You don’t have to be a California native to enjoy a weekend of wine tasting. If you’re an East Coaster like me, then a weekend getaway with a side of wine and cheese isn’t too far from your grasp. One of my favorite places to settle in for a sip is the coastline of New England. Boston’s North Shore is dotted with independent farms that produce some excellent wine. While the scenery may be a bit atypical compared to your standard wine tasting venues, those rippling salt marshes are divine and breathtaking especially at sunset.
Here is a weekend itinerary to get you started on your New England wine tasting adventure.
Essex County, Massachusetts is one of the oldest English settlements in the country. Here, you’ll find historic houses and some of the oldest farms in North America. Plan a flight that lands in Boston on a Friday afternoon and I guarantee you’ll be relaxed and recharged by Monday.
Rent a car and head north from Logan Airport on U.S. Route 1A. This scenic drive will give you your first glimpse of the sights and scents of the coastal salt marshes. You’ll drive past Revere Beach, America’s oldest public beach, and along the seawall in Lynn, the largest city in Essex County. Stick to the twists and turns of 1A until you get to Salem, the site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in 1692. In Salem, stop to stretch your legs and stroll the cobblestone streets where you’ll find art galleries, cafes and kitschy souvenir shops. For some great seafood and seating on the water, have a late lunch or an early dinner at Finz, which specializes in creative takes on New England seafood classics.
Continue north on Route 1A from Salem to Ipswich to spend the night at the historic Ipswich Inn, a lovingly restored Victorian home with to-die-for breakfasts. Here, you’ll be within walking distance of Zabaglione Restaurant, where you’ll find fresh Italian dishes and a great wine list. Turn in early or head to Castle Hill for an incredible sunset view of Plum Island and the local waterways.
After a leisurely breakfast at the Ipswich Inn, spend the morning at historic Appleton Farm, where you can get fresh, local produce and cheese for a picnic lunch and explore miles of trails through the countryside.
Head west on Route 133 and then north on Route 1, where you’ll find the Mill River Winery in Rowley. Founded by a Ph.D. chemist and her wine making husband, Mill River Winery is situated on 3.3 picturesque acres of prime North Shore real estate. Despite being a young winery, they’ve been racking up awards and accolades. Their 2010 Naked Chardonnay was awarded a silver medal by the American Wine Society. Be sure to sit down in their tasting room for a flight of five different wines or linger at the outdoor picnic tables with your farm stand lunch. Vineyard walks are also offered during weekend days starting 3 p.m.
When you’re done, continue north on Route 1 to Newburyport, where you can stay at one of several quaint, local inns. Newburyport is packed with small shops and a dozen great restaurants, so feel free to explore the historic downtown on foot and read the menus in the windows until something strikes your fancy. Ceia Kitchen + Bar is acclaimed by discerning gourmands; for a more laid-back evening with live music, the locals flock to The Grog.
For breakfast, head to Buttermilk Baking Company for coffee and an unbelievable spread of fresh pastries, hand pies and other delights. Carry your goodies over to the waterfront to watch the sun rise and the boats head out to sea for the day. For a little exercise, explore Maudslay State Park’s gorgeous trails and views of the Merrimac River.
From Newburyport, drive along Merrimac St. and over the Chain Bridge to Main St. in Amesbury. You can lunch at one of several great restaurants here or head directly to Jewell Towne Vineyards, which straddles the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. Jewell Towne is the oldest vineyard in New Hampshire. Owners Peter and Brenda Oldak offer free tours and tastings and they’re happy to chat about their passion for winemaking. Try a glass of their 2015 Marechal Foch, which garnered Best Grown New Hampshire Wine at the 2016 Northeast Gold Medal Competition.
Once you’re done, enjoy the leisurely drive back to reality. Half of the fun of this trip is the stunning New England coastal scenery on the drive, so take the time to appreciate your surroundings.