The Fruit Wines of Diamond Hill Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

As I explore the vineyards and wineries of the Northeast, I’m finding I actually like fruit wines.  For years I, like so many of you, turned up my nose at fruit wines, thinking them too sweet, too thin, too whatever.   However, just as with grape wines, there are some very bad and some very good fruit wines out there.

On the afternoon I stopped by Diamond Hill (almost a month ago now…  apologies for the two week delay in getting this posted), there were three fruit wines available on the tasting menu.

Cranberry Apple First up was Diamond Hill’s most popular wine, the Cranberry Apple.  Made from New England grown fruit, including organically grown cranberries from Attleborough, Rhode Island.  A blend of 25% cranberry and 75% apple, the wine is delightfully sweet-tart.  The color is a delightful rosy-peach.  The nose has soft cranberry notes – not nearly as overpowering as I anticipated.  In the mouth the wine, as mentioned above, is charmingly sweet-tart with a lovely burst of cranberry on the tongue; the apple provides just enough sweetness to temper the tartness of the cranberry and keep the wine from being overpowering.  I really liked this wine and went home with two bottles.  It’s a great sipping wine, will pair well with poultry, and would make a bright, fun sangria as well.

Blueberry From the Cranberry Apple we moved on to the Blueberry.  Made with organically grown blueberries from Jonesport, Maine, the wine has strong notes of blueberry in both the nose and on the mouth, but is surprisingly light and clean.  Given the intensity of the blueberry, I half-expected the wine to be almost syrupy sweet, but it’s not.  There’s a very lightly bitter note at the end which balances the sweetness of the fruit and gives the wine a bit of character.   This is a very nice wine, although not as interesting as the Cranberry Apple to my mind.


Diamond Hill was sold out of their Blackberry and their Raspberry wines, so the last wine on the menu for the day was their Peach wine.  Diamond Hill crushes the whole fruit and the result is the sweetest of all their wines, one that I’d characterize as a dessert wine.  The nose is soft with notes of apricot as well as peach.  In the mouth, the wine is sweet, but not syrupy, with soft peach notes that linger on the palate, and a very light tartness on the palate.   Peach is not one of my favorite fruits or flavors, but this was one of the nicer peach wines I’ve sampled to date.

I left that day with six bottles under my arm, a list of wines to order for Gretchen and Kevin, and a Vino Verve milestone under my belt.  But more on that on Thursday…

Diamond Hill Vineyards ~ The Grape Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Diamond Hill produces 10 wines, five grape and five fruit, of which seven were available for tasting on Saturday.   The tasting moves from dry to sweet, which at Diamond Hill means we started with the Pinot Noir.

As I mentioned before I was quite surprised to find that they were able to successfully cultivate Pinot Noir vines, and truthfully I wasn’t expecting much.  Not that I expected it to be bad, but…


Pinot Noir 2005 Vintage It’s nice to be proved wrong once in a while.  This is a delightful wine.  The color is a lovely medium-garnet.  The nose is soft with lightly floral notes of cherry blossom.  In the mouth, the wine is soft and lightly fruity with subtle notes of cherry.  It wasn’t the stronger cherry notes I so often find in the cabernet francs, marechal fochs and st. croix wines across the Northeast – here the notes were more delicate; cherry blossom rather than cherry.  The wine is aged in French oak for one year which provides a delicate spiciness with just a hint of heat on the finish.   A really nice wine, and a really nice surprise to find in vineyards so far away from the tempering influence of the Sound.   Kudos to the Berntsons and Diamond Hill for producing a lovely New England Pinot Noir!

Scarlet Run A 100% Merlot wine made from Northeast  grapes, usually brought in from New York, Scarlet Run is not a typical Merlot.  This is a very fruit forward wine with, surprisingly, very discernible notes of strawberry.  I first picked up the strawberry in the nose – not overpowering, but very noticeable.  In the mouth, that first sip is quite a surprise.  Used to denser Merlots with flavors ranging from earthy to darker fruits, I was almost taken aback by the brightness and fruitiness of this wine.  But don’t confuse that with not liking it – I found the wine quite charming and immediately noted it down as a wine that would be going home with me that afternoon.  It’s just not what one expects from a Merlot.

Aged in stainless steel, the wine has a lovely smooth, rich finish, with very light tannins.  Interestingly I didn’t find myself missing the oaking, which I often do in red wines.  With the Scarlet Run, I found I really appreciated the clean finish.  This will pair will a wide variety of foods, particularly beef or lamb.

Steve also pointed out the label, which features a red greyhound silhouette on a black background, and is quite different from Diamond Hill’s other labels.  4 or 5 years ago, the Berntsons adopted a greyhound and now support the Twin River Greyound Adoption society by donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Scarlet Run.   If you do visit the winery, there’s a framed plaque in the room just off the tasting room which features a picture of the Berntson’s dog as well as the story of how they came to adopt her and associate Scarlet Run with greyhound adoption.

Pinot Noir Rosé This is a relatively recent addition to the Diamond Hill line-up.  In 2008, Allan Berntson, Diamond Hill’s winemaker, did a quick crush press of some of estate-grown Pinot Noir grape and produced the first vintage of the Rosé.   The result is a light semi-dry wine with lightly floral notes and a soft, clean finish.  I found the wine to be a bit light for my taste, but it will appeal to many.   The color is very interesting.  When first poured into the glass, it appeared to be a medium-gold color, however, when I held it up over the white counter, I started to see hints of pink, and found the color shifted back and forth between pink and gold depending on how you were holding the glass and how the wine was catching the light.  The nose has lovely floral notes, and in the mouth the wine is very lightly fruity – more fruit blossom than true fruit, I would say.  The wine is unoaked, and has a soft, clean finish with almost no tannins.

River Valley White A blend of Chardonnay and French Colombard, the River Valley White is a semi-dry table wine with lovely notes of buttery apricot.  The color falls in the medium-yellow range, slightly on the lighter side.  The nose is very soft with discreet notes of peach or peach blossom.   Like all of Diamond Hill’s other wines, with the exception of the Pinot Noir, the River Valley White is unoaked, and the result is a clean, crisp wine.  I picked up just a hint of cream along with notes of apricot and a light acid on the finish which balanced the fruit notes and kept the wine from coming across as overly sweet.   This wine will pair well with chicken or pork and would also be very nice on it’s own as an aperitif.

It was just about this point that two other visitors arrived for a tasting of the Pinot and the Merlot.  I used the distraction as an opportunity to take a quick break, looking around the tasting room and gift shop and giving my palate a brief rest before proceeding with the fruit wines.

Look for the Diamond Hill fruit wines on Tuesday, March 15th.


Diamond Hill Vineyards ~ Cumberland, Rhode Island

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Winter 2011 has been a rough one here in the Northeast. Connecticut, where I live, received 2-3 times our normal snowfall; at one point most of it was piled up in my front yard. So when the weather forecast called for temperatures in the 50s on Saturday, I decided it was time to come out of hibernation and hit the wine trail again. I didn’t even care that the forecast also called for cloudy with the possibility of rain – the chance to get out of the house and hit the open road was too good to pass up.

So Saturday afternoon found me heading east to Cumberland, Rhode Island, just outside Providence, and the Diamond Hill Vineyards. Established in 1976 by Peter & Claire Berntson, Diamond Hill is now a second-generation winery run by the Berntson’s daughter, Chantelle, and son-in-law Stephen Rogers, and their son, Allan Berntson, who is also Diamond Hill’s winemaker.

Earlier in their lives the Berntson’s had lived for a few years in France and decided that one day they would own their own vineyards and winery. In 1976 they realized this dream when they planted their first vines, Pinot Noir, in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Yes, you read that correctly – Pinot Noir – a bold move considering the Northeast climate is not generally conducive to vinifera such as Pinot Noir, and the northern-Rhode Island location also precludes any climate-moderating benefits gained from proximity to the Sound.

But the Berntsons perservered. They replanted many of their vines in 1981, and keep them low to the ground to help the vines survive the cold New England winters. The vines have thrived, and today their estate-grown Pinot Noir wines are made from those 30-year old vines.

Steve Rogers, member of Diamond Hill's second generation, in the tasting room and gift shop.

The Berntsons have also created a charming and welcoming tasting room. Set back from the main road, at the end of a winding dirt road, the tasting room is located in an old farmhouse. The front of the house faces a grassy field beyond which lie the vineyards. The porch runs the length of the house and the Berntsons have set up clusters of bistro tables and chairs. Despite the 50+ degrees on Saturday, the air was still a bit too raw for sitting outside, but I made a mental note to bring Cheryl, Deb and Jean back with me in the Spring – that porch will be a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch, a glass or bottle of wine, and a weekend afternoon.

Inside, the Berntsons have kept the original footprint and much of the charm of the original house. To the left as you enter is a small parlor set out with tables and chairs for guests who wish to linger indoors. To the right is lies the Tasting room. Both of the rooms have a welcoming, cozy feel to them. The ceilings and floors are wood, and the original moldings and fireplace appear to be intact. The decor has an eclectic, lived-in feel which adds to the warmth and coziness.

Tastings are served at the small bar in the back of the main room. This is not a winery that is set up for large crowds; at most you could get 4-5 comfortably at the bar, and that would be a tight fit. Stephen Rogers, my host that afternoon, mentioned that there were a few weekends last year when it was so crowded people were lined up outside the door waiting for tastings. Most weekends, however, the crowds do not get that bad. While no winery – or winemaker – would ever bemoan the extra business, the Berntsons and Rogers, like many local winemakers, get the most enjoyment out of sharing their wines, having the chance to chat with people and the time to enjoy the sense of community they are building. Truthfully, it’s what I enjoy most about my win(e)ding road adventures as well. On Saturday, in addition to meeting Steve, who was tending bar that afternoon, I also had a chance to meet his wife, Chantelle, as well as one of the winery’s original owners, Claire Berntson. It was clear that they all love what they do, and they love the chance to relax and chat with their guests – it made for a great afternoon.

Diamond Hill offers free tastings of all of their wines, and glasses of wine average $5/$6, although the Pinot Noir will be slightly more expensive. They produce 10 wine, five grape and five fruit wines, ranging from dry table wines to sweet dessert wines. 3 of the wines are currently sold out, but I had the opportunity of tasting the other 7, including Diamond Hill’s estate-grown, Pinot Noir. More to come on that on Thursday, but I can tell you it was lovely and definitely worth the $25 price tag / bottle. I brought a bottle home with me this trip, and will definitely be heading back for more later in the Spring.

Diamond Hill is open year-round, Thursday-Sunday noon-5pm.  In addition to their wines, Diamond Hill also specializes  in custom and personalized wine labels.  They will ship wines to many states, and if you aren’t able to stop by, you can order wines directly from their website.   While all their wines are good, I highly recommend the estate-grown Pinot Noir.

Diamond Hill Vineyards
3145 Diamond Hill Road
Cumberland, Rhode Island 02864
401-333-2751 or 1-800-752-2505

Spending Time With… Greenvale Vineyard’s 2007 Chardonnay

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Ever since my visit to Greenvale Vineyard outside of Providence, RI last summer, I had been eyeing the 2007 Chardonnay I had brought home.  It was absolutely my favorite wine of the afternoon, and one of those wonderful experiences during tasting when after just one sip you know you’ve found something you really, really like.

I had been “saving” the bottle for a dinner with friends that never materialized and decided that as much as I wanted to introduce the wine to others, there was nothing wrong with being selfish and keeping it all to myself.

The wine was everything I remembered – and more.  But wines usually are – more, that is – when you get a chance to experience more than a 1 oz sample and also pair the wine with food.  The color was that lovely light golden color I remembered – closer to the color of a California Chardonnay rather than the paler whites so predominant throughout the Northeast.  The nose is earthy with grassy notes, and took me back to that warm summer afternoon.

In the mouth the wine is really lovely – smooth and soft with the creamy butteriness I found so enchanting during my first tasting.  There is a nice bite of acid on the finish which keeps the wine from being too soft and buttery.   Over time and subsequent sips, the wine layers in the mouth and I started to pick up tangy notes of grapefruit, particularly in the back of the mouth.  It’s a subtle note, but it gives the wine character.

The first night I drank the wine on its own; the second I paired it with grilled blackened chicken and vegetables.  The wine held up very nicely the second evening, and if anything the fruit notes pulled forward a bit more strongly that second night.  The creaminess of the wine’s oaking paired well with the peppery heat of the chicken, with the pepper cutting through the butter nicely.

People who prefer cleaner, or more lightly oaked Chardonnays may not like this, but fans of the robust California Chardonnays should find a local treat in Greenvale’s Chardonnay.   I’m looking forward to a SOTS (Sisters Of the wine Trail) outing to Providence; I suspect this wine will be a hit with everyone.

Spending Time With… Greenvale Vineyard’s 2008 Vidal Blanc

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I recently pulled out the bottle of Greenvale’s 2008 Vidal Blanc that I brought home from my August visit.   I had been quite impressed with the wine just from the 1 oz tasting I had sampled that afternoon.   My initial impressions were of the 2007 vintage which had soft notes of pear on the front and tart green apple on the back, an overall pleasant and refreshing combination.

Uncorking the 2008, I found myself looking forward to experiencing the differences between the vintages.   The nose retains the touch of lushness that is so often characteristic of vidal blanc wines, and that really comes out in the ice wines or late harvest wines.

In the mouth, the notes of pear are still present on the front, but the sharper, tarter notes in the back had notes of grapefruit as well as green apple.  I paired the wine with a crisp green salad with grilled chicken, and I suspect the citrus vinaigrette brought out some of the grapefruit notes I was picking up.   I did find that salad toned down the acid bite on the finish of the wine, and together the two worked really well.

The wine is nicely fruity, well balanced, crisp and quite refreshing, and I have it on the list to pick up a few more bottles next time I’m in the Newport area.  It stands well on its own, and in addition to pairing it with salads, it should work equally well with grilled shrimp or a spicy chicken stir fry, and I’m looking forward to trying it with my favorite Thai Green Curry.

Greenvale Vineyard ~ The Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

We kicked off the tasting with the 2008 Rosecliff Pinot Gris. Like all Greevnale’s wines, the Pinot Gris is estate-grown and these vines are about 10 years old.  The color is a medium yellow-gold, darker and richer than many of the whites I’ve encountered here in New England.  The nose is soft with light notes of honey.  Fermented and aged in stainless steel, the result is a crisp wine that starts cleanly and finishes on subtle notes of green apple.  There’s a nice balance of acid that works well with the tangy slightly sourness of the green apple for a refreshing experience overall.

2007 Chardonnay The Chardonnay, as opposed to the Chardonnay Reserve, is produced from the younger Chardonnay vines, and aged in a combination of French Oak (52%) and Stainless Steel (48%).  The color is a medium yellow, and the nose is soft and creamy with very light floral notes and just a hint of vanilla.  In the mouth the wine is really lovely, soft, smooth and creamy on the front with a light touch of acid on the finish providing a nice balance.  Light citrus notes, primarily lemon, play with notes of creamy butter and vanilla for a rich, satisfying experience.  This will pair very well with a wide variety of foods, but also stand up on it’s own.  Definitely one of the stars of Greenvale’s current line-up.

2007 Chardonnay Select. The Chardonnay Select is made from older Chardonnay vines, planted in 1983.  It’s 100% oak aged, but in older French oak barrels to ensure a softer, more subtle oaking.  The color, while still falling within the medium yellow range, is lighter than the previous two wines, and the nose is earthy with hints of grass.  In the mouth, the wine, while still rich, is much sharper than the Chardonnay.  There are notes of cream and vanilla which indicate it’s moving toward that lushness I found in the Chardonnay, but it’s not there yet.  The citrus notes, again primarily lemon, are stronger in this one as well, although I also detected notes of grass which I didn’t pick up in the Chardonnay.   The acid is also much stronger in the Select than it was in the Chardonnay, and somewhat overpowers the finish.   Given 6-9 months, this will be a really beautiful  wine, but it’s not quite there yet.  That being said, it was educating to taste it now, particularly juxtaposed with the Chardonnay, and be able to see the potential in the wine.  If you’re looking to start a wine collection, I would definitely add this to list of wines to pick up now.

2008 Chardonnay Select.  While this wine is not yet available for sale (although I believe it will be soon), Kristen did have it available for tasting.  Like the 2007 Chardonnay Select, this is produced from the older vines and aged for 9 months in the older French Oak barrels.  Another very interesting contrast to the previous two wines.  The color is deeper and more golden.  The nose is soft, deep and fruity with light citrus notes.  In the mouth, the wine is still young; strong notes of grapefruit and a somewhat strong acid finish combine to produce just a touch of bitterness on the end.  The wine hasn’t yet developed much of the creamy vanilla butteriness I found in the other two Chardonnay’s, but there is a smoothness on the front of the wine that speaks to it’s potential.  Given another year or so in the bottle, I believe this wine will mature and soften into a lovely wine.

2008 Vidal Blanc Grown from Greenvale’s oldest vines, this is another very nice wine, and while not as strong as the Chardonnay, definitely one of the brighter stars on the current Greenvale wine list.  The color is a pale yellow;  the nose is lush and soft with rich notes of apricot.   It has a bit of the vidal lushness that you find so often in the sweeter dessert wines, but the effect isn’t as concentrated.  In the mouth, the wine is more complex than I anticipated with soft, subtle notes of pear on the front which develop into the slight tartness of green apple in the mid-back range of the tongue.  The wine has a nice balance of acid which gives it a really crisp finish, but it never completely loses the faint sweetness from the pear.  This will pair well with seafood, chicken, salads, and spicier foods such as Thai.

Some of Greenvale's vineyards; the Sakonnet River is in the background

The last of the whites was the Skipping Stone White.  A blend of 90% Cayuga and 10% Vidal, from the first encounter this wine was not anything I was expecting.  The color, while still in the yellow rather than straw category, is the lightest of all the whites.   The nose, which I anticipated to be perhaps slightly floral or have citrus notes, smelled like nothing so much as grape jelly.  Yes, you read that right – if I hadn’t been told this was a Cayuga and Vidal blend, the nose would have led me to believe there were Concord grapes here.  The Concord flavors carried over into the mouth as well.  The sweetest of all the whites (although it is still a dry wine), the wine is very juicy on the front with lush notes of grape jelly.  The finish is dry although the acid isn’t as strong in this wine as it was in several of the previous wines.  Kristen told me that this was Greenvale’s most popular wine, and I’m not surprised.  Those who like their wines a bit sweeter will really like this, and I found the Concord grape notes to be quite pleasant once I got over my initial surprise.   Don’t be put off by my Concord-grape description, this is an eminently drinkable wine and will appeal to a wide range of wine drinkers.

The one red available on the menu that afternoon was the 2005 Elms Meritage. A blend of all three of Greenvale’s estate grown red grapes, the Meritage is 60% Cabernet Franc, 38% Merlot, and 2% Malbec.  The vines are some of their younger ones ranging between 11 and 14 years old.  In addition to the initial aging in French Oak, Greenvale also bottle ages all their reds for an additional 2-3 years.  The nose has that very distinctive New England “twang” or tanginess that I’ve come to know and love.  I mentioned it to Kristen, who agreed, and we spent a delightful few minutes trying to adequately describe it.  I likened it to the tang of salt air in the Fall; she countered with “chalky granite” which I also get.  The word that we eventually came to is flinty, that smell you get from wet rocky soil after a hard rain…

I’m still working on the description.

Back to the wine…  In the mouth the wine is a little like Alice Through the Looking Glass, everything was the opposite of what I expected.  The predominant notes I picked up were pepper and cherry, but the pepper is on the front and the cherry on the finish.  It shook things up in a rather delightful way.  The pepper, while strong, is not overpowering and hits you with a nice sharp kick of heat in the front before really opening up in the mouth.  That initial kick of heat quickly settles down to a warm glow throughout the mouth at which point the fruit starts to pull through.  The finish is smooth with notes of just-ripe cherries.  This wine would be best paired with stronger, heartier meats and cheeses, and Kristen mentioned that when paired with a strong, creamy cheese like a Blue Cheese, the pepper settles down considerably.

Greenvale is also close to releasing their 2006 Cabernet Franc.  All of their wines are produced in limited quantities and that combined with the 2-3 year bottle aging for the reds means they often sell out of their reds well before the next vintage is ready for release.  I’ll definitely be watching their website and planning a return visit once the Cab Franc is released.

Greenvale Vineyard ~ Rhode Island

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

My week’s vacation found me pretty much all over the New England/Northeastern map.  A couple of days traversing the back roads of Connecticut, finishing up the Connecticut Wine Trail, a day in the Hudson River Valley in New York, and two days in Maine.  And, of course, lunch and wine in Newport.

My first visit to Newport was last summer with my erstwhile wine-trail-buddy, Christy.  Completely on a whim, we had hopped in the car and headed east one Saturday afternoon, planning on visiting the three wineries in the Newport area.  Unfortunately the drive took slightly longer than planned and the crowds at Newport Vineyards slowed us down somewhat, so we were only able to fit in two of the three wineries that afternoon.  And if I remember correctly, we squeaked in for the last tasting at Sakonnet Vineyards by the absolute skin of our teeth.  I hadn’t intended to let an entire year pass before I made it back to the third and last winery in the area, Greenvale Vineyards.

But it has actually been a year, almost to the day, since Christy and I made that first trek out to Newport.  I had returned to Newport in December to tour the “cottages” all decked out in their Christmas finery, but I was with my cousins and the schedule was tight as it was, so no side trips that day.

The day turned out to be picture-perfect.  A leisurely two-hour drive from Hartford put me in Newport just about lunch-time.   First, a stroll down America’s Cup avenue with beautiful views of the harbor and ocean on my right and the shops on my left…  Then a stop at the Barking Crab for a wonderful lobster salad BLT for lunch, heavy on the lobster, light on the mayo – just the way I like it…   Finally finished up with a quick stop in a few of the local shops on the way back to the car and it was time to head to the winery.

Greenvale Vineyards is about 6 miles slightly northeast of Newport in Portsmouth.  The farm has been in the Parker family since 1863 operating primarily as a dairy farm until the later 20th century.  Nancy Parker Wilson, Greenvale’s General Manager, is a 5th-generation Parker, and her mother, Nancy Knowles Parker is publisher of three local wine publications, the New England Wine Gazette, the Finger Lakes Wine Gazette, and the Virginia Wine Gazette.

The Parker estate sits along the banks of the Sakonnet River with vineyards running along the slopes up from the river banks.  Greenvale planted their first vines in 1982 and now have 24 acres of grapes including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Vidal Blanc and Cayuga and Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec.  Yes, you read that right, Malbec.  I was surprised as well, not imagining that Malbec would do well in the colder winters and shorter growing seasons of New England.  However, the Newport area is blessed with a micro-climate that is similar to the fields of northern France, as Kristen, my lovely host for the afternoon, informed me.  In addition to the Newport micro-climate, the terroir, slope and drainage of the Greenvale fields are also conducive to growing both Malbec and Merlot.

Speaking of my host, Kristen, she is one of the true gems of Greenvale.  Relaxed, friendly and extremely knowledgeable about wines in general and Greenvale wines in particular, she really made the visit.  As I pulled in another couple were just leaving, and so I had the winery – and Kristen – to myself.  It wasn’t just that she was welcoming, it was more that she was completely comfortable with what she’s doing – she really loves her job and it shows.  She didn’t just pour a tasting, she accompanied me throughout.  We took some time to talk about each wine; she told me her thoughts and was genuinely interested in mine.

Greenvale's Tasting Room is a bright, open, airy space. Kristen, one of the highlights of my visit, is on the right.

Granted, I am often visiting wineries on weekends when things are busy, but so often the staff sort of parrots the tasting notes and then walks away, or doesn’t seem too interested in what you might be picking up in the wines.  I can imagine it could be uncomfortable and awkward, particularly if you are the winemaker, to hear people talk about your wines.   And everyone I’ve met has been very friendly and welcoming.  It’s just that Kristen makes you feel like you’re sitting around talking to a buddy about wine, and that she’d be happy to sit there as long as you wanted to talk about wine – and it made for a very fun afternoon.

All of Greenvale’s wines are estate-grown.  They rent tank space from Newport Vineyards a few miles down the road, but all the grapes are grown on the Greenvale farmland on the banks of the Sakonnet River.  The Tasting Room is in a charming renovated horse stables set about 1/4 mile back from the main road, in the midst of the vineyards.  The long driveway takes you through vineyards and pastures and past a beautiful large New England farmhouse currently occupied by Greenvale’s owner, Nancy Knowles Parker.  At the time it was built, 1865, it was the largest home on the island.  Even though it was later dwarfed by the palatial “cottages” of the Vanderbilts, Astors and others, it is a lovely house and a perfect centerpiece for the estate.

Greenvale currently produces seven wines, five whites and two reds.  Two of the wines, the Rosecliff Pinot Gris and the Elms Meritage are named for two of the mansions owned by the Newport Historical Preservation Society and feature pictures of the homes on their labels.  A portion of the proceeds of each wine goes to the Preservation Society to help with the upkeep of the historic mansions of Newport.

Greenvale is open year-round: April – December Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Sundays 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm.  Winter hours (January-March) are Monday-Saturday 11:00 am – 4:00 pm and Sundays 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm.  Public tours are offered every day at 2:00, and private tours can be arranged with advance notice.   Greenvale often hosts live music and special events, and the site is available for private parties and rentals, check the website for details.

Greenvale Vineyards
582 Wapping Road
Portsmouth, RI 02871

Coming Tuesday, September 24th: Greenvale’s wines…

The Wines of Langworthy Farm

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Sitting on the deck overlooking the vineyards - a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon

I had intended to get this posted yesterday but, as usual, life intervened.  Given my track record of late, though, 24 hours delay is rather timely…

I spent a lovely hour with Joe Sharry and six of his wines that beautiful Saturday afternoon.   I had my choice of five of the 10 main wines, and then for an additional $2 each could add either of the limited production wines to my tasting.  After careful perusal of the menu, I opted for 2 whites and 3 reds and Tom encouraged me to also try the red Cuvee, a suggestion I found impossible to resist.

My first selection was the Shelter Harbor Chardonnay.  Pale gold color with a soft, lightly citrus nose.  In the mouth, the wine is dry and buttery with soft tannins on the finish.  The predominant note was grapefruit, but it was light and subtle.  Served chilled, the wine is crisp and refreshing and would work well with seafood, grilled vegetable dishes, or on its own.  A very nice wine.

My next choice was the Winnapaug White Merlot.  I discovered white merlots a few years ago, and have become a real fan, generally preferring them to their red counterpart.  I like the heartier character of the white merlot (as compared to Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc) and the often earthy character I find in them.  I also don’t see a lot of them, at least not among local vintners, and so always make a point of trying them when I do.  Langworthy Farm’s White Merlot didn’t wow me, but it also didn’t disappoint.  It’s a pleasant wine, peachy in color with a pretty, slightly floral nose.  In the mouth, however, the wine is more earthy with notes of grass and green pepper, and there’s a slight bitterness on the end that might soften with aging or perhaps more breathing time.  The most interesting thing I found about the wine is that there were no dominant notes throughout – I found myself having to search for the individual notes.  That’s not to say it had no flavor, just that no one note shone through.

With that I rinsed my glass and turned to the reds, bypassing Langworthy Farm’s two Merlots and heading straight to the Charlestown Cabernet Franc.  Aged for 14 months in a combination of French and American oak, the result was one of my favorite of all the wines I tasted that morning.  A lovely purple color with a soft nose with rich notes of cherry, the wine has is dry and earthy, with light notes of pepper and cherry and tobacco on the finish.  In addition to the tobacco notes, the oak provides a light smokiness which I found very interesting.  The Charlestown Cab Franc recently won a medal in the Finger Lakes Regional Wine Competition.

I know many people who aren’t fans of Cabernet Franc, finding the grape and the wines, pale imitators of their more robust Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir cousins.  I, as regular readers of Vino Verve will attest, have become a big fan.  Particularly here in the Northeast, the grapes seem to grow very well and produce some really nice, robust reds.  Not as “big” as a California or European Cabernet Sauvignon, but strong enough to stand up to hearty foods and cold winter evenings.   Langworthy Farm’s Cabernet Franc definitely made it into my collection of Cabernet Francs.

After the Cabernet Franc, I moved on to the Napatree Cabernet Sauvignon.   Aged for more than 12 months in French oak, the Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the better of it’s kind I’ve found among southern New England wineries.  Like other local wineries, Langworthy Farms brings in their grapes from Long Island; I’m sure it is no surprise to anyone that ours is not a climate conducive to growing Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine is a lovely garnet color with a rich plummy nose.  I really loved the nose on this wine.  In the mouth the wine is very smooth; I was a bit surprised at how smooth, as so many of the “bigger” reds I’ve tried here in the northeast have felt “young.”  The wine is lush and rich with strong earthy, grassy notes and notes of leather and smoke from the oak.  I also detected light notes of blackberry which contributed to the overall richness of the wine.  Very nice wine, and one of the better Cabernet Sauvignon’s I’ve had here in Southern New England.

I finished up the main tasting with the Pawcatuck River Red, a stainless-steel fermented blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Not a bad wine, and people who like slightly sweeter, lighter wines should really enjoy this.  But I found it almost too clean, particularly coming after the Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon.  I missed the smokiness and the earthiness I found in the other two wines.  Garnet colored, with a fruity nose, the Pawcatuck River Red is a fruitier wine with strong notes of cherry and blackberry.   The tasting notes indicate this would be great with pasta and salads, and for a lighter summer red it’s not bad.  However, compared to the other two I found it to be not as complex and interesting.  Perhaps if I had tasted that one first before either the Cab Franc or the Cab Sauvignon, I would have been more impressed.  Still, despite my preference for the other wines, it’s a nice overall table wine, and I think more people will prefer this one to the Cabernet Franc.

Because I was the only guest that morning, I was able to chat with Joe throughout the tasting, learning about the history of the winery, the house/bed & breakfast, and the surrounding area.  Because I usually can only hit the wine trail on the weekends, it’s not often that I have the luxury of having the winemaker all to myself.  So at the end of the tasting, when Joe suggested I try to the Ward 3 Cuvee, his limited production red, I certainly wasn’t going to turn him down.

The Cuvee is a Bordeaux-blend of the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was fascinating to taste this immediately after the Pawcatuck River Red, a blend of the same grapes.  Darker in color, more of a dark garnet, with a strong earthy nose, this is a lovely wine.  Both rich and subtle the flavors and notes of the wine blend together beautifully.  The predominant notes are earthy, almost loamy.  I detected notes of tobacco and leather, and the finish brings forth notes of warm spice, cumin among others.  There are also very soft, subtle fruit notes that provide a depth and richness that opens up the earthiness beautifully.  I also found the wine built over time – each subsequent taste layering on the previous one.  A very impressive wine.

That concluded my tasting for the morning.  There are an additional five wines, 3 whites and 2 reds, on the main tasting menu and a limited production Reserve Chardonnay that I did not have the opportunity to try.  However, there is at least one winery in Southeastern Connecticut still on my list, so I think a return trip to Langworthy Farms to try the rest of the menu will be on the schedule soon.

Langworthy Farm Winery ~ Westerley, Rhode Island

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I know it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post anything; it’s also been a while since I’ve been able to hit the win(e)ding roads.  I woke up the other day wondering where this summer – and all my plans – had gone to.

My last wine trip was about a month ago, a beautiful, warm, sunny Saturday.  I’m still trying to finish the entire Connecticut wine trail, only 6 more to go, but as I looked at my maps that morning, I decided I’d take a short detour and head first into Westerley, Rhode Island and the Langworthy Farm Winery before turning back home and picking up one or two of the wineries I’ve yet to visit in the southeastern corner of my state.

Westerley, the home of the Langworthy Farm Winery, lies just over the Connecticut/Rhode Island border.  While it’s the first winery on the Coastal Wine Trail of New England which runs through Rhode Island and Massachusetts and ends at the tip of Cape Cod, Langworthy is actually closer to the Stonington wineries, Jonathan Edwards, Stonington Vineyards, and Salterwater Farms vineyards, than it is to the Newport wineries that follow it on the Coastal Wine Trail.  Because of their proximity, you could do an easy day combining two, three or four of the wineries that fall along the border.

My original plan when I left the house that morning was to start with Langworthy Farm Winery, loop back to Stonington for a visit to Saltwater Farm Winery, and then stop at Gales Ferry and the Holmberg Orchards and Winery on the way home.   A touch of sunstroke (probably shouldn’t have sat on the porch at Langworthy as long as I did) and lunch that didn’t sit too well intervened, and I wound up skipping Holmberg Orchards, but not before sampling some very nice wines at both Langworthy and Saltwater.

Langworthy Farm, owned by Joe & Gail Sharry, is a small property about 1/2 a mile from the coastline and beaches on the homesite of Samuel Ward, one of the first governors of Rhode Island.  The farm include a small vineyard, the winery and a bed and breakfast which is housed in a charming mid-19th-century Victorian farmhouse.  The Sharry’s have lived in Rhode Island since 1993, first in the Providence area and then moving to Westerley in 1999, when they bought the Langworthy Farms property.  They had been making wines for years and after successfully launching the Bed and Breakfast, decided to begin their own winery.  They planted their first vines in 2002 and the winery opened to the public in 2005.

The winery and Tasting Room sits in a small cottage-like structure in the yard behind the main house.  The Tasting Room itself is small but charming, with a few bistro-style bar tables and chairs and a long wine bar running along the back wall.   Windows over the bar allow you to see through to the pressing and storage areas behind the tasting room.

To make up for the relatively small tasting room, the Sharrys have built a long deck running the length of the cottage with tables, chairs and lovely views of the vineyard and surrounding farms.  The property is located on the corner of two fairly busy state roads, and while not an interstate, there is still a fair amount of traffic you’ll see and hear as you relax and enjoy the wines.

On that particular Saturday I arrived shortly after they opened, and pretty much had the place to myself.  Joe Sharry was my host for the wine tasting, and we spent a very pleasant hour sampling wines, talking about the history of the property and surrounding area, and enjoying the sunshine.  Langworthy Farms currently produces 12 wines, six whites and six reds, including a limited production Chardonnay and Bordeaux-blend red.   A tasting will run you $6 and includes your choice of five of the 10 wines, with tastings of the limited production wines being an additional $2 each.   I was by myself that day, so I didn’t have the luxury of splitting the tasting menu with a wine-trail buddy and sampling them all, so I settled on two whites and three reds, and Joe kindly added a tasting of the Ward 3 Cuvee, the limited production red, at the end of the tasting.

More on the wines themselves on Thursday…

Langworthy Farm Winery
308 Shore Road
Westerley, Rhode Island 02891

Opening Day

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

May 1st marks the official start of wine season here in Connecticut.  The Connecticut Farm Wineries’ 2010 Passport program kicked off with the release of the new passports on Saturday.   The passport includes pages for each Connecticut Farm Winery that is open to the public; as you visit each winery, have the corresponding page in the passport stamped.   At the end of the season (early November), turn in your passport for a chance to win one of two 10-day trips to Europe.

While a few wineries won’t open until June or July, most of Connecticut’s 30 wineries are now open for the season, with many offering weekday as well as weekend hours.  Several wineries are also gearing up for special spring events and festivals which can be a great kick-off for your own Win(e)ding Road adventures:

May 8-9:  Barrel Tasting @ Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT

May 15-16:    Barrel Tasting @ Hopkins Vineyards, New Preston, CT

May 15:   Barrel Tasting @ Miranda Vineyards, Goshen, CT

June 5-6:  Jonathan Edwards Winery Spring Festival, North Stonington, CT

June 19-20:   Haight-Brown’s Festival on the Farm, Litchfield, CT

Outside of Connecticut, the Coastal Wine Trail of Southeastern New England, which includes 9 wineries and extends 170 miles along both the Rhode Island and Nantucket Sound, from the Rhode Island/Connecticut border up into Cape Code, launched their passport program in February, which will run until December 31st.  Collect stamps from all 9 wineries and turn in your passport for a chance to win a Cruise to the Bahamas.

After stops at the final few wineries I’ve yet to visit in Connecticut, Rhode Island and the Coastal Wine Trail are next on the list.  Coastline drives under blue skies, the lush greenery of ripening vineyards and farmlands, a chance to discover new wines, and seafood dinners in Cape Code or Newport – that’s what summer’s all about…  Can’t wait!