Judges love vineyard 'dogs' — wine takes gold


As Westport Rivers works to bring in what looks to be a first-rate grape crop, the vineyard has another reason to celebrate.

One of its wines has won Best in Class and a gold medal, two others took silver and a third bronze in an international wine competition.

Cinco Caes, a white wine blended from five types of grapes, was judged tops by the International Wine Channel TV Awards.

It's a prestigious honor, says the vineyard's Bill Russell, and especially welcome since it suggests that the appeal of Westport wines spans generations.

"This competition has younger judges (wine buyers, celebrity chefs, wine media and others) and tends to represent a younger audience — people in their 20s and 30s," Mr. Russell said. "Not the old fogies of the industry. It's pretty exciting for us … and shows once again that this region really does produce some of the world's best and most interesting wines."

If the wine is interesting, so is the Portuguese name — Cinco Cães — Five Dogs.

Mr. Russell said that back in 2011 while they were contemplating the grape blend for this next wine, he happened to be dog-less for the first time in awhile.

"I had five dogs at one point but in 2011 I had lost the last of my pack." Four of those dogs had been labs of one sort or another, the fourth was an Azorean cattle dog "who kept the pack together."

"Five orphaned wines for five whining dogs … the coincidence didn't escape our winemaker."

The Portuguese name came naturally too. There was that Azorean cattle dog, and "growing up in Dighton and Westport, in this area I have been steeped in Portuguese my whole life." It's a "tip of the hat to the Portuguese influence on the South Coast."

The name, he adds, has a good ring to it, after a bit of practice with the pronunciation of Cães.

"The 2011 vintage presented an opportunity to blend five varietals that we don’t normally blend: rkatsiteli, pinot gris, gruner veltliner, muscat and chardonnay."

One grape brings a hint of lemon and lime — citrus, "bright, crisp," he said. Others offer an aroma of strawberry, a touch of pepper and spice, grapefruit and even fresh-cut grass.

"We think they work well together, a nice fresh taste," and customers seem to agree. They made 500 cases of it and the wine is a  best seller for the vineyard.

That's a good thing, he said, because "a lot rides on those decisions. They've got to get you through the next 12 months."

The other competition winners  were some of the vineyard's more traditional offerings.

Taking silver medals were the Blanc de Noirs and RJR Brut Cuvee, while the Blanc De Blancs won a bronze medal.


Promising harvest

The awards arrive as the vineyard has begun bringing in the grapes that will create the next wines and results so far are promising.

"People always say, 'all that rain you had back early in the summer must really have hurt you.' But what really matters is the weather now — August, September."

And "September has been gorgeous … cool nights, sunny mild days, just perfect. You could;'t find a better September."

The pinot gris grapes are "just beautiful," and the chardonnay have a "really good aroma."

And unlike most late summer/early autumns — "We haven't been looking over our shoulders to the south for some tropical visitor to mess things up — fingers crossed."

The harvest will likely continue through mid-October to as late as early November, "depending, as always, on the weather."



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