Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Westport Rivers: Local Wines Worthy Of Respect
The 30+ Massachusetts wineries present a varied picture and many of them do not grow their own grapes. Some make fruit wines while others purchase grapes from places like California and New York. Of those that do grow their own grapes, especially vitis vinifera, most seem to be located in southeastern Massachusetts, along the Coastal Wine Trail.
Consisting of about 80 acres, the largest vineyard in Massachusetts, and possibly all of New England, is owned by Westport Rivers Winery, which was founded in 1986. The owners believed the climate and soil at their site was an excellent location for a vineyard, and their wines give proof to their belief. They only produce wines made from grapes they grow on their vineyard, such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Rkatsiteli, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat and Pinot Noir.
I lasted visited the winery over six years ago though had enjoyed their sparkling wines for a few years before that. About seven years ago, when I began blogging with a group of friends at the Real World Winers site (now defunct) and before I started The Passionate Foodie, the 2001 Westport Rivers Brut Cuvee RJR Sparkling Wine was one of our most highly recommended wines. Since that time, I have generally only seen their sparkling wines available at local wine stores. Their still wines were elusive but I now wish more shops would carry them, so that they were more readily available. I also need to make a trip down to the winery again, maybe this spring, to learn more about everything they are doing.
Westport Rivers recently sent me samples of two of their sparkling wines, the 2006 Brut Cuvee RJR and the 2001 Blanc de Blancs Brut. Then, this past weekend, the winery had a table at the Wayland Winter Farmers' Market and I had the opportunity to taste and be impressed by several of their still wines and one apertif/dessert wine. Their winemaker, Bill Russell, is producing plenty of wines of which he should be proud, showing the potential for Massachusetts wines produced from locally grown grapes.
I was intrigued by the 2011 Westport Rivers Cinco Cães ($18), a unique white blend of Rkatsiteli, Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat and Chardonnay. Cinco Cães, a Portuguese phrase that means "five dogs," is named for five dogs they owned, four Labrador retrievers and an Azorean cattle dog. Though an easy drinking wine, you might at first overlook its complexity. A fascinating blend of aromatics with tastes of green apple, pear, citrus, and herbal notes. It is crisp and delicious, with a lengthy finish and after having a glass, you are going to crave another and then another. Highly recommended.
Pinot Noir also figures into a fascinating apertif/after dinner wine, the Grace Pinot Noir ($25). The winery sends out some of their Pinot Noir to a distillery to make a brandy. When the brandy is returned, they add some Pinot Noir juice and age it for five years in French oak. Five different vintages are blended together and the end result has a powerful alcohol content of 17.5%. It is going to remind you of an aged Tawny Port in some respects with its intriguing flavors of caramel, dried figs, dark cherry and other savory notes. There is only a hint of sweetness in its rich and luxurious mouth feel. Unusual and compelling.
Massachusetts can be proud of Westport Rivers, making true local wines that will intrigue and satisfy wine lovers. Seek out their wines and you can look forward to more coverage from me of this compelling winery.