Massachusetts Wine Overview

What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Massachusetts? If you said Boston or Cape Cod, you’d be right in line with most folks, but there’s a whole other dimension to Massachusetts.

West of Cape Cod and Boston, you’ll find yourself in the midst of the Berkshire mountains, which is more like a picturesque landscape of green rolling hills. Farther west, toward the Vermont and New York borders, is a more rural Massachusetts dotted with sprawling dairy farms producing fresh artisan cheese. The climate here is generally cool, but agriculture does thrive in Massachusetts, from fruit to produce to wine grapes and more.

Massachusetts has a sizeable local wine industry for a state its size, much like neighboring Connecticut and Rhode Island. More than two dozen wineries call Massachusetts home, from the western edge of the state to the coastal areas in the east. You’ll even find wineries at well known destinations like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island. In fact, a portion of Massachusetts has been recognized for its unique microclimate and grape-growing characteristics via the Southeastern New England American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Most of the grape-growing in Massachusetts can be found in the coastal areas in the southeast, where ocean breezes help moderate the colder climate and allow grapes to thrive. French-American hybrids do well here, like Vidal and Marechal Foch. But, many winery vineyards are also doing well with traditional varieties like Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. With this type of variety, it’s no wonder wine travelers visiting Massachusetts will find an extremely diverse selection of excellent high quality wines.

You’ll also find a wide variety of fruit wines from Massachusetts wineries. Apples, pears and even peaches are grown in the state, as well as fruits that tend to do well in cooler locations like blueberries and strawberries. Sparkling wines from local vintners are often found here, along with numerous traditional ciders.

The state of Massachusetts hosts more than two dozen wineries, scattered from its western end to the coastal areas south of Boston, as well as on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket islands. Grape growing in the state is concentrated on coastal lands within the Southeastern New England AVA. In other parts of the state, fruit wines are more common and grape wines are often made from fruit imported from other parts of the U.S. The cold-climate conditions make French-American hybrid varieties like Seyval, Vidal, and Marechal Foch popular choices with growers. But some important producers have exclusive vinifera programs, focusing on varieties like Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Given the growing conditions and varieties, it is not surprising to find excellent, traditional method sparkling wines made in the state.

Two organizations have spearheaded the promotional efforts for Massachusetts wine and wineries. The first is the Massachusetts Farm Wineries and Growers Association, the state’s primary wine organization. The second is the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, who started an agri-tourism campaign in 2009 called Savor Massachusetts. The program is designed to encourage “staycations” and introduce both residents and tourists to agricultural destinations like wineries, breweries, farmers markets and family farms. A primary objective of the Savor Massachusetts campaign was the establishment of the Massachusetts Wine and Cheese Trails, which we discuss below.

Wineries are the fastest growing agricultural sector in the state, incrementally growing from just a handful to now about thirty. Wine sales from local wineries total well over $8 million dollars annually, a true indication that Massachusetts wine is truly on the map.

Massachusetts Wine Trails

Massachusetts has been in the forefront of developing wine trails that include other agri-tourism attractions along with wineries. To us, this makes perfect sense because it broadens the appeal for families and anyone who appreciates the farm-to-table mindset. While many wineries offer activities for those who choose not to taste wine, other attractions such as family farms offer visitor value with a slightly different — but related — focus.

In Massachusetts, you’ll find Wine and Cheese Trails, of which there are six branches covering the entire state. Each branch is briefly described below. Click here for a map of the Massachusetts Wine and Cheese Trails.

  • Western Massachusetts Branch: The western branch of the Massachusetts Wine and Cheese Trail is the largest, geographically speaking, in the state. It covers the area from the New York- Massachusetts border eastward to the Quaboin Reservoir in the center of the state. Six wineries are located on this branch: Echo Hill Winery, Furnace Brook Winery, Green River Ambrosia (meadery), Les Trois Emme Winery, Mineral Hills Winery and Pioneer Valley Farm and Vineyard.
  • Central Massachusetts Branch: The central branch moves eastward to I-495 and contains four wineries: Charlton Orchards Farm, Hardwick Vineyard and Winery, Nashoba Valley Winery and Zoll Cellars.
  • Greater Boston Branch: This branch of the Massachusetts Wine and Cheese Trail includes the city of Boston and the immediate surrounding area, and includes one winery — the Boston Winery.
  • South of Boston Branch: This area encompasses much of Massachusetts’ grape-growing land and it runs from south of the metropolitan area up to the Cape Cod Canal. Seven wineries can be found here: Coastal Vineyards, Plymouth Bay Winery, Plymouth Colony Winery, Plymouth Winery, Running Brook Vineyards, Travessia Winery and Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery.
  • North of Boston and Merrimack Valley Branch: Traveling north from Boston toward Lowell and the New Hampshire border, this branch stretches eastward to Gloucester at the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Four wineries are here, including Alfalfa Farm Winery, Russell Orchards, Turtle Creek Winery and Willow Spring Vineyards.
  • Cape Cod and Nantucket Branch: This is the area most travelers are familiar with, as it contains Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The three wineries to be found here are Cape Cod Winery, Nantucket Vineyard and Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod.
  • Each branch is set up so you can experience much of it in one weekend. The western Massachusetts branch is a little more spread out, so you might want to allow two weekends (or 2-3 days) to see everything. The same is probably true of the Cape Cod and Nantucket branch because there’s so much to see and do in that area, plus reaching Nantucket Vineyard requires boat travel.

    Expect to see more states following the lead of Massachusetts in designating agritourism based trails, whether they combine wineries and cheese producers, or other products that fit well together.

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