Rhode Island, the smallest state in the U.S., is home to several wineries producing more white wine than red wine, and, in fact, its climate of coastal breezes, fluctuating temperatures, and moist air produce crops that are similar to those found in Germany and northern France.
“It is no coincidence that Rhode Island’s vineyards are all coastal. The cool, moist salt air provides ideal conditions for the grapes,” says Ann Martini, public relations and marketing, Rhode Island Tourism Division. But to get a good crop is almost a science due to the climate. She adds, “Temperatures that vacillate greatly, unpredictable rainfall, and an occasional drought makes a successful harvest here more about science than art.”
The best time to visit these wineries, located along Rhode Island’s southern coastline, is during the fall, and an added bonus is that these wineries are in close proximity to each other, which means your clients can visit all four in just a day, or experience a long wine-tasting getaway with overnight stays in Newport or South County; the best routes start in Westerly and end in Little Compton, or vice-versa.
Newport Vineyards, originally planted in 1977 on a hill overlooking Rhode Island Sound, harvests French-American grapes on 60 vineyard acres and produces award-wining wine like its Newport Vineyards Riesling, which won best of show out of 458 wine entries at the Jefferson Cup Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition in 2008. Wine tours are daily at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; hourly on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rates are $12 pp for five samples and $15 pp for five samples and a signature glass. For more information, visit newportvineyards.com.
Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth, located along the Sakonnet River, has been a family establishment since 1863, and is listed on the state and national registers of historic places. Fourth generation wine grower Cortlandt Parker, along with his wife, began to grow grapes as a hobby in the 1960s, and in the early ’80s, they decided to develop a commercial vineyard. Tastings are scheduled daily at 2 p.m. at $12 pp for seven different wines, and $15 pp for the tour and tastings. For more information, visit greenvale.com.
Langworthy Farm Winery in Westerly was built in 1875 on the homesite of Governor Samuel Ward; owners Joe and Gail Sharry first planted vinifera grape vines in 2002 and produced the first barrel of Chardonnay that same year. They now produce seven different types of wine, including red wine. Alongside the vineyard is a Victorian farmhouse bed & breakfast that the family operates in season, and meals are always paired with house wines. Tastings are scheduled daily from July 4 through Labor Day and are $7 pp for five wines. For more information, visit langworthyfarm.com.
Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton is a popular vineyard in Rhode Island, and the largest. Founded in 1975, it has pioneered the production of fine wines in New England for over 30 years. There are several wine varietals grown including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, and the unique hybrid Vidal Blanc, as well as Sakonnet, and an award-winning sparkling wine. Tours, priced at $10, run daily between noon and 3 p.m. There’s also a cafe and outdoor seating. For more information, visit sakonnetwine.com.
Located only 20 minutes from the wineries is Castle Hill Inn, overlooking Narragansett Bay in Newport. The hotel is offering a Wine + Dine package that includes a 2-night stay; dinner for two at 22 Bowen’s Wine Bar & Grille, a modern steakhouse located in downtown Newport on Bowen’s Wharf; a 3-course dinner for two at the Castle Hill Inn dining room; and two tickets to the Newport Art Museum.
According to Marie Cuccia, director of sales and marketing, Castle Hill Inn, while in Newport “guests can tour historic mansions, or ‘summer cottages’ as they were once called, of American industrialists, shop on Thames Street, and visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Visitors can easily see why Newport is called the ‘City by the Sea’ as the options for venturing out on the water are plentiful. One can ferry out to the Rose Island Lighthouse, re-enact the feeling of the America’s Cup Race on a 39-ft. yacht, or spend a day at one of the area’s gorgeous beaches.”
On-property activities include clambakes, bonfires, games on the lawn, kayaking, paddleboarding, yoga, surfing, sailing and more. Rates start at $699. For more information, visit castlehillinn.com.