My favorite vineyard and two of my favorite people, Nancy Parker Wilson and her mother, Mrs. Parker, were featured in an article/review by Len Panaggio in the Newport Daily News last Saturday (15 March, page B6), and I thought it worth passing on a few excerpts. Greenvale is one of Portsmouth’s true gems and a “must see” place for visitors to our town. I think the article captures the special nature of this beautiful property and the people who own and operate it.
A couple of excerpts describe the special beauty of this Portsmouth landmark:
“What a real gem this property on the easterly side of Wapping Road is — it reminded me of a time when I was younger and much of Portsmouth was farmland. It also gave me a glimpse of what life must have been like since the late 1700s — not easy! The original farmhouse, which the family owns and rents out, was built in 1790. The farm is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. First and foremost, the family is farmers, preserving the open space we all enjoyed years ago.
My first stop was in their tasting room, which is in the barn/stable located on the farm. It receives many guests wanting to taste their wines and also houses their offices and lab for wines. The barn was built in 1863 and was meticulously renovated in 2000 by Jenkins Construction Co., which worked with Nancy the younger’s husband, architect Bill Wilson. It is now used primarily as a tasting facility, but also to hold special events for both the community and private functions, concerts and the vineyard’s Saturday Afternoon Jazz series, which has been so successful over the years and will return the first Saturday in May through November, featuring Dick Lupino.
The vineyard has 52 acres and Nancy and her husband purchased 20 acres, originally owned by Aaron Lopez, the “Merchant Prince of Newport,” prior to the Revolution. They have 24 acres under cultivation, with plans to expand the amount they will be growing on. Their current production is 3,500 cases, and that varies from year to year depending on what Mother Nature gives them.
After spending time in the barn, Nancy “the younger” and I went to her mother’s home, which is a beautiful Victorian “farmhouse” overlooking the Sakonnet River — and had been the local spot for bootleggers to off-load on the island during Prohibition. The elder Nancy and her late husband, Cortlandt, continued the farm operation, which was dedicated to dairy cows, and decided to get into the business of growing grapes. Cortlandt and his brother James inherited the house in 1969. They both loved wine and in the ’70s learned how to make it.
Besides grapes, they grow hay and have two head of cattle: Burberry and McIntosh. Much like the vineyards in Napa, Sonoma or even in Europe, they use their property for other agricultural products — it’s a farm, remember! In addition to farming, Nancy Parker publishes two interesting wine gazettes, The New England Wine Gazette and The Finger Lakes Wine Gazette. At The Mooring, we frequently placed ads in The New England Wine Gazette to reach out to lovers of local wines.
This is a family that has been farming in Portsmouth since the middle 1800s. That in and of itself is remarkable to me. To listen to Nancy the elder talk about what she and her husband did is inspiring; in many ways they were pioneers. To have this piece of history and the farm in the hands of a family that is dedicated to preservation and open space in this day and age on our little island is comforting.”
Needless to say, he also liked their wines, especially their “Skipping Stone” white, my personal favorite and our 375th Anniversary label wine last year. There is nothing like spending a pleasant evening listening to music, sipping wine and watching the sunset from the tasting barn to remind us how lucky we are to live in Portsmouth.