When my sister, invited us to come stay with her on Nantucket over the fourth of July weekend, I was delighted. Not only was this quality time to spend with her and her family, but also this was the chance to visit the Nantucket Vineyards.
I'd tasted their wines at the Nantucket Wine Festival a few months before, and had hoped to get to visit them at the time. It had gotten to be too busy during that weekend, but I planned to come back as soon as possible - to see where these intriguing wines were created.
After calling to be sure they were open, we headed out around noon on Sunday, July 4th to visit and taste. After a quick drive, we found Bartlett Road, but no winery. The Force was with us, though, and with only three turns we found the sign directing us to the winery and farm. What a lovely location! We found a parking spot amongst the trees, and walked in past their gorgeously flowered patio area. We quickly found Dean and Melissa, the owners, and began our tour.
Dean brought us out back to where he was setting up a still. Dean and Melissa Long had just received permission to distill, and were experimenting with various combinations. They are hoping to create some aperitifs - perhaps raspberry - and might someday go into brandies as well. The still was quite interesting, with copper and metallic aspects to it, and we chatted a while about the sad state of Massachusetts wine laws.
We headed back into the main winery area. To the far left, three large fermenting barrels, holding over 1000 gallons each, were sitting waiting for next fall's use. In front of them, a series of stacked aging barrels hold the reds for taste development. The Longs haven't used stainless steel in the past, and have just received a few tanks for the upcoming year.
Melissa explained how the winery had first started grape vines in 1982, but were not able to get a consistent crop to develop into wine. A winery license requires at least 1000 gallons, and they were under that limit in 1984, when they first were ready to produce wines. They then turned to importing grapes, bringing in the fruit intact so they can use their own pressing and fermenting techniques. French grapes would be difficult to deliver properly to the island, so they have found the best locations in Washington State, California, and elsewhere for each wine they are creating.
Now for the tasting! While we tasted, many people came in for the wines. Also, people came in asking about the nearby brewery, which was closed on Sundays. I merrily invited them to try the cider, which was quite tasty. I hope we encouraged some beer drinkers to consider wine instead! Jenn and I began with the 1998 Chenin Blanc. This was a light yellow, almost straw, color. It was very crisp and light, with a citrus flavor.
We went next to the 1998 Sauvignon Blanc. This is almost green in color, with a figgy taste and a lovely nose. The 1996 Shipwrecked Hard Apple Cider was a favorite of my sister's - very refreshing and light, with 6% alcohol. We got three of these to take home, but promptly drank one later in the day while relaxing from a beach expedition. It was quite refreshing after a day facing the pounding waves on the surf.
The 1997 Semillon was one I had to try, and bought a bottle to bring home. We like running tastings with non-traditional grapes, and this was quite delicious. The wine was light butterscotch and vanilla, very, very smooth.
The 1997 Nantucket Sleighride was another favorite of my sister's - made of riesling grapes. This light gold wine was sweet, with a honey and orange flavor to it. This was another 3-bottle group in our case. One was drunk Sunday evening, with a light dinner.
Now, on to the reds. The first was a 1997 'Sconset Rose - made from Carignan grapes, usually used for blending. This is a watermelon color, with the easy-to-drink quality of White Zin. The Carignan grape has the most tonnage produced in California, and is fresh and light. We mixed this wine on Monday with Sprite and ice cubes, and found it made an excellent wine cooler.
Next, 1998 Sailor's Delight - a merlot/Zinfandel blend. This tastes like cranberry and raspberry, with a very full flavor. Great for chilled summer sipping.
The 1997 Zinfandel is a new addition to the fold, created from Central Californian grapes from the Lodi valley. This is extremely smooth, with an oaky, raspberry flavor to it. It lasts quite a while, and was my favorite. I asked Dean what his favorite was. He promptly answered that Zinfandel made him feel happy. I greatly concur - this wine has delicious spices and quite a long-lasting flavor to it. We had this Monday evening with cheese and crackers, and found it to be a delicious accompaniment to the evening.
The last wine, the 1995 Merlot, was a soft wine, with cedar and blackberry flavors to it. This gentle red would be a good match to many light meat dishes, and was quite tasty.
In addition to our case of wine (including a bottle of sparkling wine), we bought two t-shirts and a bottle of Nantucket Nor'easter Hot Sauce ("Guaranteed to blow you away"). We ate this habanero pepper based sauce with chips, and found it to be quite tasty. Unlike some hot sauces, which simply destroy your taste buds with their heat, this sauce was spicy but flavorful. It had a sweetness blended in with the heat. As Jenn "Spice Mama" said, "it's good enough to use as a dip itself." Quite a fine mixture of spices, properly blended for taste and heat.
The flowers outside were gorgeous, surrounding the patio area with their lovely arrangements. This is a great spot to join their Tuesday tastings, with food and wine pairings. An upcoming tasting will even have music performed to match each wine served.
I had to leave Nantucket only a few days later, but I brought a few bottles along, and sent some home with my sister. If you're ever lured out to the island that was made famous by Moby Dick, be sure to stop by this beautiful winery. Whatever your passion, Nantucket Vineyards is sure to please!
Nantucket Winery Website
The Wineries of Massachusetts
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