Newport is best known for its Gilded Age mansions, once home to well-to-do families like the Vanderbilts and the Astors. From what I hear, they threw some pretty epic wine parties back in the day (Champagne fountains anyone?).
While we can’t all have our own mansions with fountains of expensive bubbly, there’s plenty to do in the area that will satisfy any wine lover. Including some great Rhode Island wineries in Newport County.
If you’re planning a trip here, read on for all the details on how to visit these wineries in Newport, RI.
While you’re here, don’t miss taking my wine country destination quiz! It will magically match your taste buds, travel style, and winederlust desires to reveal the wine region of your dreams. Plus, you’ll get my wine region guide to make planning a breeze. Take the quiz.
When to Visit Wineries in Newport, RI
Newport is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. With its cobblestoned streets, sailboat-speckled harbor, and sandy beaches, it’s quintessential New England at its best.
The holidays are an especially magical time to visit Newport. The mansions are bedazzled with twinkling lights and stuffed with so many Christmas decorations, you’ll wonder if you’ve been transported to The North Pole.
But if you want to enjoy the outdoor spaces at the wineries, I’d recommend visiting between May and October. Unless of course, you like having picnics in the snow.
For you hardcore wine enthusiasts, September is the perfect time to go because you can also catch the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival. Geek out at wine seminars, sip on delicious vino at the vintner dinner, and bouge it up at brunch.
While you’re in town, don’t miss the many delicious dining options and shops in downtown Newport. The Mooring is a great waterfront seafood spot with an excellent wine list.
Or for an extra special experience, book one of the three tables at The Chanler’s Cara restaurant. Choose from a five or eight-course blind-tasting menu and optional wine pairings.
If you have time to spare during your trip, you should also catch a match at Newport Polo. Teams fly in from around the world to play on the historic grounds.
One of the best parts is you can bring your own wine (or other beverage of choice)! Grab your favorite bottle, pack a picnic, and dress to impress. At halftime, be prepared to do your part by stomping the divots à la Pretty Woman.
Newport is on the southern tip of Rhode Island’s Aquidneck Island.
It’s no coincidence that many wineries are found near bodies of water. Why? Well, heat from the water and sunlight reflecting off the water can extend the growing season in cooler climates.
This is especially important so that grapes can fully ripen. Because ripe grapes = tastier wine.
That’s why Aquidneck Island is a prime location for grape growing in New England. You get the warm waters of the Gulf Stream coming up from the South into Rhode Island Sound. And it’s sandwiched by Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet River.
You might miss Greenvale Vineyards if you didn’t know it was there. It’s tucked down a windy road behind a polo club and a golf course in Portsmouth, RI.
But pulling into the parking lot, you’ll be greeted by a breathtaking landscape. Rows upon rows of lush grapevines lead down to sweeping views of the Sakonnet River.
The first grapes were planted on the land in the 1700s. A merchant from Portugal owned the property. He looked around and thought, “Hey, this climate is similar to where I came from. We make wine. Why don’t I try it here?” So, he began planting some of the same types of grapes on the land and making his own wine.
A couple hundred years later, the Parker family arrived. Cortlandt Parker Jr. planted several types of hybrid grapes, including Marechal Foch, Vidal Blanc, and Cayuga.
In case any of you wine nerds are curious, a hybrid is a cross between two different grape species, usually an American and an international species. This can happen naturally. But it’s often done because American species are more resistant to pests and diseases, but international species tend to make better-tasting wine.
Since then, the vineyard has passed to Cortlandt’s daughter, Nancy Parker Wilson. Her family now runs Greenvale Vineyards, and they’ve expanded the plantings to include international varieties.
All the wines are estate grown and hand harvested. And they focus on low-intervention winemaking methods to bring out the natural flavors of the fruit.
Greenvale Vineyards Wine Tasting
Greenvale’s lawn is a picnic lover’s dream. Speckled with vineyard-side picnic tables, there’s ample outdoor seating to stake your claim even if you have a larger group.
Plus, with live jazz music on most weekends, your taste buds won’t be the only thing enjoying a sweet, sweet symphony.
Once you’re settled in, head to the outdoor tasting bar. You can get a glass or build your own wine flight. Choose from white wines like Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, and Albariño. Or red wines include Cabernet Franc and a Meritage blend (i.e., a Bordeaux-style blend).
I’m a fan of the Cabernet Franc. It’s blended with a little Merlot to add softness and fruit flavors like lush cherry. These balance nicely with the pepper and spice notes from the Cabernet Franc.
Greenvale also make an interesting Pinot Gris Ramato. The Ramato style comes from Friuli in Northeast Italy, where the grape is known as Pinot Grigio. The juice spends time on the skins, giving it a coppery tint, more texture, and flavors of dried fruits.
Greenvale is open year-round, and reservations are not required for wine tastings. The website says they don’t currently offer wine tours, but maybe they will in the future. And check the event calendar for the on-site food trucks and seasonal live music schedule.
Pin for Later!
After visiting Greenvale, head over to East Main Rd. in Middletown, where you’ll find Newport Vineyards.
John and Paul Nunes founded the winery in 1995. Their great-grandfather was the first to own the land known as Bailey Farm. The brothers have since expanded the property to include a former potato farm. And it now includes 100 acres of land, with 50 of those under vine.
Paul runs the vineyard, while John takes the lead in the winery and business operations. They focus on international red and white grape varieties in still and sparkling styles. And they produce some other specialty wines like fortified port-like wines and ice wines.
In the past decade, Newport Vineyards went through a large-scale expansion. This included a beautiful new tasting room and private event venue, a winery tank room, a farm-to-table style restaurant, a shop, and even Taproot Brewing Co., a brewery making craft beers.
Newport Vineyards Wine Tasting
Step up to the walk-up bar in Newport Vineyard’s rustic-style tasting room. Here, you can choose wines and fresh craft beer to sample from their large menu.
The Landot Noir red wine is a rare find as only four states are growing this grape. It’s a hybrid with notes of blackberry and plum. The high tannins make for a good pairing with steak or aged cheese and cured meats.
Also, if you haven’t tried ice wine before, I’d recommend sampling it here. It’s one of my favorite dessert wines and it can only be made naturally in cool climates.
The grapes are left on the vine until it’s cold enough that the water inside them freezes. The frozen grapes are quickly pressed to extract the concentrated juice. And this produces a luscious wine with pure varietal flavors.
After your tasting, grab a glass and head outside. Bring your own chairs or a blanket to enjoy some live music and sip your vino by the Pinot Noir grapes.
Newport Vineyards does not allow you to bring your own food. But if you’re hungry, you can grab a bite (and wine or beer flights) while overlooking the vines at the on-site Brix Restaurant.
Ingredients for their snacks, shared bites, sandwiches, and pizzas are all sourced from local farms, and the food is made from scratch. Reservations are recommended but they accept walk-ins on a space-available basis.
Make sure to check out the marketplace and pick up your favorite wines and beers. They also have some adorable New England nautical décor.
The tasting room experience is first come, first serve. Keep an eye on their website calendar for special events like wine & cheese tastings, barre classes, and sip n’ shop nights.
Looking for more New England wineries? Check out Cape Cod wineries and wineries in Southern Maine. Or find out the best wineries on Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake wineries, North Fork Long Island wineries and Dry Creek Valley wineries.
Where to Stay for Visiting Wineries in Newport, RI
Fun fact: As a teenager, my dad was once quarantined in Newport’s Marble House mansion for a week after being exposed to Hepatitis. He likes to recount the harrowing tale from his youth at many a family holiday gathering.
It really sounds like a rough week stuck with a group of his close friends playing board games at the banquet table and having races with the library ladder. Not to mention getting access to areas not open to the public, like a wine cellar two floors below ground level!
Unfortunately, you can’t stay at Marble House or the Breakers these days. But don’t worry, you can still live it up like a Vanderbilt at one of Newport’s many other luxurious mansions that have been turned into inns and bed & breakfasts.
One of my favorites is The Cliffside Inn. This romantic Victorian mansion is newly renovated and just steps from the Newport Cliff Walk. They offer complimentary wine (yes, free wine!) and snacks each day at 5 pm, and a gourmet breakfast in the morning.
Take your pick from 16 unique and colorful rooms. Each one is decked out in décor inspired by Beatrice Turner, a 20th-century painter and one of the former homeowners.
We stayed in the Tower Suite, a two-story room connected by a spiral staircase in one of the mansion’s turrets. It comes with your own private patio and entrance, two fireplaces, and a jetted tub.
You can find The Cliffside Inn and many other great options on Booking.com. Just enter “Newport, Rhode Island” and select your dates below to see available options.
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Have you visited any of these Newport wineries?