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



Sakonnet Vineyards ~ the Reds & Dessert Wines

Marguerite BarrettSakonnet Vineyards, Rhode Island / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, October 27th

Looking back over my notes, it appears that Christy and I only selected five wines (2 whites, 2 reds and 1 dessert wine) each, rather than the six we were entitled to.  I’m trying to remember if that’s because we each chose the same wine in two cases – or if we just counted wrong.  Knowing us, it was probably the latter.

Anyway – having finished the whites, we moved on to the Reds.  First up was the

Cock of the Walk Red – Like its counterpart Cock of the Walk White, the tasting notes also describe Cock of the Walk Red as having “lots of ATTITUDE.”  And unlike the white, with the red I did get attitude.  A blend of Lemberger, Cabernet Franc and Chancellor, this is a medium-bodied, fairly complex wine.  The color is a lovely dark plum and the nose has rich notes of plum.  In the mouth the wine opens with notes of spice and a hint of cinnamon and has rich notes of plum and cherries on the finish.  There’s an interesting musty earthiness, particularly on the finish, that gives the wine some character.  It’s a more complex wine than I expected, and Christy and I were divided; I liked it much better than she did.  The one thing we did agree on is that you’re unlikely to be neutral about this wine – you’ll either like it or you won’t.

Petite Red This is a new wine for Sakonnet, released for the first time this year.  A blend of younger estate grapes (interestingly they don’t share the specific varietals), this is a decent table wine.  Red-purple in color, the nose is bright and fruity, and there are bright notes of berries and cherry on the palate.  The Petite Red could pair with a wide variety of food, and would definitely be a”utility-player” wine to keep on hand.

Cabernet Franc 2005 As my regular readers know, I’ve been preferring Cabernet Francs lately.   The grape does well in the colder, northern climes, and the wines produced are dispelling the myth that the Northeast is too cold to produce strong reds.  While I’d probably rank this in the middle of the pack of New England Cab Francs I’ve tasted to date, I did enjoy this wine.  A lovely garnet color that caught the light nicely, the wine has an interesting plum & pepper nose.  In the mouth, the wine has notes of black currants and a touch of grassiness.  The oak brings out notes of musty leather in the nose and an earthiness in the mouth that provides a sharp, dry finish.

Sakonnet Vineyards, Little Compton, RI / Photo: Marguerite BarrettRhode Island Red The final wine we chose was the Rhode Island Red,  which Sakonnet calls “New England’s Signature Red.”   A blend of Cabernet Franc, Chancellor and Lemberger, this, like the Petite Red, is a nice “utility-player” table red, although this is a richer, more complex wine than the Petite Red.  The nose has soft floral notes, and in the mouth there are light notes of blueberry, a touch of grassiness, and a very light toastiness from the oak.

That finished the reds, and we had just enough time to squeeze in one dessert wine each, Christy opted for the

Port 2006 Made from estate-grown Chancellor grapes and aged for two years in American Oak before being fortified with brandy.  The result is a rich port wine, with notes of cherry and a slightly peppery finish.

My choice was a late harvest Vidal Blanc

Sirrius Christy and I both really liked this wine.  The nose was lovely (in my notes I actually underlined lovely several times) with that rich, deep sweetness that you so often get from Vidal Blanc grapes.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth and rich, with soft notes of apricot.  Definitely a nice dessert wine, the Sirrius would also be good sipped on its own as an aperitif.

Comparing notes, we both agreed that the three Vidal Blanc wines (Vidal Blanc 2008, Fume Vidal Reserve 2007 and Sirrius) are Sakonnet’s stars and really stood out from the rest of the pack.  With that, we packed up and headed back down the road to Newport and dinner on the water.

Sakonnet Vineyards is located in Little Compton, Rhode Island.  You can find their wines in local package stores and restaurants throughout Rhode Island, or purchase wine directly from the winery or their website.  They offer free shipping on cases over $150 and also offer a Rooster Rewards program in which you earn points towards discounts off future purchases.

Sakonnet Vineyards ~ The Whites

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Thursday, October 22nd

Coastline, Newport County.  Photo Courtesy of Christy Sherard

Coastline, Newport County. Photo Courtesy of Christy Sherard

Sakonnet Vineyards falls within the Southeastern New England AVA which starts just south of Boston and runs along the coasts of southeastern Massachusetts, through Rhode Island and into southeastern and central Connecticut.  The region’s climate is similar to some of the cooler wine regions around the world, most notably the Loire Valley in France, and for Rhode Island winemakers in particular, the presence of the Atlantic Ocean coupled with the warmer waters of the Narrangasset Bay provide an ideal micro-climate for grape production.

Sakonnet produces eight whites from predominately Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer grapes. The tasting menu includes all available Sakonnet wines (white, red, and dessert), and you get your choice of up to six.  Having become old hands at this, it took no time at all for Christy and me to build our joint tasting menu, beginning with the

Vidal Blanc 2008 This was my favorite of the Sakonnet whites.  Made from 100% Vidal Blanc grapes aged in stainless steel with no oak, the wine has that lovely “vidal” nose – bright and fruity, with lovely notes of grapefruit.  The wine is smooth, crisp and very refreshing, with notes of grapefruit and a slight sweetness that balances out the grapefruity tartness.  Our host suggested that in addition to pairing with foods, particularly seafood, this is a great wine for use in cooking and recommended using it when cooking scallops.   I don’t eat scallops, but I could definitely see using it in a wine sauce to accompany grilled salmon.

Cock of the Walk White A blend of Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, the tasting notes indicated “apple, melon and ATTITUDE.”  Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling the “attitude.”  Maybe it was the bottle we had, but I found the wine to be very light with no really strong discernible notes.  The nose was pleasant but light, and in the mouth the green apple notes were very subtle.  This is a low oak wine with a very light smokiness.  Christy also found it a bit anemic, and we both agreed the Vidal Blanc had more character and depth.

Photo Courtesy of Christy Sherard

Photo Courtesy of Christy Sherard

Fume Vidal Reserve 2007 Another very nice wine made again with Vidal Blanc grapes, Sakonnet’s “signature grape.”  Aged in small American and French oak barrels, the Fume Vidal is a drier and more aggressive wine than the Vidal Blanc.  The grapefruit notes in both the nose and the mouth are stronger, and the oak brings out sharper, richer fruit notes with a light toasty finish.  If forced to choose, my preference would be the Vidal Blanc 2008 for it’s crispness, but the Fume Vidal is an interesting wine, and definitely made my list of wines to watch for.

Reserve Chardonnay 2007 A pleasant wine, but overall not as interesting and distinctive as the two Vidals.  Barrel fermented and sur lie aged for one year in French Oak, the Reserve Chardonnay has lovely notes of both fruit and floral in the nose and soft notes of melon in the mouth.  The oak provides a light buttery smoothness and subtle notes of honey.  There’s a nice balance of acid to round out the wine and give it depth and interest.

Comparing notes as we rinsed our glasses in preparation for the first of the reds, both Christy and I agreed that the Vidals were definitely the stars among the whites.

The tasting continues Thursday, October 29th with the Sakonnet Reds & Dessert wines.

Sakonnet Vineyards is located in Little Compton, RI
See our 10.22.09 post for information on the winery including tasting room hours, winery tours, and contact information.

Sakonnet Vineyards ~ Little Compton, Rhode Island

Sakonnet Vineyards, LIttle Compton, RI / Photo: Marguerite BarrettMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I had to laugh at myself as I reached into the pile of notes taken during my Win(e)ding Road adventures over the past few months to pick the winery I’d feature in today’s post.  When I first started on this journey, I was, at best, an occasional contributor, fearing I’d never have enough material to meet a regular posting schedule.  Silly me…  I currently have enough notes to produce posts through early December.  And I still haven’t finished the entire Connecticut Wine Trail…

But the notes – and memory – I pulled out today take me back to that beautiful Saturday afternoon in early August when Christy and I took an impulsive road trip to Newport.  We left late, having only decided on Newport over brunch, and as a result, we pulled into Sakonnet Vineyards with 30 seconds to spare before last call (the tasting room closes at 6, and the last round of tastings is at 5:30).  If truth be told, we probably just missed last call, but the young lady at the register took pity on us and sold us two tastings just under the wire, for which we were cravenly grateful.

Sakonnet Vineyards, Little Compton, RI / Photo:Marguerite BarrettSakonnet Vineyards, named after nearby Sakonnet River, was the first post-prohibition Rhode Island winery.  Founded in 1975 by Jim & Lolly Mitchell, Sakonnet released their first vintage in 1976.   The Mitchells later sold the vineyards and winery to New Yorkers Earl and Susan Samson, who have developed both the wines and the winery into a destination spot for Rhode Island wine.  They currently have 50 acres under cultivation, growing Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Vidal Blanc and produce more than 30,000 cases annually.  They sell many of their wines through the winery and will ship orders providing state laws permit direct-from-winery or out of state shipments.  Sakonnet wines can also be found in package stores and on restaurant lists throughout Newport County and Rhode Island.

Sakonnet Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

The winery and grounds are charming.  The path up from the parking area takes you through a large grassy yard with modern-art sculptures set amid the trees and picnic tables.  Wildflowers blanket the lawn in front of the winery, and bistro tables and chairs are set up under the trees in the front yard and on the back patio for guests who wish to relax and enjoy their wine outside.

The tasting room feels like a large, comfortable pub; a very large rectangular bar, which could easily hold 30+ people, dominates the room.  A large wooden chalkboard sign hanging on the back wall serves as the price list, and the winery staff moves easily through the center of the bar area, pouring tastings or glasses of wine, clearing up, and chatting with the guests.  In addition to tastings and wine sales, Sakonnet also conducts winery tours twice a day.

Sakonnet Vineyards Tasting Room / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

Because we arrived so late in the day – and thanks again to the staff member who took pity on us and sold us the last two tickets for that day’s tastings – we really didn’t have time to linger.   We were given the tasting menu, which includes eight whites, five reds, and three dessert wines, and asked to select up to six wines.   We’ve become old hands at coordinating selections, so it didn’t take us long to make our selections and between us we were able to sample ten of Sakonnet’s sixteen wines.

First up, the whites beginning with the 2008 Vidal Blanc…

Continues on Tuesday, October 27th.

Sakonnet Vineyards
162 West Main Road
Little Compton, Rhode Island 02387
Hours: October – December  11:00 – 5:00, (last call 4:30) seven days a week.  January – March, 11:00 – 5:00 Thursday-Sunday.  On April 1st, they reopen seven days a week.  Winery tours are conducted each day at noon and 3pm