While hens prance around outside, the tasting room at the Cape Cod Winery in Falmouth is abuzz. Customers swirl, sipping pinot grigio and other wines made from blends of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot, all varietals that originated in Europe. Who would think these vinifera grapes could flourish on Cape Cod?
Yes, it’s true: some grapes thrive in the maritime weather and sandy soil of the Cape, says Kristina Lazzari, owner of the winery as well as the viticulturist and winemaker. Certain varieties ripen in our short growing season and are suited for the soil, which can produce a concentrated and flavorful grape, perfect for making wine. “We can only grow certain varieties that will ripen between May to October before we get frost. We choose grapes that are adaptable to this climate,” Lazzari says. “Some wine grapes prefer a drier soil. If there’s too much moisture in the soil the grapes become large and watery and it doesn’t make a flavorful wine.”
Lazzari and her husband, Tony, bought the 10-acre plot 15 years ago and have gradually cultivated a vineyard of not only European grape varieties but several French-American hybrids, like seyval blanc and vidal blanc. She studied biochemistry—and learned about fermentation—at Cornell and at Boston University. With knowledge of science and agriculture, she developed a zeal for organic grape growing and discovered viticulture and winemaking. Her passion is producing organic wine: Last year, the winery bottled 2,000 cases of wine made from grapes grown without insecticides.
Although the Cape and Islands isn’t a familiar wine-producing region, wineries have cropped up across the landscape. (Some have closed, like Chicama on Martha’s Vineyard, which produced wines for more than three decades.) Nantucket Vineyards puts out a variety of red and white wines and blends made with grapes from Washington State. In an adjacent building, owners Dean and Melissa Long run Cisco Brewers and Triple Eight Distillery.
On the outer Cape at Truro Vineyards, where clusters of purple cabernet franc and chardonnay grapes grow near the road and blue-tinged merlot grapes on a slope, you might feel as if you’re in wine country. A Chinese mulberry tree sits in front of the vineyards and bears fruit in early summer. It was brought over by a sea captain in 1850 and is said to be the largest mulberry tree in the state. Dave Roberts and his family bought the farm and winery in March 2007 from the horticulturists who first planted the vines. The Roberts family also buys grapes from other vineyards in California and New York’s Finger Lake region and make a selection of six different wines that have increased in popularity with the help of some of Cape Cod’s restaurants, like the Red Inn in Provincetown and Scargo Café in Dennis and retailers, like Orleans Wine & Spirits, who stock the selections on shelves.
“A lot of times you have to twist a person’s arm a bit to try our local wine. People expect it’s not going to be very good,” says Kristen Roberts of Truro Vineyards. But the taste is a testimony to the fruits of their labor.
Cape Cod Winery, 681 Sandwich Rd., East Falmouth,
(508) 457-5592; www.capecodwinery.com
Truro Vineyards, 11 Shore Rd., Rt. 6A, North Truro,
(508) 487-6200;. www.trurovineyardsofcapecod.com
Nantucket Vineyards, 5 Bartlett Farm Rd., Nantucket,
(508) 228-9235; www.ciscobrewers.com