Though a handful of states (such as California, Oregon, Washington and New York) get all the press for their wines, excellent wines are made in other states as well. In fact, all fifty states have wineries and Massachusetts alone has more than 25 wineries. And new wineries continue to open, including the Travessia Urban Winery.
I first met Marco Montez, the owner and wine maker of Travessia, several months ago at a Boston Wine Expo after-party held at the Boston Wine School. He was personable, down-to-earth, and genuine. He passionately talked about his winery, but in humble tones. It was not until recently though that I had the opportunity to taste some of his wines. Bin Ends held a special tasting of several wines from Travessia and Marco was there to talk about them and his winery.
Marco, who was born in Angola, has been involved with wine since a young child. When he ws young, his family moved to Portugal, about an hour north of the Douro River. His family made wine, generally for family and friends and Marco assisted. This was still a time when people stomped on grapes with their feet, which is not even legal in the U.S. any longer. Eventually, Marco moved back to Angola for a couple years before then moving to New Bedford, Massachusetts.
He acquired a degree in electricial engineering and currently has a full time job in that field yet his passion is wine making. In 2007, Marco began to assist Running Brook Vineyards, in North Dartmouth, with their wine making. This led to Marco opening his own winery in December 2008, deep in the heart of New Bedford. Though Marco lacks any official oenology education or degree, he has plenty of hands-on experience.
An important aspect for Marco is that he uses only local grapes. He does not want to import grapes from California or New York. He only wants to use grapes grown in Massachusetts, so that his wines will truly be Massachusetts products. Currently, he obtains his grapes from Running Brook, who have vineyards in Dartmouth and Westport. Eventually, Marco would like to own his own vineyards.
His wines are generally intended to drink young, thus he uses less sulfites as he does not need additional sulfites to ensure the wine will age well. All of his wines are also currently filtered though that that may not always be the case. It will all depend on the particular wine.
We got to taste five of Marco's wines, including one that is not yet available for sale. His wines are available for sale at the winery as well as Bin Ends. Note that the prices I have listed here are those at Bin Ends.
We began with the 2007 Travessia Unoaked Chardonnay ($10.40). This wine is made of 100% Chardonnay grapes. It was fermented and aged solely in stainless steel plus malolactic fermentation was prevented. It has an alcohol content of 13.6% and only 211 cases were produced. I found the wine to have a bright gold color with an enticing nose of citrus and apple. On the palate, the wine was crisp with an acidic bite. It had delicious fruit flavors, especially apple and almost some tropical fruit flavors, almost reminescent of hints of pineapple. A lively wine that will be excellent for the summer, as well as an accompaniement to food. I was impressed with this wine, especially at this price which makes it an excellent value.
The 2007 Travessia Chardonnay ($12) is also made from 100% Chardonny but sees some oak aging. All of the Chardonnay is actually fermented together and then later split, some being aged in oak and some not. This wine spent about six months in French oak, about 20% new, and underwent a partial malolactic fermentation. It has an alcohol content of 13.6% and only 440 cases were produced. The color of the wine was the same as the unoaked Chardonnay though the nose is much different. There was a mild buttered popcorn smell wth hints of underlying fruit. The taste was creamy with restrained apple and melon flavors. It was not overly oaked, not heavy handed. I liked this wine too, though my personal preference is the unoaked version. This is still though a very good value at this price.
We got to taste the Travessia Rose, which is not yet for sale. This is not a traditionally made Rose but is actually a blend of red and white wines. It is an area of some controversy as there are many traditonalists who don't think blending should be a permissible practice to make Rose. Marco would not tell us what type of grapes were used to make this wine, though he indicated two different grapes were used, as well as three different wine batches. The Rose has an alcohol content of 12.8% and only about 50 cases were produced. The wine had a bright pink color and a dominant smell of spice. I could not fully identify the spice, though it reminded me of Xmas cookie spices. It has a bit of residual sugar so there is a slight sweet taste to the wine, which also had those same spice flavors s on the nose. I generally prefer Old World style Rose so this wine was not that appealing to me though others at the tasting enjoyed it.
I did though enjoy the 2007 Travessia Vidal Blanc ($10.40), a wine made from a hybrid grape and was made to be a semi-sweet wine. It was fermented and aged only in stainless steel. It has an alcohol content of 13.6% and only 575 cases were produced. The wine had a rich golden color and an enticing, spicy nose. It had a full mouthfeel with nice tastes of apricot and spice, almost reminding me a little of Gewurztraminer. The sweetness was mild, not cloying, and this would probably make a nice accompaniement to spicy Asian cuisine. Another very good value wine.
The final wine of the evening was the 2007 Travessia Sweet Vidal Blanc ($11.20), a sweet wine that was fermented and aged only in stainless steel. It has an alcohol content of 11% and only 120 cases were produced. The nose on this wine seemed closed, and I could not really smell anything. The wine was sweet, like a dessert wine, with some tropical fruit flavors but there was a bit of bitterness on the finish. I preferred the other Vidal Blanc.
I recommend you check out Travessia wines, and visit the winery in New Bedford. I will be making a trip to the winery in the near future and will report back afterwards. Good wine can be made in many different places so give Massachusetts wine a try!