Newport Vineyards & Winery Review
Address: 909 E. Main Rd. Middletown,Rhode Island 02842.
Phone Number: 401-848-5161
Tasting Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00-5:00, Sun 12:00-5:00
Region: Southeastern New England AVA, Rhode Island
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
Review Date: 12/27/2014
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
Another stop on the Coastal Wine Trail in Rhode Island over the Christmas holiday brought us to the newly-renovated tasting room of Newport Vineyards. Originally founded in 1977, this sought-after farming area overlooking the Rhode Island sound provides the perfect micro climate for cool climate grape varieties. Owned and operated by John and Paul Nunes, the vineyard has grown to close to 60 acres since their initial plantings acquired from Captain Richard Alexander in 1995. In 2015, the vineyard tasting room will add a new restaurant, Brix, and expand the tasting facilities from the small tasting room of previous years to multiple tasting bars and space for events, such as local farmers markets.
Paul Nunes currently manages the multiple-site vineyard operation and describes the unique micro-climate as benefiting from the warm waters of the Gulf Stream to the south and the moderating effects of Narragansett Bay. These conditions provide a long, cool growing season ideal for developing the many complex flavors of our wines. The vineyards are located approximately two miles from the ocean, which is close enough to protect the vines from October frost, yet far enough away to benefit from the thermal temperatures of the mainland. All and all, the Nunes family put a lot of research and effort into selecting a site for their vineyard and in selecting the grape varieties best suited for the environment. The property consists of two vineyard sites – the Nunes Farm site and the Perry Farm vineyard. The vineyards contain nine varieties including Cayuga, Merlot, Gewurztraminer, Vidal Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Landot Noir to name a few. At the wine-making helm is long-tenured winemaker George Chelf.
It had been almost two years since our last visit, and we were pleasantly surprised by the property overhaul. Not only had the tasting room been moved, but the facilities have been expanded. Passing the stairs to the Brix Restaurant, visitors will find themselves in the wine shop. Staff greet guests upon entry and assist with purchases of wine, accessories or a tasting/tour. We opted to share a tasting given the tasting fee, which really caught us off guard. Though given the recent expansions, one can only assume that tasting fees are part of the equation for subsidizing the cost of the expansion. For $12, visitors are able to taste five wines of the almost 32 wines offered, and for an additional $3 visitors can keep your glass. A bit pricey for a flight of five wines, but I digress. We opted for one tasting and were directed through the archway into the large production room, lined wall to wall with large stainless steel fermentation tanks. At the end of the pathway was the tasting bar which overlooks the back patio and vineyards. On this particular Saturday, a local farmers market was spread about the production facility offering visitors a chance to purchase truffles, local mushrooms, vegetables, baked goods and dairy products.
We stepped up to the tasting bar and made our selections, finding four of the six particularly impressive. Many of Newport Vineyards’ wines reminded us of our recent honeymoon in Alsace, France. The wines were very similar in structure and quality, starting with their Pinot Gris (Dry / $22). Produced in the Alsatian style, this wine was bright, crisp and balanced with nuances of apple, banana and crisp, citrus fruit. It finished with a rich structure and mineral notes. We then moved onto the Gewurztraminer ($18) which was produced in a similar Alsatian style. Rich and fragrant with plenty of fresh cut roses and tropical nuances, the Gewurztraminer struck a perfect balance with its rich structure, white fruit and floral quality. It was backed by bold spice but was much drier than your typical Alsatian Gewurztraminer. Overall, a great wine and one that stood out on our visit.
The reds began with Cabernet Franc ($20). Cabernet Franc does particularly well in our usual wine touring location (Virginia) and we were anxious to see how Newport’s compared. That stereotypical pepper quality jumped out with a smooth layer of smoke to carry it forth. Showing a nice, medium-bodied structure, the wine’s earthy foundation, spice-sprinkled bacon, and dark fruit led to a lengthy peppery finish. An excellent wine and my favorite red of the tasting. We concluded our tasting with a sampling of Newport’s Blaufrankish ($20), a popular varietal often seen in the colder climates of Germany and Austria. A bit lighter than we would have liked, showing light to medium-bodied weight. White pepper on the nose and front palate were followed by layers of dark berry and a medium-length peppery finish.
I have to say, since our last visit the wines have definitely increased in quality. The winery seems to be coming along with their expansion, and the Brix restaurant should assist in generating some revenue. Newport Vineyards offers plenty of quality wines, and if you are looking for some cold climate varieties, this is the place to visit.