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



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…