Not far from Horseneck Beach and the east fork of the Westport River in Massachusetts, the rolling vineyards of Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery pattern the land with acres of even rows of thriving grapevines.
Bob and Carol Russell carefully chose this fertile farmland for its unique microclimate, which offers the warmest temperatures in the area and the rich soil needed for their vineyards. Twenty-four years later, their sustainable farming practices and respectful winemaking have not only produced world-class sparkling and still wines, but they have also managed to keep the family together and preserve what has become very valuable open land from commercial development.
For their sons, Rob and Bill, this time of year means hard work. Rob manages the vineyards year-round, but from August to October, his decision-making is crucial to the final outcome of the wine. Using part science and part intuition, Rob decides when the grapes get picked. And anyone with a free hand pitches in. Brother Bill, the winemaker, takes it from there, and he must act quickly to extract juice and make decisions about fermentation.
And while work never ceases on a farm no matter what the crop, taking time to celebrate the harvest with a meal is an important event the Russells never miss. What is a perfect location for a vineyard is also the perfect place to select ingredients for a simple fall harvest meal that includes food from the land, river, and sea.
Kerry Downey Romaniello has been executive chef at the vineyard’s Long Acre House for nine years, concentrating her efforts on pairing local foods in season with the wines Rob and Bill bottle. Following are a few recipes for you to try at home.