Local Picks: The Health Benefits of Wine

These Massachusetts wineries produce wines with unexpected health benefits.

Wine corks image via shutterstock

Wine corks image via shutterstock

It seems like wine can do no wrong. From lowering depressive symptoms, to benefiting the immune system, to killing lung cancer cells, new amazing uses for the vintage are being studied daily. The best part is that we actually have wine producers right here in the Commonwealth.

That said, there’s two problems with wine in New England: the grapes and the climate. Obviously, we don’t have Napa’s wine producing climate, and our grapes are…well…a little weird. Massachusetts grapes are not-so-great, says Wesley Narron, who through City Wine Tours, leads wine and food tasting tours at award-winning restaurants such as L’Espalier and Gaslight Brasserie. “What makes Massachusetts grapes special? Their awfulness! Most of the grapes grown in-state are French-American hybrids that are hearty enough to grow in such a cold climate, and turn into coarse, angry wines,” he says. “Or, they’re native grapes that have to be processed and sweetened to be palatable. Want to sample the wine your ancestors drank back in Civil War times? Find something made from the Pink Catawba grape. The Catawba grape was the most widely grown grape in the 19th century.”

Narron says that the winemakers who make decent wines in Massachusetts are importing grapes from California, or they make very small runs of good vintages, that is, when they’re lucky enough to hit upon a winner.

“[If you are] a conscientious person who wants to support the farm-to-table philosophy, you can’t easily scoot down to your corner winery and grab a case of delicious freshly-bottled spectacularness, to sip while you discuss the Red Sox prospects,” Narron says. “What you can find in Massachusetts are sweet, unctuous wines made from cranberries, strawberries, or blueberries. Something other than grapes.”

So are we out of luck? Where can we find a good quality and great tasting wine made close to home?  Here’s Narron’s two favorite local wines:

Best white: Westport Rivers 2006 Robert James Russell Brut Sparkling Wine

“Here’s a sparkling wine good enough to have been served at the past three presidential inaugurations of both Democrats and Republicans,” Narron says. “Politicians of all stripes agree this is a wine that tastes like a true vintage French Champagne: toasty brioche, peach marmalade, and lemon curd. This is the best wine made in Massachusetts.”

Westport Rivers Winery; $29.99/bottle; 417 Hixbridge Road, Westport; 508-636-3423, westportrivers.com

Best red: Turtle Creek 2009 Estate Cabernet Franc

“Lots of Massachusetts wineries exist only to serve the tourist trade,” Narron says. “Not Turtle Creek Winery in Lincoln. Owner Kip Kumler makes serious wines, and he definitely sends out a ‘stay-off-my-lawn’ vibe. He hates tour buses pulling onto his property.” This results in him creating 100 percent Cabernet Franc with flavors of tasty plum and hints of blueberry, oak, and black pepper, Narron says. “You’ll think this came from a Bordeaux estate, or a Loire Valley garagiste. Nope. If it says ‘Estate’ on the label, it means they grew the dang grapes themselves. Believe this. It came from Lincoln!”

Turtle Creek Winery; $29.99/bottle; 781-259-9976; turtlecreekwine.com