Newport Vineyards has an extensive menu of wines, 31 in total; one of the largest selections that I’ve seen yet from a Northeastern regional winery. The menu begins with 13 whites divided into four categories: dry, no-oak (2), dry, oaked (1), Alsatian Style (6), and the semi-dry (4), before moving into the Rosés (4), the Reds (8), the Dessert Wines, which include a Port and an Ice Wine (4), and finishing with a Brut sparkling wine and a hard apple cider.
A tasting, which runs $9, includes your choice of five wines and allows you to join one of the two daily tours of the winery (1 and 3 pm). Unfortunately, if you elect not to take the tour or arrive after the tours have finished for the day (as we did), the price still remains $9. Tastings of the Ice Wine and the Brut will run you an additional $1 each. Individual glasses of wine can be purchased for $6, although a handful of the premium wines run $8 per glass.
Christy and I took our time studying the menu and selecting our wines, while listening to our hosts explain ad nauseum to a group at the other end of the bar that tastings work best if you start with the whites and move on to the reds. I’m always amused, and often exasperated, by the people who don’t know what they’re doing – but desperately and often pretentiously pretend that they do. The winery staff had my sympathy that day; I can only imagine how frustrating it is to watch someone select a fuller-bodied wine like a cabernet franc as their first wine, follow it up with a light-bodied white, and then have to listen to them complain about how the “white tastes funny” – all the while keeping a polite smile on your face.
But eventually the group settled down, and our host wandered over to pour our tasting. I elected to begin with the one dry, oak-aged white, the
2007 Newport Chardonnay A nice wine, but not one that blew me away. The color is a very pale yellow, and the nose has light grassy notes with a very light touch of citrus. A light-bodied wine, in the mouth the flavors are light, clean and smooth with light sweet notes of pear and a touch of lemon on the finish. The citrus is crisp and balances the smoother, deeper flavors of the pear, and the oak provides a light toastiness. The tasting notes indicate this would pair well with grilled fish and poultry as well as light cheeses.
2008 Tranquility Next up for me was one of the Alsatian-style wines, a blend of gewurztraminer (34%), muscat ottonel (34%), pinot gris (22%), and riesling (10%). Like the Newport Chardonnay, Tranquility is also a pale yellow color. The nose is bright with lovely floral notes and a hint of sweetness from the muscat. A light-bodied wine, yet fuller than the Chardonnay, Tranquility is a soft dry-style wine with floral notes, low oak, and a touch of sweetness that provides depth and character. It’s an interesting wine and my favorite of the wines I tasted that afternoon. Tranquility is a gold medal winner for Best Vinifera Blend at the Atlantic Wine Competition.
2006 Rochambeau Named in honor of Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, the French General who fought with George Washington and helped defeat the British at the Battle of Yorktown (1781), Newport Vineyard’s Rochambeau is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Landot Noir. Made in the Bordeaux-style, the wine is medium-bodied, bright and tangy. The nose has interesting notes of pepper and berries. In the mouth, the wine is young with a tangy “back” taste and strong berry notes, particularly on the finish. I tend to prefer stronger, deeper reds, but I was intrigued by this wine and will definitely be giving this another try on my next visit.
2007 Cabernet Franc I have become a real fan of Cabernet Franc, finding it one of the richest most satisfying reds produced here in the Northeast, and even when not touring local wineries am finding myself gravitating towards cabernet francs and zinfandels over my former favorites pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. Newport Vineyards’ Cabernet Franc didn’t disappoint, but I didn’t find it as strong as the Cabernet Francs from Chamard or Gouveia. The color is a lovely jewel-tone medium garnet that subtly sparkles in the glass. The nose is deep and soft with light notes of earth and fruit and just a hint of spice. A medium-bodied wine, there are soft notes of fruit in the mouth – I detected dark berries and just a hint of cherry brightness. The finish is clean with lingering notes of pepper that give the wine an interesting character. Perhaps I had a tasting from a recently opened bottle, but I did feel that the wine needed to breathe longer to display it’s full potential.
2006 Newport Jazz I finished out the afternoon with a dessert wine, a Sauterne-style, late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. Despite my general fondness for dessert wines, this was my least favorite of the afternoon. A lovely dark gold color, the nose was rich and sweet and held a lot of promise that unfortunately the wine didn’t deliver. Surprisingly, in the mouth the wine was slightly dry with a sharp finish. The mouth feel had that silky smoothness that one expects from a dessert wine, but the balance was somehow just “off.” It may that I had a tasting from a bad bottle, so I will definitely give this another try before writing it off altogether.