds and cheerful yellows of the maple trees twirl in and out of view in the windows lining the back wall of the tasting room. Opposite the bar, the mid-afternoon sun warms the slate patio where we sipped Stonington’s award-winning, slightly sweet blend Seaport White.
Just inland from Long Island Sound and surrounding by dense woods, Stonington Vineyards rests atop a slopping hill over looking almost 10 acres of grapes. Located about half way between New York and Boston, Stonington is one of Connecticut’s oldest wineries. In fact, they’re one of the founding members of the Coastal Wine Trail.
Behind the tasting counter, Ebbie, the bubbly Tasting Room & Events Manager, gladly recommends local sights, restaurants, and events. Especially the Harvest Food and Wine Festival in held at the vineyard each September. On this weekend the vineyard abounds with artisans, bands, food trucks, and of course wine.
Jonathan Edwards Winery – North Stonington, Connecticut
Complete with a beautifully restored three-story dairy barn, lichen-covered stone fences, and 50 acres of fertile farm land, Jonathan Edwards Winery exudes New England charisma. A curving brick walkway leads visitors into the stone courtyard at the winery’s entrance. Beyond the bright red barn doors, stained glass panels twinkle on either side of the tasting counter. From the tasting room, a catwalk leads out over the barrel room where guests watch worker’s mill around the wine barrels.
The wine list boasts as much charm as the grounds with the estate-grown Gewürtztraminer’s cheery notes of citrus and and flowers. The novelty of the wine comes from the fact that barely 35,000 acres of this grape is grown world wide so to taste this wine where its grown is both a rare and worthy experience.
But the variety of estate grapes aren’t the only factors setting Jonathan Edwards apart from other New England Wineries. Its their partnering with small growers and winemakers in California. There, they harvest and ferment their California grapes before shipping the wine to Connecticut where it then ages along side the Connecticut harvest.
Maugle Sierra Vineyards – Ledyard Connecticut
Surrounded by the last remains of Connecticut’s fall foliage, the last rays of the setting sun reflected in the almost empty wine glasses. Just north of historic Ledyard, tucked into the side a soft slope, sits the Coastal Wine Trail’s most westward-lying winery. Mere minutes from Connecticut’s “Casino Country”, Maugle Sierra offers a respite from the crowds, lights, and incessant noise.
A glance at the wine list tells much about the wineries unique micro-climate. Many of the names found on the list will look different than other wineries found along the trail. Names such as St. Croix, St. Pepin, and Marquette. Located farther inland from the coast, the vineyard requires heartier grapes that can withstand the harsh New England winters,. For a unique taste of this little slice of New England try the delectable 1740 Ledyard House Rosé, a blend of estate-grown St. Croix and Cayuga grapes. Or the full bodied House Red. Aged in oak barrels, this blend of St. Croix, Syrah, and Merlot take on a slightly peppery aroma with a mild currant note.
Several more wineries lie along the Coastal Wine Trail and I hope to one day visit them all. If you have visited the other wineries please share you favorites in the comments!
For More Information:
Greenvale Winery – Open daily, their tasting room hours change seasonally. If visiting between May and December, be sure to visit on Saturdays for Jazz concerts performed by award-winning musicians.
Carolyn’s Sakonnet Winery – Open daily, their tasting room and onsite café hours change seasonally. Public tours occur daily and on the hour from noon until 3p.m. Check their calendar for music events and sensory classes.
Newport Vineyards – Open daily, hours are 10a.m.-5p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon until 5 p.m.on Sundays. See their calendar for events like farmer’s market and live music.
Saltwater Farm Vineyard – Due to the number of weddings held at Saltwater Farm, reservation are required for Saturdays and they are closed many weekends for private events so please check the calendar before visiting. They are closed on Monday and Tuesdays but are open from 11a.m.-5p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.
Langworthy Farm – Their hours change seasonally and they are closed most major holidays. Tours are scheduled on Saturday and Sunday at 3p.m. Visit their website for hours and event schedules.
Stonington Vineyard – Open daily, their tasting room hours change slightly with extended hours during the summer.
Jonathan Edwards Winery – Open daily from 11a.m. – 5p.m. year round. Due to private events they may close slightly earlier on weekends.
Maugle Sierra Vineyards – Open every weekend year round, they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.