with contributions by Cynthia Parzych and John Turner

When coffee milk isn't enough.

People are often shocked, shocked to learn that wine is made in Rhode Island, and not just by mistake in the back of someone's refrigerator. But, it's true; we've even drunk some genuine Rhode Island vidal blanc in various New England seafood restaurants—without going blind. With their dry, salty character these white wines are a great match for such Rhode Island favorites as clam cakes, fried clams, fresh fish, and lobster.

In the late 1990s and 2000s there were only five active wineries in Rhode Island, and if you were ambitious, you could visit them all in a single weekend. But by the middle of the 2010s the number has expanded to the point where one might require a three-day weekend—and a designated driver—to sample all that Ocean State vintners have to offer.

Four of these wineries—Greenvale, Langworthy, Newport, and Sakonnet—are part of the Coastal Wine Trail, which also includes wineries in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyards and Winery

162 West Main Road, Little Compton
(800) 919-4637, (401) 635-8486

Owner: Alex and Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian.

Property: Situated on 115 acres, protected by a local conservancy. Large California-style tasting room. Picnic facilities. Toured by 15,000 people in 2010.

History: Established in 1975. Purchased by Earl and Susan Samson in 1987. Listed in May 2010 for $10.5 million; reduced to $8.9 million in February 2011; sold to jewelry maker Alex and Ani in 2012 for $8.45 million.

Products: Sparkling wines, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Rose. Their Eye of the Storm, a blush wine, commemorates 1991's Hurricane Bob, which roughed up the vineyard's red and white grapes. 30,000+ cases of wine produced annually.

Special events: Sun WineFest in January, Eat Drink RI Festival in May, Summer Music Nights June through September.

Summer Hours (Memorial Day-October 1st): 10am-6pm; Tours: 11am-5pm on the hour
Winter Hours (October 1st-Memorial Day): 11am-5pm; Tours: Noon-3pm on the hour

Diamond Hill Vineyards

3145 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland
(800) 752-2505, (401) 333-2751

Owners: The Berntson family.

Property: 220-year-old farmhouse on thirty-four acres, with beautiful gardens that serve as the backdrop for weddings and garden parties. The farmhouse includes a sales and tasting room.

History: Years spent in France influenced the Berntsons' decision to make wine in Rhode Island, where the maritime climate is similar to that along the coast of northern Europe. They planted pinot noir vines, some of the toughest grapes to grow, in 1976. Later they decided to diversify and make wine from chardonnay grapes and fruit which they grow.

Products: Estate Pinot Noir, Scarlet Run Red, River Valley White, Cranberry Apple, Spiced Apple, Blackberry, and Blueberry wines, and Sparkling Cider.

Hours: Open Thursday-Saturday, 12-5pm; or call for an appointment.

Greenvale Vineyards

582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth
(401) 847-3777

Owners: The Parker family.

Winemaker: Richard Carmichael.

Property: Picturesque Victorian farm on twenty-four acres overlooking the Sakonnet River. 5,000-square-foot rustic tasting room in a converted 1863 stable.

Products: Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, Skipping Stone White (Cayuga/Vidal Blanc Blend).

Special events: Jazz tastings, Saturday afternoons, May through November.

Hours: Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday 12-5pm; Tours daily at 2pm.

Langworthy Farm Winery

308 Shore Road, Weekapaug, Westerly
(888) 355-7083, (401) 322-7791

Owners: Joe and Gail Sharry

Property: 1875 Victorian house, built on the former home site of Governor Samuel Ward. A large Norway maple on the property—replicated in the winery logo—is the largest of its kind in Rhode Island and one of the largest in the country.

History: Bought by the Langworthys in 1853, the property grew to 750 acres and was used as a dairy farm for a number of years, then sold off in lots in the mid-twentieth century. The farmhouse was purchased by Joe and Gail Sharry in 1999, and operated as a bed and breakfast beginning in 2000. They planted Vinifera grapes planted in 2002, and served their wine to B&B guests only until 2004 while awaiting their winery license. The winery was opened to the public in the spring of 2005. A new wine and tasting room was opened in November 2006.

Products: Weekapaug White, Watch Hill and Misquamicut Merlots, Napatree Cabernet Sauvignon, Charlestown Cabernet Franc, Winnapaug White Merlot, Shelter Harbor Chardonnay, Pawtucket River Red. Whites are grown on site, reds come from a Long Island vineyard. 10,000 bottles produced in 2010.

Special events: Monthly tastings of wine and food pairings—johnnycakes, oysters, olives, artisanal cheese, chowder, etc.

January 2-Memorial Day, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 12-5pm.
Memorial Day-July 4, Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5pm.
July 4-Labor Day, daily, 12-5pm.
Labor Day-Christmas Eve, Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5pm.
Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Leyden Farm Vineyard and Winery

160 Plain Meeting House Road, West Greenwich
(401) 392-1133

Owners: Jack and Maureen Leyden

Property: A third-generation Christmas tree farm, diversified to include the cultivation of strawberries, blueberries, and grapes.

Products: Cleo's Blanc, Romeo's Red, Apple Jack Russell, Lazy Watermelon, Samson's Wildberry, Golden Sangria, Leyden Vineyard Merlot, Sunny Grigio, Jack's White Merlot, Samson's Merlot, and Leyden Vineyard Riesling. Currently bottled in cooperation with Shelara Vineyards and Newport Vineyards.

Special events: Tastings seven days a week, noon to 5pm; weekends in the winter.

The next afternoon, we visited Newport Vineyards in Middletown. Right on a main road, this is a great place to visit on a rainy day, with its state-of-the-art tasting and sales room. For a $2.00 charge you can taste five or six wines and tour both the vineyards and the winemaking facilities. We enjoyed our tour, led enthusiastically by a local elementary school teacher.

By contrast, however, the guy who orchestrated the production-line tasting like a smarmy TV quiz show host (bad jokes and all), was evasive when we asked questions about the wines. We soon discovered why. Although we worked our way through the long list, we found there was little to like about most of the wines. Newport's vidal blanc tasted like grapefruit juice, but we liked their seyval blanc (a relative of vidal blanc) which was dry with a fresh, apple aroma. Newport's alcoholic apple ciders provided a refreshing contrast to the dozen or so grape-based wines we sampled. We happily gathered our "complimentary" Newport Vineyards glasses and went on our way.

Cynthia Parzych and John Turner write and publish books on food and wine. Their latest book is Pol Roger, the history of the Pol Roger Champagne house.

This article last edited January 1, 2016

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