Finding new ways to enjoy a Saturday afternoon.
As spring crawls out from its winter hibernation, bringing the first color of the season and taking the edge off of the chill, we opted for a road trip along a stretch of New England’s coastal wine trail. This “trail” is made up of over a dozen wineries along the edge of southern New England.
Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard is one such winery, located in Little Compton, Rhode Island. It absolutely did not disappoint, featuring great wine in an almost other-worldly environment.
Little Compton is on the eastern side of Rhode Island, surrounded by the Sakonnet River, the Watson Reservoir, and the mouth of Buzzards Bay, with the open Atlantic Ocean beyond. Unlike so many coastal towns, it’s not heavily developed; there are farms and open land that stretch down to the shoreline. It’s also very flat. This quiet combination creates a significant open expanse of land unlike most places someone could visit.
The vineyard was founded in 1975, making it one of the older ones in the area. Its location creates a microclimate and soil condition allowing for slower-developing grapes that have low sugar levels and high acidity. You’ll mostly find white wines, with a rose, blush, couple of reds, and couple of dessert wines to round out the offerings.
Sakonnet Vineyard is designed to encourage you to linger; there are more tables and chairs outside than I could count, mostly filling up a rock wall-lined field. The far side of the field creates plenty of privacy from the scrub trees so commonly found by the coast. On warm summer days, it would be hard to not spend a couple of hours sitting around and enjoying good wine and conversation, and taking in the ambiance. With a gift shop and café, there’s even more incentive to stick around for a while. On the day we visited, there was a chill in the air so we stayed in the tasting room.
That tasting room created a different but complementary feel to the outside fields. It featured a lot of stonework, large pieces of artwork, music in the background, and a large bar with several staff tending to the tastings. It creates a feel of an upscale wine bar that you might find in a city, but it maintains an intimate feel.
Sakonnet’s tastings run $13 for seven samples. With more than seven wines, you can choose the ones closest to your preferred wines, but still with some room to experiment. We found the overall lineup to be solid from start to finish. The whites were a mix, with both a lighter and heavier chardonnay for whichever season you’re in; and the vidal blanc seemed perfect for an upcoming a summer’s afternoon after the beach, or with a seafood dinner on the back patio.
Sakonnet’s rose was particularly strong, with a deeper pink hue than many, and flavorful for a rose, with notes of strawberry and cranberry, which would allow it to be perfect not just in summer but also for Thanksgiving.
Our favorite turned out to be the “blessed blend red”, a mix of cabernet franc, lemberger, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. This wine has been winning medals for several years running and it’s easy to see why. It evidenced tastes of dark chocolate and cherry. It was flavorful but not heavy, as some blends can be. This was bold enough to be a good wine in winter, but still light enough to work well in warmer seasons and to accompany barbecued meats on the back grill.
We finished with a dessert wine, their Winterwine. It’s an ice wine that was unusual and great, served very cold. It’s thicker, with honey and apricot flavors and a very long finish, and is a perfect after-dinner wine during these colder months. While the warm weather is now approaching, it’s still worth buying and setting back for when the cold months return.
We purchased the blessed blend red, for $30, which was on the high end, as Sakonnet’s wines run $19-$30, not counting the Winterwine at $40. On this day, the store and café were closed, and the café is in the process of getting a facelift for the upcoming summer. With a couple of bachelorette parties making appearances, and with the weddings and events that Sakonnet can host, it’s clear that it will be a busy season for them. But, again, the amount of seating and open space are conducive to still feeling as if you’ve got your own space to enjoy an afternoon of peaceful and enjoyable conversation and wine.
The tasting room itself is in a renovated barn from the late 1800’s. It’s kept a lot of the old wood and so much character, making it a uniquely interesting building. However, you can sit outside or stroll the grounds if you choose but don’t go too far. Down the hill sits one of the older homes in the area, which is still a private residence to this day. They also host live jazz every Saturday afternoon from May to November.
Greenvale Vineyards itself was founded in 1982, so the oldest vines have matured over the course of 36 years. They produce about 3,500 cases (all estate grown) per year from 27 acres of grapes. While they lost a lot of grape leaves in a storm a few years ago, which hurt the yield that year, the vines all bounced back with even better production since then. The tastings covered seven wines and a vermouth, with an eighth wine being sold out. What was great about the tastings was that they covered the entirety of the wines produced. Sampling the full range offered a broader understanding of the winery and left no opportunity for buyer’s remorse.
Like other vineyards in the area, there were more whites than reds due to the climate and soil. However, over five whites and two reds, we found a nice variety, and wines that would combine to cover any occasion and pair with any food. The chardonnay was particularly interesting, with two versions. One paired newer vines with reused oak barrels; the other combined the oldest chardonnay vines with new barrels. Vermouth was their bigger experiment, which was unexpected but fun to try. The cabernet franc topped our list, with a classic taste – flavorful but light, good for any season. With springtime beginning and barbecue season not far away, this wine will pair very well with grilled meats.
Greenvale Vineyards is quiet and off the beaten path. But with the live jazz and historic feel, it’s a great location for functions, or bachelorette parties, a couple of which we saw during our stay. However, it likely wouldn’t ever feel crowded and cramped. The staff also were excellent: knowledgeable of the product, friendly and attentive, and they truly hustled hard and went out of their way to make sure our experience was as great as possible.
Given our overall experience, Greenvale Vineyards is absolutely worth your time and money, and deserving of the successes they’re accumulating.
As the days grow shorter and the weather gets colder, a hot afternoon pick-me-up could be just what you need. As a coffee lover, I enjoy a good cup of Joe. As a fan of supporting local, small businesses, I enjoy a good local coffee shop even more. Sorry, Starbucks.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, we paused at Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters along scenic Route 6A (Main Street) in Brewster, MA. This charming, locally-owned coffee shop welcomes you with its open floor plan, comfy couches, and friendly servers. It opened in 2015, expanding the building’s footprint originally occupied by Great Cape Herbs in 2015. The two businesses blend well, and the decor is rustic, with lots of exposed wood, reclaimed from local barns. You can even sit and sip your selection while watching a fresh batch of coffee roasting behind the bar.
According to their website (http://www.socoffee.co/), Snowy Owl roasts “high-grade coffee beans from small-lot growers and co-ops that focus on environmental sustainability, economic development, and educational enhancement programs”. Poignantly, the namesake for this business stems from an owl-shaped pillow that provided comfort to the family’s father before his passing from cancer, and the family has routinely seen owls ever since.
I was delighted to see that I could order my dairy-free cappuccino with almond milk for no additional charge. Jay ordered the brew of the day, the aptly named “Jaws” blend. Snowy Owl also offers “Captain Crosby” (named after the well-known Cape Codders, the Crosby family of Crosby Cat Boat fame), “Brewster” blend, and “Decaf”. We selected a bag of “Captain Crosby” to take with us, after perusing the shop’s retail selection of coffees, T-shirts, and accessories. While we didn’t eat there, you can also enjoy food items for a light breakfast, lunch, or snack, from their partners, Pain D’Avignon (Hyannis) and White Lion Bakery (Mashpee).
The coffee shop hosts events including Open Mics and acoustic music on Sundays. Additionally, Great Cape Herbs (https://greatcape.com/) is tucked behind the serving area, offering all natural herbal remedies in an intimate — small and personal — setting.
I can’t wait to enjoy my coffee at home…and to return soon to Snowy Owl, perhaps for some live music and a snack.
Open hours: Monday — Friday 6:30 AM — 5:00 PM; Saturday — Sunday 7:30 AM — 5:00 PM
Start Line Brewery in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, is one of a number of fairly new craft breweries, with a group of friends hoping to turn their passion for quality beers into a sustainable and fun way to make a living. Judging from our visit, they’ll probably do just fine.
Start Line, named for the Boston Marathon’s route which begins in town, will celebrate its one-year anniversary at the beginning of November. It appears they’ve solidly established themselves with six year-round beers and other seasonal or short run beers as well. Their tasting room is small but was adequate for our time there. The layout is good as well, with views of the production facilities, outside, and the Water Fresh farm connected to it.
The beers represented a good mix, from pretty hoppy choices such as Hop Load Citra, to the deep red, caramel-flavored Craic Irish Red Ale, to the Hazelnut Cold Brewed Stout that’s a great alternative to your weekend afternoon coffee run. A flight includes four five-ounce samples for $10.
Start Line is located at Water Fresh Farm, which is a great spot in its own right. It has food ranging from vegetables grown in their hydroponic greenhouse; great snacks and candy; and fresh, hot meals. Start Line uses them as well for a limited menu. The farm also has a good wine selection with a chilling machine in case you get a bottle of white on a way to a friend’s and need it quickly cooled. The ice cream shop also means that parents can bring their kids and everyone can find something on the premises to enjoy.
We really enjoyed both the quality and the variety of the beers. Start Line’s friendly staff, picturesque setting, and mutually beneficial store and tasting room make it absolutely worth a visit. With their one-year anniversary approaching, they seem well-settled and ready to start another year of producing a great product. Not a bad outcome from some friends who started out dreaming big over some pints!
The Broken Creek Winery is a family-owned, small winery in central Massachusetts. This boutique winery is a labor of love, but it takes absolutely no work whatsoever to fall in love with the place.
The winery is nearing the end of its second year. It's currently cultivating only six of its 40 acres, but is growing steadily in terms of its vines and production capabilities. This year, it more than doubled its output to 8,000 bottles, with all facilities on-site. Impressively for a newer, smaller winery, Broken Creek’s offerings include several estate-grown wine options.
There are four reds and four whites, along with a special edition offering. Despite their doubling of capacity and their newness, Broken Creek has still had wine flying off its shelves, so not all wine was in stock when we visited. However, it had sufficient variety for a five-sample tasting that included a souvenir glass.
Two of the whites we sampled were great summer options, with a richer vignoles perfect for colder weather, similar to some chardonnays. The cabernet sauvignon is a delicious red, but much lighter than some of the incredibly bold, heavy, fruit-forward offerings common in stores these days. It still had great flavor, more akin to a robust pinot noir. Broken Creek also featured an estate-grown marquette. Interestingly, this is a hybrid grape created by the University of Minnesota about a decade ago to better survive in colder climates. It’s uniquely flavorful, can work well on its own or with, say, a Thanksgiving Dinner, and is hard to describe other than “delicious”.
This winery grew out of owner Eric Preusse’s hobby of fermenting beer, cider, and, predictably, wine. His pastime then grew to a business concept and then reality. Eric and his wife, Peggy, got this winery off the ground while still working demanding jobs in Boston. After an off-season that included expanded production and a much-needed trip to the Caribbean to recharge, the Preusses are now winding down on a second successful season. They’ve also finished work on a new tasting room and a back deck that are absolutely beautiful, along with event space. Whether you sit at one of their indoor tables playing backgammon or cribbage, enjoy the serene views from the back deck, or stroll the grounds with a glass of wine in hand, you can’t help but be extremely impressed by the wine and the whole operation that Eric and Peggy are building in this peaceful, little corner of town.
Glasses are $6-8; bottles vary, costing roughly around $20. Given their roles, the owners know their wine intimately, so can also help pair perfectly to meet your needs. They’re currently open on weekends, but event space is available during the week. When you meet truly nice people pursuing a dream and producing a great product, you can’t help but wish them all the best. Fortunately, Broken Creek is clearly well on its way to establishing itself as a fantastic boutique winery!
Cape Cod Winery's bottles can be bought either from your table, or from inside of the store. Tastings also get you a free glass.
The town of Concord not only offers this park, but also boasts a beautiful and pedestrian-friendly downtown, historic cemetery that is home to famous authors, and more. While the two-hour kayak trip can pass the afternoon nicely, Concord can also provide an all-day affair
Perks started out as a great little coffee shop in Harwich, one of the quieter towns on Cape Cod. But three summers back, it experimented with using its outdoor space for a beer garden in the afternoon and evening. It's evolved from not much more than a plywood bar to now having a great ambiance.
Now serving craft beers, both locally and nationally sourced, along with wine and cocktails, it covers all its bases, along with food such as appetizers, salads, and burgers.
The seating, bar with outdoor TV, fire pit, and lights strung over everything provide a relaxed, pleasant feel. The shades in one area shaped like sails provide relief from the sun as well. And the live music is fun but not too loud as to drown out conversations with your friends.
Perks has grown the beer garden into a great atmosphere that fills a nice niche for Harwich, and is worth visiting from surrounding towns as well. We stumbled across it by accident, but will definitely seek it out again!
The Dennis Historical Society operates the Josiah Dennis Manse, named after the first minister for whom the town was named after. Open part-time during the summer, it features guides in each room who will educate you, answer questions, and are clearly well-versed in the history of the house and period.
The house also features a room about the town's nautical history, with names and facts that will tie to street signs people might not have otherwise thought about. There is also a rotating exhibit. On the day we visited, we learned about the first major resort in town, the Nobscusset Inn. The dinner menu, photos, and other items on display made for interesting conversation with my daughters.
Donations help keep this house operating, and they're now beginning work on renovating the adjacent 1745 one-room schoolhouse, and discovering the secrets it holds. On a day when you choose to skip the beach, this provides a low-cost, educational opportunity for the whole family that supports a good cause.
The Dennis Road Race is a 5-mile race, now in its 40th year, making it one of the older races on Cape Cod. Starting at 10am, it runs warmer than early-morning races. It supports town students through camp and college scholarships. The after-party across the street is always fun, with live music, freshly ground burgers and dogs from the Dennis Public Market, beers from Buncey's Pizza (which hosts it), and delicious oysters from the East Dennis Oyster Company.
The atmosphere is fun, the cause is good, and it's a great way to spend the first half of your day.
The Good Life...
can't exist alone. Places form the setting for your memories. People around us allow experiences to be shared, enriched, and leave us feeling connected and loved.