The shores of the southern New England coast lend beautiful outdoor adventure opportunities for every season and, perhaps most famously, miles of pristine beaches. The area has an abundance of fantastic vineyards and wineries, where visitors can enjoy wine tastings, wine tours and lazy afternoons sipping their favorite – or a newly discovered favorite – varietal while listening to live music or simply relaxing.
Those looking to tour the many fine vineyards and wineries of the area need look no further than the Coastal Wine Trail, which highlights many of the wine properties located within the Southeastern New England Wine Growing Appellation, a designation of the American Viticultural Area. This region stretches from Cape Cod through the south coast of Massachusetts across coastal Rhode Island and along the Connecticut coast of Long Island Sound. This AVA boasts a long, cool growing season, thanks to the cool ocean waters combining with the warm Gulf Stream waters that grace the region during the summer and early fall.
When you’re going on a trip, sometimes the best thing to do is to follow your stomach. In recent years, food tourism has become more and more popular.
The Coastal Wine Trail was incorporated over 10 years ago by its member vineyards and wineries, who hoped to bring awareness to the region’s fantastic wine-growing potential, as well as to the fact that wines are being produced from grapes that are traditionally classified as Old World.
“They wanted to draw attention to the fact that this was a legitimate wine area and that they were growing legitimate wines here, instead of having it just be a blip on the map. They wanted to establish that there was a wine presence here,” said Maggie Harnett, a public relations representative for the Coastal Wine Trail.
Visitors interested in touring the trail can pick up a passport at any one of the 14 wineries and vineyards. The passport includes a map, descriptions of the properties and incentives to collect stamps at each stop, including the chance to win the 2018 grand prize: a five-day trip to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.
If you’re planning to tackle the wine trail on your next trip to the New England coast, whether you’re dedicated to hitting all 14 stops or are aiming for just two or three, we’ve summed up each one to help you decide which wine tours and wine tastings are perfect for music-loving merlot drinkers and which are ideal for the culinary- and sparkling wine-inclined.
And, as always, as you head out on your wine journey along the New England coast, be safe, be sure to designate a sober driver and never drink and drive.
Wines of the New England Coast: Connecticut
Maugle Sierra Vineyards
The tasting room at Maugle Sierra Vineyards is housed in a rustic, barn-like structure with exposed beams and glass doors that open out to rows of vines. Here, visitors can not only participate in wine tastings, but enjoy them in front of the stone fireplace or bring their own picnics for wine tastings on the patio. There is live music almost daily, sometimes during the day while others at night on the sunset deck. Popular wines produced from the 11 acres of vineyards include 1740 Ledyard White, a crisp chardonnay with a bouquet of apricots and pears, and the very trendy Rendezvous, a blend of Long Island riesling, chardonnay and estate-grown cayuga.
Preston Ridge Vineyard
Set atop a hill in eastern Connecticut with sprawling views of the surrounding countryside stretching for 20 miles, Preston Ridge Vineyard draws inspiration for its decor from its country environment. Wine tastings take place in the property’s big blue barn, where the tasting room offers 10 varieties of wines, two of which are estate-grown. One of the most popular is the Estate Harvest Blend, a concoction of vidal blanc, traminette and riesling grapes. The vineyard is also a great destination for non-wine focused fun, including live music on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons and occasional visits from food trucks.
Jonathan Edwards Winery
North Stonington, CT
Jonathan Edwards Winery prides itself on existing through the successful marriage of two regions in the wine industry: the New England coast and California’s Napa Valley. The winery itself is classically New England, set on 50 acres of farmland in Connecticut, yet visitors can still sense influences of Napa Valley within the custom-built wine bar and tasting room. In fact, the owners produce wine on both the New England coast and California coast, allowing visitors to taste and purchase wines from both areas at their Connecticut location. Wine tastings take place on the weekends.
Stonington Vineyards’ winemaker, Mike McAndrew, has a very simple philosophy when it comes to doing his job well: “Grow sound fruit, pick when ripe and make great wine.” And so Stonington Vineyards does; it’s best known for its barrel-fermented chardonnay and proprietary blends Seaport White and Triad Rose. The winery recently underwent an upgrade and now features a renovated tasting room, and comprehensive educational wine tours are offered daily during the peak season. Music lovers should stop by for one of the Friday night summer concert series and foodies should be sure to score tickets to the September “Harvest Food and Wine Festival.”
Saltwater Farm Vineyard
Saltwater Farm Vineyards is set on 100 acres, 15 of which are planted with six varieties of grapes, all of which are bordered by tidal marshes and the Long Island Sound waters of Wequetuquak Cove. The winery isn’t housed in your average building; it’s fashioned in the interior of a vintage World War II airplane hangar. The tasting room is located on the mezzanine level, offering views of the vineyard and the well-preserved grass landing strip. Visitors can enjoy a wine tasting of the vineyard’s chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or rose, or choose to attend musical concerts offered in the summer.
Wines of the New England Coast: Rhode Island
Langworthy Farm Winery
This quaint boutique winery also has a bed and breakfast on the property and is located just a few miles away from some of the most popular beaches on the New England coast, including Misquamicut State Beach and those of Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The property offers weekend wine tours and wine tastings of vintages grown from vinifera grapes, named after local geographical treasures, including the Avondale Cabernet Merlot and Haversham Chardonnay. Visitors can sip wine on the deck or under the winery’s giant Norway maple tree.
Newport Vineyards takes advantage of Aquidneck Island’s prime real estate, a result of the Southeastern New England Wine Growing Appellation’s ideal farming climate, nurturing its 50 acres of vineyards, set on a hill just 2 miles from the ocean, to thrive. In fact, the property is home to two vineyard farms: Perry Farm, which grew potatoes until it was acquired by the vineyard only a few years ago, and Nunes Farm, site of a 1701 farmhouse and where eight varieties of grapes are grown.
Winemaker George Chelf has a minimalist philosophy, believing that the grapes’ inherent qualities should be preserved, rendering wine through making the fewest possible changes to their innate character. The result is some truly delicious wines, which can be enjoyed during wine tastings in the tasting room. Visitors can embark on wine tours, including tasting room tours, or simply relax at one of their lives music events in the summer.
Newport Vineyards has not one, but two restaurants on property. Brix offers a contemporary feel with windowed walls presenting peeks into the winemaking barrel room as well as sweeping views of the vineyard. The menu features grilled pizzas and seafood entrees, paired, of course, with Newport Vineyards wines. The more casual Vineyard Cafe focuses on locally sourced fare and small plates including cheese and charcuterie.
Set along the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth, a town on Aquidneck Island off the New England coast, Greenvale Vineyards is a rustic diamond-in-the-rough just 6 miles from the tourist-laden streets of Newport. The tasting room is housed in a former stable and listed in the national and state registers of historic places, and the land has been owned and maintained by the same family since 1863. The vineyards harvests cabernet franc, chardonnay, vidal blanc and pinot gris grapes and has dedicated itself to ecologically responsible farming practices and the preservation and maintenance of open space. Head to the tasting room on Saturday afternoons for “Jazz Tastings,” which feature, of course, live jazz music.
Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard
Little Compton, RI
Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard is located in Little Compton, Rhode Island’s easternmost town, bordered by both Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This coastal location allows the vineyard to produce over 30 acres of award-winning grape varietals including chardonnay, gewürztraminer, pinot noir and vidal blanc. Visitors can enjoy wine tastings on the grounds and order food off the winery’s picnic menu to accompany their tasting. Head to Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard for the live music concert series in the summer to enjoy the sounds of music, the taste of wine and the feel of the crisp ocean breeze on your face.
Wines of the New England Coast: Massachusetts
Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery
The Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery is massive: The 80-acre property is operated within the site of a 435-acre farm. You know the wine here is good because the vintners have not only made it their lives’ work to produce great wine, but their family’s work – they’ve been at it for five generations. Wine tastings take place in the wine bar or on the property’s lawn and Saturday wine tours include peeks into the wine cellar. Visitors will also find the taproom of Westport River’s sister company, Buzzards Bay Brewing, on site, and can taste their beer in between sips of wine. The property also offers a variety of seasonal activities for visitors, including food truck visits on Saturdays in the summer.
South Dartmouth, MA
Coastal Vineyards prides itself on producing “creative fine wines from estate-grown grapes.” The family-owned boutique winery grows 12 varieties of grapes on 10 acres of vineyards and opens its tasting room to the public on weekends for wine tastings. The tasting room host, Bob Tiedemann, is also a chef, and enthusiastically and knowledgeably explains each wine and offers suggestions on food pairings. Locals to the New England coast will also find wines from Coastal Vineyards at various nearby farmers markets.
Running Brook Vineyards & Winery
North Dartmouth, MA
Running Brook’s owner, Pedro Teixeira, spent much of his childhood in Portugal, an upbringing that seeps into his wine making philosophy and passion for the craft. While the winery serves what it says is 100 percent local wines made from grapes grown in their vineyard and nearby vineyards in Dartmouth and Westport, including chardonnays and merlots, Teixeira also produces unique Port-style wines. The company also owns and operates RB Distillery, which produces the barrel-aged Black Sheep Brandy, as well as grappa and brandy-based flavored liqueurs. Along with wine tastings, the winery also features family-friendly free local music events on Sundays.
New Bedford, MA
In Portuguese, Travessia roughly translates to “a trip across a great distance of sea or land, a passage, a journey of life.” So has been winemaking for Travessia’s owner Marco Montez, who has been making wine since he was a child, growing up in Portugal, where, he says, “Grape stomping with one’s feet was not a romantic way or a cool way to crush grapes, it was the only way.”
Today, the self-taught winemaker operates his micro-winery in downtown New Bedford, a city set right on the New England coast. He produces small lots of wine, working primarily with chardonnay, pinot grigio, vidal blanc and pinot noir grapes. Those attending wine tastings at Travessia will have the added advantage of being able to sample wines produced at his family’s vineyard and winery in Portugal.
Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod
North Truro, MA
In Truro, at the northern tip of Cape Cod, there are no stoplights and no mail delivery, but there is one fantastic vineyard. The only vinifera vineyard in the Cape Cod region, the folks at Truro Vineyards grow chardonnay, cabernet franc and merlot, grapes which are hand-picked at the harvest time on the 5-acre farm. Visitors can enjoy wine tastings in the restored 1830s farmhouse or outdoors under the pavilion, or sample fare from the property’s own food truck, run by its restaurant, Blackfish. If delicious wine wasn’t enough, try some of Truro Vineyard’s handcrafted rum or gin from the onsite distillery, South Hollow Spirits.
Have you visited any of these New England coast vineyards and wineries? Tell us your favorite in the comments.