Chicama Vineyards
Martha's Vineyard Island, MA

Gingerbread cottages. Carly Simon. Jaws. Martha's Vineyard is well known as a peaceful, elegant island just off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The lovely location radiates welcome and friendliness. Martin Luther King, Jr spent time in the rosy pink Overton House, plumb in the center of the gingerbread cottage area. Aquinnah, at the far western edge of the island, offers gorgeous cliffs and is the home of the Wampanoag native Americans.

Named in 1602 after explorer Bartholomew Gosnold's young daughter, the wild vines still grow on this enchanted island. However, it is the freshly planted grapes - viognier, chenin blanc, shiraz and more - that draws visitors into the quiet interior of this island. Far from the tourist crowds and noise, Chicama Winery provides a welcome respite for the day tripper seeking an afternoon of delicious wine and peaceful walks.

Chicama is a location bursting with history and traditional roots. Chicama was the first bonded winery in the state of Massachusetts. The winery began planting vines almost 25 years ago and has survived many natural challenges – the vines were once almost completely wiped out by a hurricane. There are many hurdles in addition to the wild New England weather. The local wildlife - from deer to birds - does its very best to munch on the delicious berries as they ripen. Chicama has a complex system of fences, nets and other devices in place to try to ensure every berry finds its way into avid drinkers' glasses. The hard won fruits of this labor are available for all to taste.

Family owned and operated, Chicama's tasting building radiates grace and relaxation. The main tasting room provides ample area to sample the wines at your leisure. Outside, the vines stretch off into the surrounding forest, and a walk through them is refreshing and rejuvenating. When we were ready to begin our tasting, Jim Sorber was at our beck and call with a friendly smile and a willingness to talk about the wines as much as we wished.

We began with my favorite white - a viognier. Viognier was originally planted by the Romans in the northern Rhône over 2,000 years ago. Over the years it has come in and out of fashion, and is currently experiencing a revival. Chicama creates both a 100% estate wine as well as a viognier that incorporates juice from California, New York and other Massachusetts locations. The estate viognier was fresh, creamy and juicy with a lovely medley of fruit flavors. The non-estate viognier was light and fruity, with a gentle apple flavor and nice balance. With only 3 acres of local viognier for the estate bottling, this was a must-have for my own cellar.

Next came the chenin blanc, also a grape that hails from France. Chenin blanc was first grown in the Loire Valley region, creating the Vouvray wine. At Chicama the juice comes primarily from California, although they do have 13 acres on island. This wine was more juicy and acidic than the viognier, with a flavor that would go well with fish.

On to the reds, with shiraz. Shiraz is an interesting grape - it originally was called syrah and was planted in the Rhône valley. When it was brought to Australia, the Aussies decided to change its name to Shiraz. Same grape, new name. Nowadays wineries tend to give their Syrah/Shiraz wines whichever name appeals to them the most, for marketing and style reasons. Chicama has 3 acres of shiraz planted, and brings in some from California. The wine had a nice spicy, peppery flavor, with a light red color and hint of berry in the finish.

The Oceanus is an interesting blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz - not a combination often found! Aged in oak, this rich, tannic wine would go extremely well with heavy beef dishes, including beef stew.

Cranberry satin is a delicious dessert wine, perfect for pairing with fruit pies or white cake. This is a blend of white wine with cranberry, and is very refreshing, offering a light, fruity flavor.

I highly recommend you set aside time on your schedule to visit Martha's Vineyard, and ride a bike or take a taxi out to the vineyards. Walk through the verdant grapevines, sip some delicious wine, and regain touch with the important things in life.

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