Wine, the new Massachusetts Miracle

Just think, there are over 3,800 bonded wineries in the United State and most of them — 1,800 — are in California producing more than 82 percent of the wine consumed from coast to coast. So where does Massachusetts fit in? We’re less than a blip on the radar, but a truly unique and growing blip.

I was happily surprised to learn recently that Massachusetts has 40 bonded winners, and 36 of them produce and sell products from viniferous and cold-hearty grapes. While challenging Northeast climate prevents Bay State vintners from growing California varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay among others, there are plenty of fruit wines being produced. These wines feature apples, cranberries, peaches and blueberries. I have not tasted any of these products, but I am intrigued enough to say that I will begin my exploration and research in the coming months. The reason is simple. Most of these locally produced products are showing up at Farmers Markets that are sprouting up across the state. And people are buying them.In fact, the state Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) reported in July 2011 that the Massachusetts wine industry is growing in both production and sales.

According to the report, based on 2010 economic figures, Bay State wineries “hand-crafted” and bottled 134,724 gallons of still, sparkling wine and hard apple cider — a 21 percent increase over the 2007 audit of 111,446 gallons which was compiled by the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. While the numbers pale in comparison to California’s massive production totals, they shed light on a truly amazing industry that is gaining steam from a virtual non-existence nearly 20 years ago. Massachusetts vintners are pioneers in the broadest context. In 2010, 36 wineries combined for $9.34 million in total sales while employing 205 workers, 128 of them full-time. Grapes/fruit were grown on 521 acres, up from 114 in 1998. Overall, 1,842 acres of open space are currently maintained by farm wineries.

Now here’s the best part: Twenty-six wineries in the state have tasting rooms and are open to the public. I think I’m going to be hitting the road a lot this summer, sampling the Bay State’s nectar from the gods and rating them. It sounds like a lot of fun.

If you are in the mood for a day trip or two, here’s a web site that offers suggestions on most Massachusetts wineries and how to get there:

www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/docs/wine-cheese-map.pdf

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