Jack and Maureen Leyden are sitting in Adirondack chairs in front of a bonfire on an 100-acre farm in West Greenwich. They open up their newest wine, which was bottled nearly six months ago. Looking across the farm that has been in their family for three generations, they see the potential in this wine.
Traditionally a Christmas tree farm, Leyden Farm Vineyards & Winery started to grow strawberries and blueberries in 2009, and shortly thereafter began making small batches of berry wine. Later, while on a jaunt to Florida, the couple discovered wines made with fruit essence, and their path became clear.
They decided to make fruit essence wines, which are sweet, crisp, light and very drinkable, coming in at 9% alcohol content. The Apple Jack Russell is a white wine infused with fresh green apple essence. During a tasting, this variety is served with dried fresh McIntosh or Cortland apple slices that can either be dunked or simply eaten. Other fruit essence varieties include Golden Sangria, a red wine with orange essence that is not overly sweet; Samson’s Wildberry, a red wine blended with strong pomegranate notes and more subtle blueberry, blackberry, strawberry and raspberry; Romeo’s Passion Fruit, a rosé style, light, fruity wine perfect for dessert with notes of pineapple, strawberry, and passion fruit; and Lazy Watermelon, a blush wine with essence of fresh watermelon.
The newest creations are the just-released (in April) wine varieties made from 100% Rhode Island grapes and not fruit oriented. The new varieties also share extremely drinkable qualities (12-13% alcohol) that are surprisingly light. Even Samson’s Merlot, their most full-bodied, blended red wine, retained the light quality that characterizes this vineyard. That being said, it would still pair perfectly with a steak due to its extended aging in oak barrels with underlying notes of raspberry and blackberry. The most surprising wine is Jack’s White Merlot, consisting of Samson’s Merlot blended with a white grape. The result is a zingy, fruity, not too sweet creation whose flavors are not overbearing but slowly develop as you imbibe. Other new varieties include Romeo’s Red, a dry blended table wine that is light, bright and subtly sweet; Sunny’s Grigio, a pinot grigio highlighted with fresh apple and herbal aromas; and Cleo’s Blanc, a sauvignon blanc, semi-dry, wonderfully mango flavored wine.
These wines are available for purchase at Leyden Farm by the glass (tastings must be scheduled in advance) or by the bottle. While you’re there, catch live music every Saturday and Sunday until Columbus Day weekend from 1-4pm, where you can relax on the outdoor patio overlooking the farm in one of their Adirondack chairs or picnic tables. For a complete experience, pair tastings ($10 for a five wine tasting) with cheese platters ($8 - $12), which contain seasonal fruits, nuts and crackers. Head down to Leyden Farm to taste the fruits of their labor.