Best of Rhode Island Wineries for 2011

Seeing as I have not been able to get to any new wineries for quite awhile and given the price of gas here in New England the prospects of visiting the rest of the New England wineries I have not yet visited will have to be carefully planned out. So, instead I thought I would review the wineries of Connecticut and Rhode Island from last year’s visit of which I have been to at least the majority in each state. I have only been to about half of the wineries in Massachusetts and none in Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine.

I decided I would have some fun and place the wineries into “best of” categories. The wineries/vineyards involved in this fun “best of” stuff include Diamond Hill Vineyard, Greenvale Vineyards, Langworthy Farm Winery, Newport Vineyards, and Sakonnet Vineyards. I tried twice to visit Shelalara but was unsuccessful in locating them so they are not included in the “best of” categories.

A number of the categories were as a result of the readers of this blog, so here goes:

Winery most like Napa Valley – Sakonnet

Most expensive winery (avg price of wine offered) – Langworthy

Least expensive winery (avg price of wine offered) – Diamond Hill

Best fruit wine – Diamond Hill for their blackberry wine (honorable mention – Newport for their Rhody Coyote Hard Apple Cider)

Best winery name – This was tough but I would choose between Diamond Hill and Sakonnet

Best winery staff – Diamond Hill because of the “stories” she told  (honorable mention – Greenvale also because of the”stories”)

Best stories – See “Best winery staff”

Most rustic winery – Greenvale (honorable mention – Langworthy)

Most passionate winery – Diamond Hill (honorable mention – Langworthy)

Best white wine – Sakonnet for their Vidal Blanc (honorable mention – Greenvale for their Rosecliff Pinot Gris)

Best red wine – Sakonnet for the Anniversary Claret (honorable mention – Newport for their Rochambeau)

Best Rose – Sakonnet for their Cabernet Franc Rose (honorable mention – Newport for their Rose of Cabernet)

Best Chardonnay – Sakonnet (honorable mention – Newport for their In The Buff Chardonnay)

Best summer wine – Greenvale for their Skipping Stone White (honorable mention – Newport for their Great White)

Most unusual wine – Newport for their Blaufrankish (honorable mention – Newport for their Tranquility)

Friendliest winery – Diamond Hill (honorable mention – Sakonnet)

Best wine selection – Sakonnet (honorable mention – Tie between Diamond Hill & Newport)

Wine that knocks your socks off – Sakonnet for their Reserve Port

Best view – Sakonnet (honorable mention – Greenvale)

Best wine logo – Greenvale (honorable mention – Sakonnet)

Best tasting room decor – Sakonnet (honorable mention – Greenvale)

Best tasting room fee – Diamond Hill (it was free)

Best looking grapevines – Sakonnet

Best wine bar – Sakonnet (the bar must fit a gazillion tasters at once)

Best wine glasses – Greenvale

Best outdoor area – Sakonnet (honorable mention – Greenvale)

Best wine labels – Sakonnet (honorable mention – Newport)

Best average Witless Whiner wine rating – Diamond Hill (honorable mention – Sakonnet)

Best “cork value” winery – Diamond Hill (honorable mention – Greenvale)

Best winery to spend the afternoon at – Sakonnet

Best overall RI winery – Sakonnet – based on the fantastic tasting room, gorgeous views, lots of picnic areas to sit and relax in, with a great wine list to choose from. (honorable mention – Diamond Hill – based on the fact they have a great porch to view their garden and relax with your favorite class of wine and listen to the owner’s stories)



Sakonnet 1999 Rhode Island Red

I visited Sakonnet Winery back in 2002 when I first tried this blend of three grape varietals (not sure what the three are but one of them is the Chancellor grape) and it was a pretty decent tasting red blend.

This opened with blackberry, fig, and plum notes on the nose with hints of black pepper. Blackberry and strawberry flavors followed on the palate with hints of cocoa and green pepper on the finish.

Back in 2002 I gave this a rating of 8 wine glasses but cellared this one too long – my bad! So even though this one received a 6 1/2 wine glasses rating don’t let this deter you from trying this. I paid $10.99 for this back in 2002 and their NV now goes for $17.95 a bottle today.

There’s a fine line as to when to uncork a bottle you’ve cellared for awhile, sometimes that fine line cracks so don’t blame the wine on this one – blame the blogger!

I did pair this with a Bison burger and homemade sweet potato chips – this was scrumptious!

Langworthy Farm Winery

As I was traveling from Newport to Langworthy Farm Winery, the GPS directed me over the Jamestown Bridge and of course the big yellow sign alerting me of a toll ahead and seeing as these are such a nuisance I wasn’t looking forward to the experience. So I’m scrambling to get my wallet out of my back pocket and I see another sign that states “EZ Pass – All Lanes” and I immediately look just to the right of the GPS and see a white box about 3 inches square  with the words “EZ Pass” on it and said “Whoa – sweet!” to no one in particular. Alas, I was able to forget about twisting and turning to get my wallet and instead headed right for the sign that said “EZ Pass only” and was a happy camper.

Once I reached the winery it is adjacent to their Bed & Breakfast.

Inside was warm and welcome as the day was coming to an end as this was my last winery of the day and was looking forward to sampling their wines. They had two tasting fees, one for $7 for 5 wines and the other was $9 for 7 wines which included their signature wine glass. I opted for the 7 wines to taste and this is was I got out of them:

Weekapaug White: This Chardonnay had grapefruit and pear on both the nose and the palate. This wasn’t crisp nor did it pop for me, maybe it was too chilled, not sure.

Shelter Harbor Chardonnay: Now this one was a different story. It was aged in American oak for six months. I got fresh grapefruit and lime notes on the nose. This had fruitier flavors than I expected and had a smooth finish with a nice mouth feel.

Shady Harbor Pinot Blanc: This had hints of Chardonnay and Riesling and was steel fermented and then stored in oak barrels for three months. Lemongrass and ocean marshy grasses on the nose with a lemon/lime flavor. This was chilled just right and was very tasty.

Rhody Riesling: Fermented in stainless steel this wine opened with pear and citrus on the nose and continued onto the palate. A nice mouth feel at the end.

Charlestown Cabernet Franc: Aged for fourteen months in oak barrels I found strawberry and red cherry aromas with a red cherry flavor. This medium bodied wine had just a hint of pepper and earth on the finish.

Avondale Cabernet Merlot: This is a blend of 75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot found red berries on the nose with black currant and cassis on the palate. I also found a bit of fig on the finish, albeit subtle.

Pawcatuck River Red: Stainless steel fermented and blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot found blackberries on the nose with a blueberry flavor with hints of mocha on the finish.

Haversham Reserve Chardonnay: Aged in French oak this starts off oaky but then turns buttery (yeah, it surprised me too). I got much the same as their Shelter Harbor Chardonnay but more pronounced and could have easily had a glass of this on their outside porch

and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting there and taking in the sun’s rays watching the vines grow. Sometimes slowing down is a good thing.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…


Diamond Hill Vineyards

Traveling to the Northeast hills of Rhode Island I decided to take as many back roads as I could muster meanwhile prompting the GPS (of which one of my children has affectionately named Delores) well, I believe I may have upset Delores quite a bit as she kept saying “Re-calculating” over and over, but I have to hand it to her, she never lost her cool. Then I found the “setting” button where you could actually turn off certain options like “avoiding highways”. Anyway, it was an enjoyable trip after all. Then again, I can’t remember when I didn’t have a great time on any wine trip I’ve taken:)

Don’t know if you noticed the “Free Tastings” under the winery name but not often do you come across a winery that does not charge at least a few bucks for their tastings. So I was mildly pleased when I saw this on the sign to the Diamond Hill Vineyard.

On to the tasting room where you walked up the back stairs to enter the winery tasting room. The house was typical New England coastal right down to the the color gray house with white trim that often line the coastal villages along the Atlantic Ocean.

Once inside the tasting room you walked just past the wine bar which could accommodate only 2-3 tasters at a time, but I, along with several others managed quite well shuffling out wine glasses and by the way because there were no tasting fees, you didn’t get a signature wine glass either.

However, the other tasters allowed me to stay close to the wine bar as they noticed I was taking quite a few notes on each of the wines we were trying and as it was easier to utilize the wine bar than to juggle my pad, pen, and wine sample, so I was quite appreciative of this kindness. And of course they had a great little gift shop area with many wine accessories to purchase.

Claire, the sommelier and owner of the winery was a most pleasant individual complete with many stories both on the winery and other subjects. I’ll let you visit the tasting room here at Diamond Hill Vineyards to hear her stories as they were way too numerous and I couldn’t write that fast. It will be a trip worth taking. So, on to the wines that were available on the day I arrived.

2005 Pinot Noir: This dry medium ruby colored red wine opened with a cherry and raspberry aroma. Aged in French oak for one year than cellared for two more years found black cherry on the palate with a hint of raspberry on the finish.

Scarlet Run: A Merlot with no oak found raspberry and strawberry patch aromas with a blend of raspberry and strawberry flavors and a smooth silky finish with undertones of chocolate.

Cranberry Apple: The nose opens with an explosion of cranberry. It was sweet but not too sweet with a cranberry flavor with a tart apple finish. This is their best selling wine. It was very good.

River Valley White: Lemongrass and fresh cut hay on the nose led into tropical fruits flavors. I expected a lot of minerality here but didn’t get any.

Peach: Obvoiusly I got peach aromas with apricot undertones on the nose. The predominately peach flavor was more of ripe peaches at their peak of freshness. The winery recommends you have this served over chocolate or vanilla ice cream as well as fresh fruit. They also recommend putting this in a white wine Sangria – now that sounds delectable.

Blueberry: This wine is made from 100% blueberries that are organically grown on their own land. The taste was more like a Port wine with a blueberry aroma and flavor. Although I liked the Port nuances the blueberry didn’t do it for me. I guess because there was way too much blueberry for me, not that it was a bad wine but too much blueberry.

Raspberry: A lot of raspberry going on here as the aroma, flavor, and finish were all the same – raspberry. Although this did strike me more of a raspberry liqueur than a raspberry wine.

Spiced Apple: Upon first aroma I got mulled spices reminding me of New England in the autumn months especially when it’s apple picking season. The flavor was of apple pie. This was a nice tasting wine but in their wine notes it is recommended to serve this heated with a tad amount of brown sugar. This might be nice to substitute this for apple cider when using mulling spices for the autumn fall classic drink.

Entering and leaving Diamond Hill Vineyards there is a “traffic light” welcoming and thanking you for visiting as the driveway at one point is a one lane road for several hundred feet. When I first entered and saw the stop light I chuckled and had a great big smile on my face as I left.


Newport Vineyards

It was a short hop from the last vineyard to Newport Vineyards and the skies were threatening rain again and when I first left on the trip it was raining at the house and continued until I reached the Rhode Island border when the skies were overcast but the wet stuff wasn’t falling. The tasting room was located in a small strip mall (although I don’t think they call them that in Historic Newport). Inside it reminded me more of a gift shop than a tasting room but being as this is tourist country I understand the decor.

They had a multitude of gifts for sale from the proverbial wine accessories to chocolates, jewelry, scarves for the ladies, cigar cutters for the guys, etc. What surprised me most was that the prices weren’t exorbitant as you would expect in a tourist place.  I arrived about 10 minutes till 1:00 pm and there were clearly 25 or so people in the tasting room area waiting for the winery tour to begin.  I opted out of the winery tour 🙂 and decided instead to mull around the gift shop until there was enough room for me to taste 5 of their wines for a tasting fee of $10.

So, here’s what I got:

Muscat Ottonel: After swirling the wine to open the aroma I got a burst of cat pee (first time I’ve ever smelled this in a wine and it wasn’t pleasant) so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to taste this or not. I also detected lemongrass and floral notes on the nose once the cat pee subsided. On the palate I found lemon flavor mixed with fruit flavors mostly of the melon category. So, I was mildly surprised with the taste but not overly fond of it.

Vintner’s Select Riesling: Similar in color to the Mosel Riesling I got a floral aroma and again a blast of cat pee on the nose. Lemon and lime flavors but the initial blast of cat pee (2nd time I’ve experienced this aroma) turned me right off this wine too.

Rhody Coyote Hard Apple Cider: I couldn’t resist trying this wine given the name. I asked what apples they were made from and no one behind the tasting bar seemed to know which apples produced the Rhody Coyote so I tried to figure that out while I was tasting this. Upon the first sip it reminds you of a sparkling, bubbly sensation like a sparkling wine. I obviously got apple on the nose and if I were to guess the types of apples they used to produce the apple flavor I would say Russet or Cortland. This was a very tasty cider and best of all, no cat pee.

Rose Pinot Noir: Strawberry and cranberry notes on the nose (no, no cat pee) led into a mostly cranberry flavor. I would have liked to taste strawberry on the palate and this was not what I expected in a Rose Pinot Noir. This didn’t knock my socks off either.

Rochambeau: A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Landot Noir produced a musty forest floor aroma sort of like a being in a forest with a lot of moss around the trees. I also detected plum and raisin and the three aromas worked quite well with each other. On the palate I got black and red cherries with a nice peppery finish. This was clearly my favorite of the five wines I tried.


Greenvale Vineyards

Traveling along the picturesque inlet towns to Greenvale Vineyards on the winding roads on a coastal route amidst fresh sea scents abound from everywhere you point your nose. Don’t you just love the ocean breeze? Again embarking on the proverbial dirt/rock road to the winery portal you slowly trek down taking care not to damage the undercarriage of your car (I knew I should have brought the truck).

The first thing that impressed me when arriving and parking in the driveway was how well kept everything looked. And there was a freshness in the air. The short walk (unlike the long driveways) to the tasting room along a well manicured sidewalk with seasonal flowers gave you the impression of caring. Well, that caring didn’t stop there as I entered the tasting room I was greeted by the sommelier with a good morning (it was 10 till twelve so it was still morning). In the rustic tasting room complete with boutique wine items for sale the wine bar was small only able to accommodate 7-8 tasters but as there were only three other tasters I had plenty of room. The fee for a tasting was $10 for six wines plus you got to keep the signature wine glass. I just checked their website for another purpose and noticed their tasting fee has increased to $12 for 7 wines.

So, on with the wine tastings:

Rosecliff Pinot Gris: Lemongrass and pear on the nose with pear flavors with a hint of lemon (almost a complete reversal from aroma to flavor) and this had a very smooth aftertaste.

Grrenvale 2007 Chardonnay: Fruit bowl aroma much like having a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. The palate found subtle flavors of pear and apple. Although a nice wine this wasn’t to my liking.

Chardonnay 2008 Select: This was much better that showed an abundance of pear on the nose with pear and apple flavors with a subtle apple finish that wasn’t overpowering.

Vidal Blanc 2009: A French/American hybrid was very fruity on the nose with a definitive sour apple aroma lead into mostly apple flavors. If there were any other flavors the apple drowned them out.

Skipping Stone White: A blend of Cayuga and Vidal Blanc grapes with a very light opaque color found a floral nose of fresh cut flowers. The fruity palate finished with a hint of lemon zest. For me this was my favorite wine here (I can tell as I bought a bottle which is a dead giveaway that I really liked the wine).

Cabernet Franc 2006: A medium Bordeaux style wine found plum and spice aromas with a hint of cassis. Plum continued into the flavor with a peppery finish. Stored in French and American oak a blend of 82% Cabernet Franc and 18% Merlot rendered a very smooth medium red wine.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…

Sakonnet Vineyards

The ride from home to the coastal region of Rhode Island began with a beautiful gorgeous day that was sure to thrill me mile to mile on my trek of New England wineries. First up on my Rhode Island tour and Coastal Vineyards Passport series is Sakonnet Vineyards.

On the back roads of Rhode Island I reached the Little Compton winery via a scenic route indicative of the New England coast. Driving down the long dirt road (yes, we continue to go down long dirt roads) the winery is in the tradition of New England style coastal homes with plenty of room for outdoor seating in a multitude of areas: by the pond, by the vineyard, outside the vineyard tasting room entrance, outside the tasting room under a covered patio. There is a lot of room to sit if you want to spend a bit of time here. The grounds were manicured exquisitely without a tree limb out of place, but of course that was before tropical storm Irene hit so I’m sure they came under some high winds and plenty of rain.

Once inside the small boutique shop, there were many wine items to buy at reasonable prices. You also paid for your wine tasting here which cost $10 for six wines of your choosing plus you get to keep their signature wine glass. Entering the tasting room you immediately realized it was quite large with room for a couple of dozen tasters at a time and along the walls were racks of their wine ready for the taking. Once inside the room, I walked right to the wine bar and patiently waited to begin my wine experience.

Here are the wines I tried:

Vidal Blanc: This wine opened with grapefruit and orange zest on the nose with a nectarine flavor with hints of lemon-lime on the finish. Quite a nice tasting wine that I would tempt to pair with a cedar plank salmon, roasted red potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. And yes, sourdough bread would be nice too.

Gerwurztraminer: The Estate grown, French style dry Gewurztraminer would go well with spicy Asian cuisine as it opened with spice notes on the nose with a lemongrass flavor and nice acidity.

Chardonnay: Steel fermented this opened with apple on the nose with a slight hint of pear. The apple continued to the palate but the pear was missing so this wine didn’t do it for me.

Rhode Island Red: Their most popular selling wine found black cherry on the nose and the flavor as well with a slight peppery finish.  I had a bottle of their 1999 vintage about  eight or nine years ago and it was much better than their current release, hopefully with cellaring it will be just as good.

Cabernet Franc: One of my favorite wines (well, I guess most wines are my favorites) the medium ruby colored wine found bell pepper and the aroma was almost like standing in a back yard garden. Plus there was a lingering fig aroma too. It was actually quite pleasing. This medium bodied wine found red cherry and pepper flavors complementing the aromas quite well.

Claret NV – 35th Anniversary: Blackberry aroma with fig nuances on the nose with a hint of bacon just starting to cook. Cassis and black currant on the palate. A slight pepper finish most likely white pepper. A nice stand alone wine as well as pairing it with a grilled steak, corn on the cob, and a garden salad with balsamic vinegar dressing.

Here’s to good wine, good food, and good friends…