A Vino Verve Milestone!

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

One Down, 49 To Go!

 

We here at Vino Verve are all about exploration – finding and celebrating the wines and wineries all around us.  To that end, I’ve been slowly making my way across the Northeast, and with my recent trip to Diamond Hill Vineyards, Vino Verve can now lay claim to having visited all the wineries in a single state.   I’ve sampled some great wines along the way, met some interesting people, and learned a lot about local wine culture, terroir and winemakers.

There are still many many wineries left to explore and experience, but I thought it worth taking a pause to celebrate a milestone 3 years in the making!

So join us as we raise a glass to the wineries of the “Ocean State”!

Langworthy Farm Winery, Westerly

 

Newport Vineyards, Middletown

 

Sakonnet Vineyards, Little Compton

 

Greenvale Vineyards, Portsmouth

 

Diamond Hill Vineyards, Cumberland

 

 

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
email: favorpro@favorlabel.com
website: http://www.favorlabel.com/wedding_favors/Winery.php