760 Purchase Street, New Bedford, MA 02740 (map link)
When we said we planned to go wine tasting in Massachusetts, reactions ranged from disbelief to pity to offers for mental counseling. Comments ranged from a polite and cautious “It’s not what you’re used to” to a disparaging “Well, I know a few of the wineries are using grapes from California, so they’re OK.” We didn’t want to taste wine made with grapes from California, however; we wanted to taste wine made with New England grapes.
As we discovered, with skill and a possibly insane amount of determination, considering the growing season, winemakers can make some pretty good wines out of those New England grapes. One of those winemakers, it turned out, was in a most unexpected place.
“You’re going wine tasting in New Bedford?” my mom said as if she was trying to make sense of my sentence. I couldn’t blame her; when I was growing up New Bedford had a bad reputation (and I grew up in Brockton, which would not earn a spot on anyone’s “safest cities” list). When we pulled into downtown, however, we discovered that this former whaling village still has plenty of historic buildings and New England charm.
We wanted to explore, but our schedule was constrained, so we hustled immediately to our destination, Travessia Urban Winery. Travessia has had a storefront in downtown New Bedford and is owned by winemaker Marco Montez. Like many in this region of Massachusetts, Montez is originally from Portugal. He grew up surrounded by small-scale winemakers first in Portugal and then in America, where his uncle made wine in the family garage.
Travessia has achieved enough success that they’re expanding into the next storefront. When we arrived at the current tasting room, tasting room manager Edson Pereira was just putting the finishing touches on the paint job in the new space, connected to the current space by an interior door.
When we say “finishing touches,” we really mean it. When Pereira isn’t pouring wine or helping to make it, he’s used his hard-earned carpentry skills to build out the new tasting room, which may be open right as you’re reading this!
All wines are from the Massachusetts appellation. Normally a state appellation is less narrow than a regional appellation, but in this case it’s more restrictive. The Southern New England appellation includes Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, while the Massachusetts appellation means that Travessia uses only Massachusetts-grown grapes.
2010 Unoaked Chardonnay: The scent was very light and bright and a perfect prelude to the flavors. This had a nice grapefruit and clementine flavor and finished on a grapefruit pith note. It was a fine, easy-drinking wine that would be perfect for a summer’s day.
2010 Oaked Chardonnay: Edson told us as he poured that this wine is unfiltered. The toasty citrus scent made me think of Little Penguin’s chardonnay. The flavor was also toasty, with a hint of the grapefruit (but none of the clementine) that I tasted in the unoaked chardonnay.
2009 Vidal Blanc: We’d never tried Vidal Blanc before we came to Massachusetts, and here we were on our second in a row! Vidal Blanc has some flavors in common with Riesling, but also has a sour element that gives it an intriguing flavor all its own. This wine had both sweet and tart elements in perfect balance; it was really enjoyable.
2010 “The Bastard” RosÃ©: Unlike the nose on the chardonnay, the nose on this wine couldn’t have had much less in common with the flavor. It was surprisingly sweet, with left me awaiting with dread the taste of a white zinfandel. I was instead pleasantly surprised to find that it had an effervescent and dry flavor.
2010 Pinot Noir: Something about the nose of this wine seemed a little off, but it was very enjoyable on the palate; the oak and fruit layered nicely.
While Edson wasn’t ready for his close-up (and we can’t blame the hardest working man in wine for that!) he was kind enough to take our picture.