My wife and I had a friend from our hometown of Philly to visit at our current home of Wakefield, Rhode Island, this Fourth of July weekend. Excited to show her around, we decided to have a full-fledged Rhode Island locavore experience.
In our previous existence, we were strong supporters of small urban businesses. As relatively new residents of the Ocean State, we are now always on the hunt for cool things to support in our new, albeit much more rural, community and region. Our one regret is that we have to drive so many places here, as opposed to walking or taking public transit, which is so convenient in Philly.
So with that caveat, we embarked in our car for some adventure and to patronize our state’s businesses, which, with a 12.1 percent state unemployment rate and climbing, can really use the support.
On Friday, we headed up to Schartner Farms in Exeter, where I had my first-ever strawberry-picking experience! It was really incredible to pick food out of the ground that we would eat later that night and throughout the weekend. The three of us left with a five-pound basket of absolutely delicious strawberries, for which we paid about $11. Strawberry season is almost over, and blueberry season is almost here, so we’ll definitely be heading back soon for more berry goodness.
On Saturday, we crossed the Jamestown Verrazzano and Claiborne Pell bridges, taking in some stunning scenery as always, and headed to Aquidneck Island to visit Newport Vineyards in Middletown. We tasted five wines each and got a tour of the winery for only $9 per person! The tour was informative; we learned a lot about how the wine was made, from the vine to the barrel to the bottle, and we also learned some interesting facts about the local climatological conditions that make this region such a great place to grow tasty wines. Of course, I had to take home a couple of bottles. I was partial to the Blaufrankish and Rochambeau. My wife also couldn’t resist the Rhody Coyote Hard Apple Cider. This paragraph from the winery’s web site says it all:
Newport Vineyards was originally planted in 1977 on a hill overlooking Rhode Island Sound with the goal of producing fine wines and as a way of preserving beautiful agricultural land from rapid development. Aquidneck Island is blessed with one of the most desirable farming areas in the country, if not the world. This extraordinary micro-climate is created by a combination of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream to the south and the moderating effects of Narragansett Bay. These conditions provide a long, cool growing season ideal for developing complex flavors in wine.
On Sunday, we headed due south to Galilee for a visit to one of our favorite feeding spots, Champlin’s, where we devoured fish and chips, oysters and smelts. All of it was fresh off of the commercial fishing trawlers that dock right near the restaurant!
To drink at Champlin’s, I enjoyed a couple of refreshing Narragansett beers. The original Narragansett Brewing Company was founded in 1888 in Cranston, where it eventually became New England’s largest brewery, employing many thousands over the decades. However, the original brewery closed in 1981, at a time when regional brewers were rapidly going out of business in the face of intense competition from the monolithic national brewers Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors. Since those dark days, regional and craft brewing has thankfully come back into vogue, and in 2005, a local team of investors acquired the brand in the hopes of restoring it to its former glory. Currently, the brewery is headquartered in Providence but contract brews its beers in New York and Connecticut. The company’s goal, however, is to open a brand-new brewery in Rhode Island, and it is lobbying the state to accomplish just that. We’ll support them any way we can.
In our view, there’s nothing more patriotic we could have done this weekend than support local businesses. We hope you’ve been doing the same, and if not, maybe it can be the theme of your next holiday weekend!
Posted by Joe Paone
Filed under: Entertainment, Family, Green, Green Economy, Holidays, Local, Organic | Tagged: Blaufrankish, Champlin’s, Exeter, family farming, family-owned farms, Galilee, local economy, lovacore, Narragansett, Narragansett Beer, Narragansett Brewing, Newport, Newport Vineyards, Rhode Island, Rhody Coyote, Rochambeau, Schartner Farms, strawberry picking, support local businesses, Wakefield, winery, winery tour |