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Pour it and they will come

Posted by Ellen Bhang  July 14, 2012 11:04 AM

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To the wineries in attendance, the lesson was clear.

Ellen Bhang

A full house

Pour it and they will come – in droves. Brilliant sunshine and sold-out advance tickets predicted success. Still, organizers of the first annual Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival at the Westport Fairgrounds on June 24th seemed stunned as hundreds flooded the big blue barn and spilled out onto the lawn. The crowd – at times six people deep – pressed up close to the 34 exhibit tables, eager for samples of artisanal chocolate truffles, wedges of cheddar, freshly baked bread, and local wines. By the end of the afternoon, well over 1,200 festival goers had reveled in sips and bites.

Every year, the nine wineries of the Coastal Wine Trail of South Eastern New England come together for a kick-off event of wine tourism season. In the past, one winery hosted the event and while others could pour their wines as tastes, only the host winery could sell its wares. A change in Massachusetts law now allows the Coastal Wine Trail to scale up events. Approved by the legislature in 2010, economic development act S 2582 paved the way for licensed farm wineries to sell their wine at farmers’ markets and agricultural events if approved by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

Ellen Bhang
Ron Moore of Greenvale Vineyards pours.
Dave Neilson, owner and winemaker of Coastal Vineyards and chairman of the Massachusetts Farm Wineries & Growers Association, coordinated the state application process, then got permission from the town of Westport to hold the event. The law was written to give local communities the final say, he explained.

Neilson said the law is a huge change. According to MDAR’s 2011 survey of local wineries and its subsequent evaluation of wine sales at agricultural events, respondents reported an average overall sales increase per winery of 66 percent. They reported more than $514,000 in estimated wine sales at agricultural events and farmers’ markets. More than half of the wineries surveyed planned to hire more full and part-time employees -- no small feat in a tough economy.

Neilson said that the law is having a positive effect – not just for Coastal Wine Trail members but for new wineries just getting started throughout the state. “This is not the end of the story,” Neilson said. “It’s just the beginning.”

Winemakers pouring seemed to agree. “With the response and turn-out that we had,” said Maggie Harnett of Greenvale Vineyards, “we would be crazy not to do it again.”

To learn more about local wineries and upcoming events, go to

Ellen Bhang

About By the Glass

Ellen Bhang writes about food and wine and reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe. Wine is the focus of her degree in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University. She can be reached at


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