Summer Wine Getaway to Sakonnet Vineyards
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Not only is the southbound drive along Route 77 through Tiverton and into Little Compton one of the most scenic in our state, it is also a drive into a unique microclimate. With the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Sakonnet River to the west and reservoirs to the north and east, the land on which Sakonnet Vineyards sits is extremely well suited for growing premium wine grapes. At least that was the gamble Jim and Molly Mitchell took when they founded the vineyard back in 1975 and started experimenting with the first plantings of French/American hybrids.
When Earl and Susan Samson purchased the vineyard in 1987 they started experimenting with the more popular varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both of which tend to thrive in cool to moderate climates. Today, Sakonnet Vineyards grows around a dozen different varietals on 37 acres including Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Chancellor and Lemberger. Winemaker Elaine Bernier has been with Sakonnet for more than 20 years and knows the vineyard better than anyone.
A great 2007 vintage
Growing grapes in coastal New England is tricky. Each vintage is unique and imparts different characteristics to the grapes and eventually the wines they produce. These days the folks at Sakonnet are reaping the benefits of the great 2007 vintage. A sunny and dry season made for near ideal conditions, especially for their reds. That year Sakonnet made a ‘Claret’; a Bordeaux style blend that is 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. While still a little young this wine is maturing gracefully.
At a recent tasting of their current lineup I was especially thrilled with the crisp ’09 Vidal Blanc, their signature white wine which is filled with delicious citrus fruit yet balanced with just a hair of residual sugar, as well as the Petit White; a Vidal Blanc based wine blended with 20% Gewürztraminer giving the wine weight and spiciness.
Sakonnet's signature "Rhode Island Red"
Sakonnet’s signature red wine is the ‘Rhode Island Red’, a Chancellor-based wine which is deep in color and almost full in body. The added earthiness from the Cabernet Franc and the fruitiness of the Lemberger has made this a crowd-pleasing favorite. A new batch of the ’07 Pinot Noir, which has gained complexity through 18 months of French oak barreling, should be in the tasting room within the next few weeks and is worth tasting as well. So is their ’08 Winterwine made from frozen Vidal Blanc grapes. This wine, which won a Gold Medal at the prestigious Finger Lakes Wine Competition, is nothing short of delicious. While sweet it is nowhere near cloying. It is extremely focused displaying butterscotch, nectar of white peach and a candied Granny Smith apple for acidity.
An added summer bonus: Sakonnet has a great series of outdoor concerts on Thursday nights from 6-8pm. Bring your blankets, chairs, and soak up the ambience as well some terrific music. It's $10 per carload. The winery is open for sales by the bottle and glass (no BYOB!), and the cafe is as well. Check the Web site for schedule.
All of the wines that are available for tasting are hand-crafted and made from estate-grown grapes. A tasting fee applies. Sakonnet Vineyards is open 7 days a week all summer long and offer complimentary tours at 12pm and 3pm. 162 West Main Road, Little Compton, 635-8486. www.sakonnetwine.com
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