We love telling people about Massachusetts wine. That it exists at all surprises many. Of all the splendid places you'll find as you travel through New England, Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery in Westport, MA may surprise you most.
The winery experience is delightful in itself, marked by a ton of outdoor character and of course Mao the winery cat roaming freely about the grounds and through the tasting room. Sunset concerts every summer Saturday at 5pm have also proven beyond popular, with many selling out in advance. Naturally, Westport wine is available by the glass at these otherwise picnic-style BYO food events.
Sparkling wine is a point of pride here, making Westport unique even among the already-unique world of Massachusetts wine (we're told that some of the sparkling has in the past been served at the White House). White wine producing grapes also tend to do much better in this climate. Our tasting notes below reflect this.
2001 Blanc de Blancs
The flagship offering in Westport's flagship style, the 2001 Blanc de Blancs is the true cream of the crop here. We love how this bottle is evolving right now, as we've discerned subtle yet specific changes each time we open one. The apple notes were amazing the day we last tasted in May 2016. There's also a sophisticated nuttiness and lovely finish. Really just mouth watering.
2007 Westport Brut "RJR" Cuvee
Westport's popular RJR is the mainstay of their sparkling wine lineup. Sometimes the winery's tasting note just nails it, and there's little more that can be said. We'd highlight the creamy brioche qualities here, and would add that there's nice almond notes in the finish. Otherwise the winemaker's suggestion that "Fine bubbles and a gentle mousse loft notes of brioche, flint, Granny Smith apple, and candied lemon to the nose" is quite apt. They go on, "Realized on the palate," it goes on, "these flavors take on a rich gripping mouth feel with youthful acidity." Indeed.
These ultra-accessible and easy-to-drink sparklers will make your summer, though they're sadly only available to be shipped to locations in Massachusetts. Ever unassuming, the Prosecco-style Farmers Fizz is served up in a beer style bottle with a delightfully playful label. The Chardonnay-based white is reminiscent of cotton candy in the mouthfeel, and is definitely more wine-like than the somewhat yeasty beer qualities we found in last year's batch.
Farmers Fizz Rosé
The sparkling rosé of Westport's estate grown Pinot Noir shows a very light pink color in the glass. The actual pink color is quite striking actually, and is backed up by notes of strawberry and -- after some debate -- an ever so small hint of grapefruit. It's fun and easy like its white cousin, definitely what you want to be drinking this summer, though we had a slight preference for the white version.
First up on our list of still wine (i.e. not bubbly), the Chardonnay gives us some lemon zest with a little buttery creaminess... without overwhelming us with oak. Oh wait, we came to learn, this thing is aged in stainless steel, so there's no oak at all. Fascinating, because it's bigger bodied than what we usually find in stainless Chardonnays.
Judging by the nose alone, we'd expect this to be a tart, more acidic Riesling. Not so. The Riesling turns out to be quite well balanced. We found kiwi notes, and loved how not sugary the experience was. Overall more sophisticated, we love how Westport has avoided falling into the trap of overly sweet Rieslings that sell lots of bottles but turn very few heads.
2014 Cinco Cães
One of historic favorites, the Cinco Cães is insanely pleasant and ready for summer. The nose, interestingly, seems initially a bit wet. It reminded us (in a good soothing way) of cut hay covered in morning dew. We've generally loved the combination of lush tropical fruit and floral notes. The 2014 vintage continues this trend.
2012 Pinot Noir
We've written previously about the 2010 Westport Rivers Pinot Noir in our best of April 2016 lineup, so we were quite excited to try the 2012 vintage (they skipped 2011 for the varietal Pinot Noir). We vote you lay this down and see how it evolves in your cellar over the next year. Very light in color with a somewhat candied nose, this mellow wine has much less of an earthy quality than its older brother from 2010. Mild cherry and a hint of grass come out as it evolves and aerates for a few minutes, and you may find some orange notes in the back. We struggled to place this one in context, finding that it possessed some of the hot qualities of a California Pinot while also reminding us of a very young Burgundy. As we've said, we recommend giving this one just a touch longer before you drink.
Grace Sun and Spirit
You will either love or hate this Chardonnay-based dessert wine. There's not much in between. You also may find that caution is warranted with the high 19.2% alcohol by volume. We found the brandy mellowing out a bit since we last tried it, giving way to an almost whisky(ish) nose. We debated this at length, but also found there to be a quality of cracker jack burns caramel... and kettle corn. Drink with friends after dinner.