Travessia Urban Winery: Mass Appeal

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 Urban Winery
The Travessia tasting room. The grapevine tiles are all original and date to the early 1900s.

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!

Travessia Urban Winery
Travessia's wine bottles have a graphic design we really liked.

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” Rosé: 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.

Travessia Urban Winery
I swear, we didn't drink the whole vat!

Running Brook Winery: Mass Appeal

We didn’t get very much summer in Monterey, but we had high hopes for our trip to Cape Cod. The forecast was warm and sunny! We should know by now that inclement weather follows us whenever we visit New England, and this trip was no exception.

Running Brook Winery
Running Brook (Drizzling Rain)

But you can’t claim to be from Seattle like me if you can’t handle a little rain. So we trekked on out to the deep South Shore of Massachusetts to see what kind of wines were being made with local grapes. Our first stop was Running Brook Vineyard and Winery in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Using only Southeastern New England AVA estate-grown grapes, Running Brook produces a nice handful of varietals. Running Brook’s tasting room is located inside their all-on-one facility, which exudes a rustic feel informed by a New England practicality.

Running Brook Winery
I totally don't remember the direct sunlight.

Pat, who poured for us, was charming, friendly and quite knowledgeable about the region’s unique grape-growing context. Nikki adds: Pat created an experience that was the exact opposite of that terrible wine tasting experience we blogged about several weeks ago. She made us feel welcome and important, and was a fantastic host. She mentioned that Running Brook was part of the Coastal Wine Trail of Southeastern New England. If you’re planning a trip to the area, check out their Passport program for a convenient way to plan a tasting route. We learned that Running Brook’s founders include one of the first people to successfully start a vineyard in New England, Owner and Vineyard Manager Manuel Morais.

The area is a cool grape growing region. As a result, Southeastern New England winemakers offer a higher ratio of white wines to reds than their Pacific coast counterparts do.

The Wines

2010 Unoaked Chardonnay: This had a fruity aroma with just a hint of sugar. The flavor was nice and clean, with elements of apple and pear. There was also a charming warmth on the finish which I wasn’t expecting in an unoaked chard.

2008 Chardonnay Blend: This was a blend of 60% oaked and 40% unoaked chardonnay. As you might expect, this had a warmer quality throughout than the unoaked 2010.  It also had those apple and pear flavors, but they emerged a little later in the flavor, almost as though the 2010 had raw fruit and the 2008 blend had fruit that had been baked in a pie.

2008 Pinot Gris: If you drew an arc from the 2010 Chardonnay through the 2008 blend, the Pinto Gris would lad right in that arc, with an even warmer quality than the previous two wines. The fruit was also evident here, but with less specificity.

2008 Vidal Blanc: Here’s a varietal we never encountered before. Vidal is a cool-climate grape that produces a wine most akin to Riesling or Gewürtztraminer. It’s very aromatic and floral on both the nose and palate, and it has a noticeably more viscous mouthfeel. There’s a light but definite taste of alcohol that combines with the floral notes to  pleasantly suggest perfume.

2010 Vidal Blanc: This was similar to the 2008, but with more of a grapefruit essence in the aroma and flavor. Quit a refreshing wine, this would make a great summer sipper.

2010 Red Blend: Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot combine to provide a smoky, earthy aroma. This wine had a lighter body than I expected. The flavor revealed dark fruit followed by smoky tannins.

2007 Auslesen Dessert Wine: The aroma was sweet with a suggestion of honey. The flavor delivered on that suggestion – the unmistakable essence of honey layered over a golden raisin flavor.

2010 Frost Wine: The aroma of this one was sweet with a hint of grapefruit and just a trace of yeast. The flavor was deep and sweet with an almost savory quality, and a nice, viscous mouthfeel.