Most people probably don’t know this, but South County is lucky enough to have five wineries. Yes, FIVE! So whether you’re looking for a place to sip on some wine in the quiet backwoods of West Kingston or you want to have a couples’ night out in downtown Westerly, there’s a winery for every mood and palate. Don’t take our word for it...visit them yourself!
Leyden Farm Vineyard & Winery - West Greenwich
What started out as just playing around in the kitchen in 2010 has turned into a year-round income and a booming business for Maureen and Jack Leyden, who own the Christmas tree farm that the vineyard and winery is located on. In the last nine years, they’ve become so successful that they’re currently expanding their tasting room, which looks out onto the tree farm, so it can accommodate more people during the cooler months.
Leyden said they started out making fruit wines from the harvest, primarily strawberries and blueberries, that grow around the farm. It wasn’t until later that they expanded to more traditional red and white wines.
Today, their fruit essence wines are some of their most popular.
“The fruit wines are made the same way that traditional grape wine is made but they’re a little sweeter but are so good,” she said, adding that they now have to import most of the grapes and fruits used in the winemaking process. “And we’ve found that people who aren’t really big into more traditional wines often really like the fruit wines.”
Leyden said they have wines for all palates. For more traditional wine drinkers, Leyden’s favorite, Romeo’s Red, is a good choice, or Cleo’s Blanc, a dryer white wine. If you want something sweet in the colder months, the Apple Jack Russell warmed up with a cinnamon sugar rim is the way to go.
“Imagine drinking a glass of the Apple Jack Russell while you’re looking for a Christmas tree on the farm,” she said. “It’s really good.”
Tapped Apple - Westerly
Up until two years ago, winemaking was a hobby for John Wiedenheft IV and his father John Wiedenheft III. But then they hit the 200-gallon legal yearly limit for home winemaking and had people asking if they could buy the wine. It was around this time that the younger Wiedenheft said they realized they might be able to make a successful business out of it. Fast forward to today and the father-son team now has a storefront at 37 High Street. The most interesting part about this winery is that all of their wines and hard ciders are made of apples instead of grapes. Their offerings include apple elderberry wine, dry-hopped apple wine, a Watch Hill white wine, a hard cider aged in whiskey barrels from the South Kingstown-based distillery Sons of Liberty, and a malted hard cider.
“Our goal is to make quality wines and hard ciders with apples and if our online reviews are any indication, most of our customers think we are doing just that,” Wiedenheft said. “In blind taste tests, many people have confused our Watch Hill White with Pinot Grigio.” Tapped Apple Cidery & Winery also caters events, both in the tasting room and offsite, using their custom-built portable tap system.
Langworthy Farm Vineyard - Westerly
As a boutique winery, Langworthy Farm Vineyard prides itself on offering only sit-down tastings and having a bed and breakfast onsite. Both of these aspects make a visit to their vineyard an exceptionally cozy and welcoming experience. It’s pretty much the quintessential New England vineyard, so it’s not the kind of place you want to rush out of...it’s an experience that should be enjoyed.
Joe Sharry, one of the owners of the vineyard, said they traditionally offer 12 wines, six white and six red. So far this year, their Haversham Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Weekapaug White and Watch Hill Merlot have been big hits.
Sharry, who started as a home winemaker years ago, said his favorite part of owning a vineyard is meeting and conversing with the customers.
“I love talking about the wine and the vineyard,” he said. “We first planted in 2002, opened in 2005 and it’s just kind of grown from there.”
For the most part, their offerings can only be found at the vineyard. Occasionally, when he has the time, Sharry said he will self-distribute some bottles to the Haversham Tavern and Coast Guard House.
Gooseneck Vineyards - North Kingstown
When cousins Liana Buonanno and Paul Sede started Gooseneck Vineyards in North Kingstown eight years ago, they knew they could do it better than many of the vineyards they’d visited in California. They realized that the industry has a lot of people who are passionate and extremely knowledgeable about certain steps in the winemaking process.
“We decided to break down the process to find people who are passionate and knowledgeable about each of the steps to maximize it to a whole new level,” Buonanno said. “We’re all about trying to find the people who love what they do and are willing to work with us to create an exceptional wine.”
Grapes and passion - those are the two keys to a great glass of wine. Buonanno and Sede have worked hard to find the people and families who are passionate about what they do.
It’s hard for Liana to pick one of their offerings as a favorite, but their Grenache-based rosé is up there.
“Our whole bottle of rosé has less than a gram of sugar in it,” she said. “I don’t know of any other rosé in the marketplace that fits both the palates of a wine novice and a wine sommelier into it.”
Other favorites include their New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Heritage Red, Prosecco and Brut Rosé.
“I think we do a good job at offering something different,” she said, adding that they’re now welcoming visitors at their recently opened tasting room in Wickford. “So far, we’re sold in 17 states, but it’s been hard as each state has specific regulations and licensing process. But so far, I think our wine simply speaks for itself.”
The Winterhawk Vineyards winery and tasting room may still be under construction, but that hasn’t stopped owner Rick Dyer from welcoming larger groups and parties to the Yawgoo Pond adjacent property for tastings this summer. At the moment, all the wine is made in the basement of his house, which is on the same property. If all goes well, the winery should be open later this fall and the tasting room next spring. It’s pretty much a one-man show - Dyer is both the winemaker and the primary builder constructing the stone farmhouse style boutique winery and tasting room. It all started in 2014 when Dyer got involved with a vineyard in Connecticut. The winemaker there gave him some grape cuttings to grow. Since then, Dyer has planted a few new varieties and says he thinks he’s a year or two away from harvesting. Once open, Winterhawk will be a smaller operation, maybe 20-25 barrels a year and about 4,000 bottles. But once it’s complete, he wants it to be a place of community, music, food and wine.
“We’ve got more classic wines like red Zinfandel, Malbec, Chardonnay and Viognier,” he said, adding that he’s working on a barley wine with a Boston winery. “We haven’t been open much during the build, but I’m so excited to open to the public soon. I love that I’m creating an environment that people enjoy. They instantly relax and are at peace with the world when they’re here.”