Friday, January 15, 2016

Wine Country Rhode Island: Greenvale Vineyards

Wine production in the state of Rhode Island started before it was a state. In 1663 King Charles II of England included the making of wine as one of the various uses of Little Rhody’s land as an English colony. Bless his heart! The state’s modern day wine industry - as minuscule as it is - began in 1975.

Greenvale Vineyards is located on the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. They are just five miles north of Newport, on Aquidneck Island, one of three wineries in the county and eight along the coastal New England wine trail. The same family has owned the 24-acre farm since 1863, but the grapevines didn't start taking root until 1982. The place is on both state and national historic registers, so the sense of time is tangible there.

It is, however, a sense of place that we look for inside the bottle.

Greenvale Vineyards was kind enough to provide us with two of their white wines for the purpose of this article. They also have a couple for red wine fans - a Cabernet Franc and a Meritage.

The 100% estate grown 2013 Greenvale Chardonnay is fully barrel fermented in neutral French oak - aged there, too, plus a couple of years in the bottle. 198 cases were produced and the retail price hits $18.

The pale gold tint shows a little more color than you may expect in a Chardonnay.  The nose is elegant and restrained, with apples and pineapples joining a light touch of oak.  On the palate, that oak gets a little noisier. The wine is reminiscent of an old-line California Chardonnay, buttery and a bit fat with a wonderful, creamy mouthfeel. The difference between California and Rhode Island comes in the minerality - the eastern earth is more pronounced than in those big, ol’ Chardonnays from the West.

The 2012 Greenvale Vidal Blanc is a real winner, too. Vidal Blanc is a French-American hybrid grape that makes an aromatic and fruity wine. 659 cases of this were produced and it retails for $17.

This  golden-tinted Rhode Island White offers a fruit basket for a nose. I stopped noting what was in it and started noting what wasn’t - it was a shorter list. A fairly explosive tropical fruit aroma leads the way, but it shares the stage with apricot, apple, orange, tangerine and mango. There is also a underlying sense of earthiness - not really minerality, but a softer, savory sensation. On the palate, more fruit, what else? It is a bit more defined, focused on apricot and citrus.

What a great wine to have with a shrimp cocktail or a ham sandwich, or just sipping, chilled, on a warm summer day. Count me in on that one.


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