Advocating for under-appreciated wine regions in the Eastern United States

Part of New England's largest vineyard.

909 East Main Rd., Middletown, RI 02842

(401) 848-5161

I had done a little research, but didn’t really know what to expect. After all, there are only ten wineries in the entire state. Having said that, it is not that far north of the Long Island wine region and it is part of the Coastal Wine Trail that includes fourteen wineries stretching from Cape Cod back into Connecticut. Furthermore, the sea air moderates the local temperatures and the ocean breeze protects the fruit from the ravages of frost. So there are a few very good reasons to expect quality wine.

Plenty of outdoor space to linger with a glass of wine.

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Newport Vineyards Profile

    Written by Brian May 30, 2015

​​I doubt that most oenophiles consider wine production and Rhode Island in the same contiguous thought. I certainly did not, but a recent trip to Newport has forced me to rethink that notion. I am really incapable of taking a trip that does not include a winery visit or two. So it should come as no surprise that I factored some wine tasting into my vacation and drove up to Newport Vineyard, which is located in Newport County and just a couple miles northeast of the city.

I selected six wines from the menu, which I found to be extremely difficult. In the end, the ones I settled for, turned out to be uniformly excellent. It is tough for me to point to a real top pick. I really enjoyed the Vidal Blanc, but I thought the Gewürztraminer was among the best American examples I have tasted. It was showing lychee on the nose and a palate that was full of stone fruit. The finish contained the typical spice, but there was a distinct ginger component, that I found particularly compelling. Among the reds, I tried the Rochambeau, which is a Bordeaux blend (plus a bit of the French hybrid Landot Noir). I also sampled the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, which were both well crafted, but the Blaufrankish was simply over the top. It was a big wine filled with berry notes and hint of pepper in the finish. It was easily one of the best non-Austrian examples I have encountered. 

So you may still struggle with the idea of Rhode Island as a wine producing state, but you should not be put off by size and numbers. I am unable to speak for the rest of the region, but Newport Vineyards is a serious producer of potentially world-class wines. Do not take my word for it. Whether you live in the area or are just passing through, this a winery worthy of your attention. Check them out and when you do, please let me know what you think.

Cheers!

John and Paul Nunes opened Newport Vineyards back in 1995. So much of their sixty two acres of vines have had twenty years to establish roots. They are not quite old growth, but they are approaching that milestone and are producing about 20,000 cases of quality estate wine annually. The Nunes brothers not only have the largest vineyard in New England, they may also be the largest wine producer. 

Bottles bearing the Newport label.

The tasting room complex from the parking lot.

I counted thirty one wines on the tasting menu and, while I only tasted six, there is definitely something for nearly every palate. The offerings range from dry style to dessert wine and real ice wines are produced as part of that dessert line. I noted, as one might expect, that there were many German and Austrian varietals on the list, but a number of more recognizable international grapes were represented as well. 

The New England Wine Gazette described Newport Vineyards as a “Napa experience.” I’m not sure I like that comparison, because it invokes images of Disneyland. I will say that the tasting experience is well thought out and they are designed to handle a crowd. Tours are offered, but a much less structured visit can include a bottle of wine and a stroll through the vineyards. The attached Brix Restaurant and Fatulli’s Bakery also offer a pair of onsite dining options. So Newport Vineyards is a serious local attraction, but I will stay away from references to Napa.

Open to Public 

Sun-Friday Tours 1 & 3; Sat 11 to 4