By: Jenna Banning
There are a lot of things that my hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts is known for: Thanksgiving, cranberries, Pilgrims with funny buckled hats, disappointingly small historical rocks… (Sorry folks, but the Plymouth Pebble probably doesn’t require your video cameras.)
For most people, locals and tourists alike, Plymouth is not quite known for its sprawling vineyards or world-renowned grapes. (That’s because we have none.) And yet, for the past two decades, visitors from around the world have made a point of stopping by the waterfront to try a new wine or pick up a bottle of an old-favorite, all thanks to the great folks at Plymouth Bay Winery.
I visited Plymouth Bay Winery myself earlier this week, where I met with Michael Carr and got to learn a bit about this local business. Michael and his wife Pam have been running the winery for the past three years after taking over from its founder and their friend Tim Cherry in 2011. Tim still plays an important role in the business – he was actually in the back checking on the wines when I was there – but had wanted to step down to spend more time with his grandkids. The winery itself has been around for 21 years, including 14 in its current location overlooking Plymouth’s busy harbor. (Not a bad view while doing a wine tasting!)
Plymouth Bay Winery values its ties with its community. Many of these original connections had been formed by Tim, who sought out local farmers and producers in order to make his wines. Plymouth Bay Winery specializes in “indigenous flavors” – ingredients and varieties that come from this area. As a result, the wines are unlike those from Italy, or New Zealand, or even the Finger Lakes of New York. These are fruit wines, grown from berries and grapes native to the region, and after tasting these wines, I think you’ll agree that Plymouth Bay Winery has done well in highlighting our area’s local flavors with varieties like Cranberry Bay and Colonial Red.
The connections with local farmers and producers have turned out well in both directions, and the walls of Plymouth Bay Winery are lined with the results of some great local partnerships: chocolates by Puopolo Candies in Hingham featuring Plymouth Bay Winery’s Cranberry Blush, jams created in partnership with Al’s Backwood Berrie Company out of Plymouth, and soaps from Ipswich Bay Soap Company with flavors from the winery. (Technically not edible, but they smelled almost good enough to be!) Michael served me a taste of the winery’s “Whatta Pair” jam with some cannoli from Golden Cannoli Shells Company out of Somerville. YUM. Now that’s how local foods work well together!
Plymouth Bay Winery has downloadable recipes for their wines already up on their website, with more for their jams coming soon, but I recommend taking the time to chat with Michael in order to fully appreciate what you can do with their products. Charming, knowledgeable, and informative, Michael listed off serving suggestions with each of the wines I tasted, including flavor pairings I would never have thought of myself (frozen pineapple cubes with blueberry wine!) as well as recipes he’s collected himself from customers. (It was one of their regulars who suggested marinating peaches in Apricot wine, a simple dessert she had picked up from her travels in southern France but prefers to make using Plymouth Bay’s wine!) Plymouth Bay Winery encourages people to experiment – “Play with Bay!” – in order to understand how these locally made and flavor-focused wines can be incredibly versatile.
Want to try some yourself?
Plymouth Bay Winery offers two tasting options: the “Plymouth Bay Voyage,” which includes a presentation and sampling of their entire collection of wines, as well as an etched commemorative glass ($5), or the “Plymouth Bay Adventure,” which includes a presentation and sampling of any four wines of your choice in a tasting cup (free).
Visiting hours from March to December are 10:30 – 5, Monday through Saturday, and Sundays 12 – 5. The store is also open on weekends during the winter months, weather permitting (so make sure you give them a call if your wine tasting plans fall in the middle of a snowstorm).
Michael grew up in Hingham, and always knew that he wanted to own a local business close to his hometown. After touring multiple vineyards and wineries, he and Pam found Plymouth Bay Winery, and are now bringing their love for food and friends together with this local gem of a business. Plymouth Bay Winery is not where you’ll find a dry red wine from northern Italy or a New Zealand white wine. Instead, this is where you’ll find local flavor, made locally. Or, as Michael says, “if you’re looking for good wine, from good people, made by good people, we invite you to come ‘Play with Bay.’”
Plymouth Bay Winery
114 Water Street, Plymouth, MA 02360
Jenna Banning is interning with edible South Shore for the spring and summer of 2013, before she heads up to the University of Vermont to earn her master’s degree. When not working at Bayside Runner or managing the edible South Shore blog, you can find Jenna chronicling her travels in sustainable food systems across the United States at EATY0URVEGGIES.