A few months ago I found an article online guiding the reader through a day trip through Rhode Island that included a little hiking, several waterfalls, and various vineyards along the way. I love all of those things, so I texted my best friend Angi, we picked the date of Sunday, October 7, 2018 to go on said day trip, and we patiently awaited a new adventure. Neither of us are strangers to RI wineries in general, as we spend every 4th of July weekend in Newport, RI, followed by a day touring the RI portion of the Coastal Wine Trail. The vineyards and wineries more inland, however, were brand new to us.
The weather report wasn’t looking spectacular for our day trip, so we decided to forgo the waterfalls portion of the day and simply “do wine.” Truth be told, I’m glad it ended up this way, as it allowed more time for an extra winery visit than we had planned.
Leyden Farm Vineyards & Winery
Ang and I hopped in the car and drove about an hour south of my house, where we’d start our day at Leyden Farm Vineyards & Winery. First, let me start by saying the drive from Worcester, MA to West Greenwich, RI was simply beautiful. Rustic homes and farms, one pumpkin stand right after another, lots of small town charm, long winding back roads, and foliage that was just starting to glow. The drive itself with no destination at all would have been worth it, but alas, much wine awaited us.
Ang and I each bought a tasting, and then were instructed to go out back, choose to sit wherever we wished, and then go up to the tasting bar for each of our five selections. They had quite a bit of fruit wines, which Angi chose to taste. I tend to stay away from the sweeter styles and fruit wines when there are other options, so I went for their dry white and four dry reds, which included a Sangiovese, Merlot, “Romeo’s Red” (a blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Landot Noir), and a Pinot Noir. I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty certain not all of these grapes are estate grown, as many of them struggle to grow in our New England climate. What I found odd was that every single red I sampled was exactly the same bright ruby red. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Merlot such a bright shade of ruby. I should have asked more questions, but to be honest, I just wanted to taste some wine and enjoy a relaxing day with my bff! Sometimes I really need to force myself to draw the line between tasting wine for work and tasting wine for pure enjoyment. This day was for enjoyment.
What I did love was that several of their labels were pictures of dogs, and some of the wines were even named after their dogs. I think we all know how I feel about dogs! #dogmom
We enjoyed our wine on the quaint patio overlooking what appeared to be a Christmas tree farm and a lake with a fountain in the distance. It has a beautiful atmosphere and is a wonderful place to enjoy a relaxing day with people you love. We certainly could have stayed for a while and made ourselves comfy for a few hours, but there were other vineyards to see and wines to taste, so we got back in the car to head about 30 minutes north to Johnston, RI.
Another stunning drive through winding New England back roads, and we arrived at Verde Vineyards, and incredibly quaint and rustic farm winery. Of course the first thing I did upon arrival was hop out of the car and squeal with delight over the backyard chickens running about. I have this weird thing for birds. I love them. LOVE THEM! Chickens, ducks, turkeys, and of course parrots (I am a parront to two macaws, after all). Living in the city, I don’t really have the yard space to own my own chickens and ducks, but mark my words, when I eventually move out to the country, that’s one of the first things on my to-do list. Get chickens! Okay, back to the wine…
Before we even reached the tasting room entrance we were pleasantly greeted by two gentlemen, one of which was the owner, Giacomo (Jim) Verde. Sadly for us, they were completely sold out of white wines, so we were only able to taste the two reds. For $3 per tasting, you can’t really complain, and good for them for creating a product people love enough to buy out! Jim was proud to explain to us that Yankee Magazinehad called him “the greenest vineyard in New England,” and not because his last name means green in Italian, but because his energy bill is $0. The farm creates all of their own energy. Angi and I truly enjoyed their reds, so we each walked out purchasing a bottle of St. Croix, a hybrid grape, that we will open during our annual Friendsgiving dinner and share with our closest friends. This vineyard was a charming farm that would be a delightful place to spend an entire day. Pack a picnic, grab some friends and family, head over to Verde Vineyards, buy a bottle, and just enjoy the small town feel. You won’t regret it.
It was suggested by the guys at Verde Vineyards that we add an additional winery visit to our day, and who are we to ignore a great recommendation? Back in the car it was for a quick drive north to the town of Chepachet, RI.
I truly can’t get over the simple rustic beauty of every vineyard we visited. The moment we pulled up to Mulberry Vineyards, both of us fell in love. The owner, David Wright, was crushing Merlot grapes, and his wife Melissa was upstairs working the tasting bar, where she greeted us with a huge smile and warm welcome.
The Wrights are truly “living the dream.” They own and operate this gorgeous piece of vineyard property, and produce some truly delicious wines. Like most vineyards in New England, they do source their grapes from other areas of the country that are better suited for growing, and the result is some seriously high quality wines.
Alongside our tasting, Melissa gave us a little plate of the Merlot grapes David was crushing. I find this fascinating, to taste the grape at the exact brix and acidity level the winemaker desires to create the perfect wine. I thought this was such a great touch to add to the experience. The Merlot was fabulous, by the way, and I walked out purchasing a bottle to take home and enjoy.
Tavern On Main
After three fabulous wineries, we were starving, so on the way to our next winery we passed by what looked like a quaint tavern to have lunch. We had no idea what we were walking into. Usually we’ll take a moment to look up a menu online, assess the wine list, all that jazz. Not this time. We wanted to just pick a random place by the looks of it and see what we could find. Wow, were we glad we did. Tavern On Main in Chapachet, RI is one of those hidden gems you want to revisit as often as possible.
You never know what to expect on a wine list in a small town bar or grille. Actually, I take that back. I usually expect the wine list to be full of mass produced, cheap crap wine. Ang and I were pleasantly surprised to see their wine list contained two wines from the very vineyard we had just left, Mulberry Vineyards!
I ordered a glass of red, Ang ordered the white, and we thoroughly enjoyed a glass of high quality, locally made wine. In addition, the menu blew us away. The menu was so diverse and had such enticing selections, it took us a bit of time to narrow it down and figure out what we wanted. The decision got a lot easier once I realized they had a seafood dish that was 100% lobster, crab, and butter. No bread crumbs, no carbs, just pure keto-friendly savory goodness. Ang and I started by splitting a bowl of steamers, and then I savored that lobster/crab/butter dish like nobody’s business. Heaven!
Purple Cat Winery & Brewery
Our final destination for this awesome day was a block or two down the road from the tavern, Purple Cat Winery & Brewery. This place is just plain fun. There was live music as we walked in, and people were enjoying tasting flights of both wine and craft beers. As if we didn’t eat enough delicious business at the tavern, for some reason I felt the need to order a charcuterie plate to enjoy with my tasting flight. I’m glad I did, as it was the perfect compliment to the nine or so wines we were able to taste, and it helped me stay away from the bowl of non-keto friendly CheezIts.
After the tasting, we decided to close the day by ordering a glass, relaxing on one of the several comfy couches, and kick our feet up. They closed at 6pm, we were still there at 6:20 (ooops), so we figured we overstayed our welcome and headed back home. Purple Cat was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed their “Trolly Car” red blend, which is what I ended up ordering by the glass.
And That’s A Wrap…
When we think about great wine regions of the world, Rhode Island isn’t one of them. In fact, no where in New England comes to mind. Despite that, what I have found is that we are incredibly fortunate to be home to many wonderful rustic farm wineries, some bigger commercial wineries, and some that are just plain fun. I don’t expect a big, bold California style Cab when I visit our local wineries, nor do I expect a grassy New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. What I do expect is a unique flavor, some great blends, perhaps some unexplored hybrids, a few fruit wines here and there, and truly something to be proud of. New England has it all, and wineries, vineyards, and amazing cuisine are at the top of the list. We don’t need to compete with the Finger Lakes or California, that would be ridiculous. But we can stand on our own when it comes to local flavor and charm, and appreciate it for exactly what it is.
About the Author
CSW, WSET3, FWS, BWSEd | Executive VP of Sales and Aquisitions at VINOvations
Missa holds various positions in the wine industry, each of which brings her incredible fulfillment. She is the EVP of Sales and Acquisitions at VINOvations in Sharon, MA. She also teaches students of all levels of experience and interest in wine classes, lifestyle experiences, and leads wine dinners all around Massachusetts.
She is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the Society of Wine Educators, a certified French Wine Scholar (FWS), certified with the Wine and Spirits Trust, Level 3 Advanced (WSET), and a certified educator with Boston Wine School (BWSEd). Her unique combination of talent allows her to translate the nuances of wine for the everyday wine drinker in an accessible and fun way. Demystifying wine and removing the intimidation is her passion when sharing wine with others.