Owner and Winemaker Marco Montez has something really great happening at his Travessia Urban Winery on Purchase Street in charming downtown New Bedford, Massachusetts. Travessia translates approximately to a boat crossing the ocean, a journey through life, an apt name for a winery far from the traditional centers of the wine making world. Here Marco blends Old World instincts honed in his Portuguese family's Penada vineyard and winery with new world creativity in in the heart of one of America's most under appreciated wine making regions.
We've seen more and more of these urban wineries cropping up, but for the uninitiated the model here is source grapes from outside vineyards -- many in this case from Massachusetts -- and then actually produce, age, and bottle the wine in a more downtown setting. Other examples of this winemaking approach include the Nashville City Winery, Amigoni Urban Winery in Kansas City, and Brooklyn Oenology.
You'll find these wines tough to get your hands on outside of Massachusetts, though the winery is a very worthy diversion next time you're in the Massachusetts South Coast and Cape Cod area. If you're travels aren't naturally bringing you this far south of Boston (a few minutes from Interstate 195), we'd suggest making the trip truly worthwhile with a visit to nearby Westport Rivers vineyard and winery in Westport, MA, visiting the New Bedford Whaling Museum, or taking in the revitalized historic downtown at restaurants such as the Cork Wine and Tapas (great wine list, no harbor view), Waterfront Grille (subpar wine list, great harbor view), or the character-filled hole-in-the-wall No Problemo (tasty sangria to go with your burrito bowl). The elegant Crush wine shop is right across the street. There is more than enough here to fill your day. Our tasting notes are below.
Travessia's Chardonnay is pretty consistently good year to year, with the 2014 vintage giving us some mellow oak -- a perfectly balanced hint of wood -- with bright tartness. There's absolutely zero flabbiness that usual drinkers of run of the mill west coast Chardonnay are used to, true to pattern, this one feels more Old World than New.
Dry Riesling (2014)
Most of us expect sweetness from a Riesling, which makes this dry Riesling so surprising at first sip. There's an austere slaty grapefruit and grass feeling about it, the result of Marco having not stopped the fermentation by chilling as is common in some of this wine's sweeter cousins. This wine may remind you of Alsace in France, or of some of the more sophisticated bottles you've had from Germany and Austria.
This one is a touch sweeter than the last. You'll be greeted by a soft nose with a hint of petrol. The palate manages some sweeter, candied fruit without being unrefined and gross. The 2013 Riesling has been in the bottle for over a year and a half now, and has really mellowed quite nicely... if you can still get your hands on it.
Vidal Blanc (2014)
One of the most interesting bottles in the lineup, Marco made a very conscious choice to go much more dry (i.e. less sweet) with his 2014 Vidal Blanc. Indeed, it is one of the most dry Vidals we've had, but manages to be so without the extreme alcohol vibe you get when some less experienced wine makers attempt the same trick. There's interesting molasses and orange blossom in the palate. This last white wine on today's tasting list finishes dry with nice acidity.
Jester Red Blend (2013)
The only red on the list today, Travessia's queen of the cellar, the 2013 Jester was still a bit tight when we sampled it in February 2016. It's been aged in French Oak for 18 months, and initially gave us a nose reminiscent of Port before some swirling in the glass let it give way to something a bit more Napa-red-blend-like. Jester's blend changes a bit from year to year, but the 2013 vintage is the yield of 50% Old Vine Zinfandel, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, and 10% Petite Syrah. It's a well-structured, jammy, spicy red wine that is great now, but will be amazing if cellared properly for four to five years.
Though not available on our most recent visit, we have several other great Travessia wines in our cellar, including a Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Rose, and a Tempranillo known as the Bandido (though Marco would probably call it a Tinta Roriz, as Tempranillo is known as in northern Portugal). This region can produce some particularly exceptional Pinot Noir when the summer weather is just right, though the temperamental New England climate limits that prospect to being a special occasion every several years.