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Visit to Westport Rivers Winery, January 2014

WRVW_Stewart_EDSC06500-1024x680It’s unusual to find a New England Winery that produces all estate wines.  There are good reasons for that, as grapes are difficult to grow here, especially red varieties, and there are certainly sources for quality grapes grown elsewhere.  Still, it’s nice to find a local winery that has made that commitment  to estate grown grapes, and has joined it to a philosophy of growing varieties that work in this climate.  When you visit Westport Rivers you won’t be able to try a California Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Franc or a Merlot.  Depending on the year you might get a Pinot Noir, but that hinges on the growing season a few harvests earlier.  What you will get is a list of quality white and sparkling wines, a list that features cool climate vinifera varieties that you would find right at home in Alsace, Champagne, Germany and Austria.  It makes sense, and it certainly works here.

Westport Rivers boasts 80 acres of vineyards, making it the largest vineyard in New England.  They are known for their

The Westport Rivers Lineup

The Westport Rivers Lineup

sparkling wine made in the traditional method, using the classic grapes of the Champagne region in France.  Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay go into their sparklers as a blend.  They do also make a Blanc de Blancs and a Blanc de Noirs.  There are several levels available, with some older sparklers including the latest release of their 1995 Max, now with 17 years on the lees.  This is the 4th time they’ve released it.  Needless to say it is it certainly not on the tasting lineup so we didn’t try it.  It will set you back $69.99 if you are so inclined.

We did get to try several wines though, including two of their bubblies.  All told we tried nine, and we have to say that the quality is high almost across the board.  Even the dessert wines were excellent.  It wasn’t a complete run of the table though, as the Chardonnay underwhelmed us.  Still, this was pretty impressive.  Here are the wines:

Cheri at the Tasting - near the fire of course!

Cheri at the Tasting – near the fire of course!

2006 Brut RJR – this spent six years on the lees, and the first thing you notice is how wonderfully small the bubbles are.  It’s got a pedigree of having being served during three different administrations in the White House.  It’s definitely a quality sparkling wine and extremely well made, that comes across immediately.  Very dry and crisp, it has a straw color with some notes of tropical fruit that almost seem overripe.  Good length continues through to a nice finish.  A blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.  $29.99

NV Farmer’s Fizz – another blend of the classic Champagne grapes, this has some noticeable acid and a little funk.  While not as balanced as the Brut it has some creamy notes and would be great with food.  $19.99

2011 Chardonnay – unfortunately the only wine we really didn’t like.  Kaytie described the wine as having a lot of acid, but I couldn’t find any signs of it at all.  It was light in alcohol, with no noticeable acid, no legs and a hollow mid-palate.  There just wasn’t much of anything to this.  Maybe we got a bad bottle or something. $17.99

2012 Cinco Caes – this a blend of four white grapes along with Pinot Noir, and a couple you do  not find very often,

Tasting tools - the glass is nice!

Tasting tools – the glass is nice!

especially around here.  The white grapes are Pinot Gris, Muscat, Rkatsiteli and Gruner Veltliner.  These last two are typically found in Georgia (and that’s the country not the state) and Austria.  You’ll find some Finger Lakes NY wineries growing the elusive Rkatsiteli as well.  This list of grapes is a perfect example of how the Russel’s have selected varieties that make sense for a relatively cool, maritime Massachusetts climate.  These are all cooler region grape varieties and don’t need long, hot summers to reach adequate ripeness for wine making.  They are going for crisp wines with bright acid, and succeeding.  We liked this, with its bright fruit including pear, kiwi and melon.  It’s off dry with nice balance and good length.  We bought a bottle and spent $17.99.

2011 Riesling – this is a true Riesling, and you can tell as soon as the glass gets near your nose and the telltale petrol aroma comes through.  There’s also some leather on the nose and palate.  Medium+ in body it also has nice length. Very good if you like traditional Riesling.  $17.99

2010 Pinot Noir – they don’t bottle a Pinot every year, and I imagine it depends on whether the grapes develop enough sugar or not.  There’s another vintage resting in the cellar now as well.  This was a light pink/salmon in color.  The nose featured strawberry and caramel.  Some pepper comes across the palate.  There is a lot going on and the wine is nicely complex.  Good length too.  Quite nice, but not cheap at $29.99.

Grace Chardonnay – now this is unusual.  They send some Chardonnay juice to a distillery in the Berkshires, and they

The Grace fortified wines.  Both very yummy!

The Grace fortified wines. Both very yummy!

distill it down to a 180 proof brandy.  When it gets back to the winery they cut it with Chardonnay wine to get it back to about 35 proof, which is in the range of most fortified wines.  It’s got a nose somewhat reminiscent of a tawny port, with apricot and dried fruit.  The palate has complex, beautifully integrated flavors.  It is very smooth and a great golden color.  A very long finish completes a nice wine.  This is top notch and $29.99 for a half bottle.

Grace Pinot Noir – where the Grace Chardonnay takes 8 years to produce, the Pinot takes only 6!  It’s darker in color, with dried fruit and caramel accents.  On the palate it is really reminiscent of a tawny port, although it doesn’t have quite the body.  The flavors are there though, and we bought some, spending $24.99 for a half bottle. While it’s twice as expensive as a 10 year tawny, it is local and about the best fortified wine you’re going to find around here.  Outstanding effort.

2012 Pinot Gris – this was a nice wine, and that sums it up pretty well.  There is some good acid and a pleasing flavor profile.   Nothing really stands out, but serve it chilled and just about everyone is going to like it.  $17.99

Max's potrait

Max’s potrait

The land was purchased in 1982 by Bob and Carol Russel.  They planted their first vines a few years later in 1986.  Carol’s father and grandfather had made wine at their Germania Wine Cellars in upstate New York, producing nationally acclaimed sparkling wines.  You can still see a picture of the grandfather, Max Grifenhagen, as his portrait hangs in the store when you walk in.

Westport Rivers is open Monday thru Saturday 11:00 to 5:00.   Tastings and tours are available.  A tasting will cost you $10 for a pretty nice glass and six wines.  We highly recommend you go, as this is a very unusual New England winery and a special place.  You’ll get some out of the ordinary wine and some serious quality as well.  There’s also a brewery on the site, but we didn’t get a chance to visit.  That just gives us a reason to go back soon.

Thanks to Kaytie for a very enjoyable and informative tasting.  You’ll find that the staff at Westport Rivers really know a lot about wine and their wine in particular.  That just makes it even better.  They’ve been there selling wine for 28 years,  so they must be doing something right.  Their specifics are below:

417 Hixbridge Rd, Westport, MA 02790

www.westportrivers.com

(508) 636-3423

A votre sante!

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