‘The Mulberry effect’ wins over visitors: Growing Glocester vineyard given Joan M. Scorpio Award

Melissa and David Wright are ready to share a glass of their wine with patrons who frequent their Mulberry Vineyards. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

GLOCESTER – Mulberry Vineyards was recently awarded the Joan M. Scorpio Award for Outstanding and Dedicated Service to the Association and Community by the Glocester Business Association. The winery continues to grow since its beginnings in 2015 under the ownership of David and Melissa Wright.

“I work so hard to try to make good wines,” explains David Wright. “I think a lot of wineries do a lot of different things over the years, but we’re just trying to make good wines.”

Fans note they are also making a difference in the community and the town by drawing visitors from other cities and towns in and out of the state. The award was in part in recognition of the Wrights’ commitment to not only doing just that, but for encouraging those visitors to take advantage of local businesses and towns while in the area.

“Dave and Melissa not only make excellent local wine, they are ambassadors of living the GBA’s mission,” said GBA President Hilary Collings. “They tirelessly promote and encourage a climate favorable to local businesses, and we are so grateful to have them as a part of our organization.”

 The award, said Wright, was greatly appreciated.

“First of all, my wife and I were completely taken by surprise,” said Wright. “We did not expect to get such a wonderful award. My wife and I work very hard to promote our business, but we’ve also realized if we don’t do well, the town’s not going to do well. If the town’s not going to do well, we’re not going to do well.”

When the winery first began, Wright thought it would be mostly locals who would show up for tastings and a bottle or two. But he soon discovered that was not to be the case.

The tasting room at Mulberry Vineyards offers a comfy location to enjoy a glass of wine and ambiance. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

“I originally thought we would just sell to the local area, maybe Glocester, maybe some residents from Cranston or Warwick to come up here,” he recalled. “Getting someone from Rhode Island to drive more than five minutes is very difficult. But we did.”

Customers, once having discovered the small winery located on Pound Road in a rural setting, continued to return, often bringing friends with them. The winery tasting room looks out over a cleared field, which will soon become vineyards. The wood-paneled tasting room, replete with wood stove, bar and comfy chairs, provides a certain charm which lends itself to relaxing. Add a glass of wine, and the ambiance is complete.

“We’re very privileged,” said Wright. “I call it the ‘Mulberry effect.'”

Couples arrive to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other events. On summer days, a visit includes plenty of room for kids to run around outside in the fresh air, while parents relax with a glass of wine nearby.

“People ask, ‘can we bring kids here?'” Wright said. “I say, ‘sure you can bring your kids here.’ They bring their kids, they bring their sister-in-law, their brothers, their family members and then in a few weeks they’re having a family reunion out here. I could never have envisioned that happening. I never would have thought that.”

Wright said that prior to a change in direction, he never envisioned running a winery or making wine. He was attending the University of Rhode Island in a pre-med program, earning a bachelor of science degree in biology with a minor in entomology – the study of insects. His interest in the insect world led him to the local vineyards, where he was helping with insect infestations and other insect problems as part of his work at the URI Extension. That led to an interest in winemaking.

“That’s the first chapter in the chemistry book,” he recalled. “Fermentation.”

Before long he was making wine in his parents’ basement.

“One thing led to another,” said Wright. “You make a few gallons, then you make a few more. Testing things out. It just started to snowball after that.”

The new barn will provide plenty of room to process grapes and store barrels of wine. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

He and his wife, who were living in Warwick at the time, decided it would be good to move out into the country and maybe buy a farm, where he could pursue his love of winemaking more. They discovered the site at 95 Pound Road in Glocester and moved in 2011.

Part of the purpose of the farm/winery license, he said, was to help revitalize rural towns. He notes the winery has had a positive effect in doing just that.

“We bring people in from all over,” Wright explained. “They come for the wine. They come for the apple picking. They come for the dinner. They come for the antiques. We constantly recommend surrounding businesses.”

Since moving in, the Wrights have cleared more than 20 acres, planted vines and are prepping to plant more vines. Those would include cayugas, vidal blancs, cabernet francs and other similar grapes, which flourish in New England climates. The most recent planting is Itasca grapes, a Cornell University variety similar to riesling. It is a high yield, delicious, disease-resistant grape perfect for the location.

The new barn will provide plenty of room to process grapes and store barrels of wine. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

Wines currently available at Mulberry include pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling, viognier, sauvignon blanc, rose’, sangria, merlot, old vine zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet sauvignon reserve.

Five acres near the tasting room have been cleared and prepped for planting as well. More vineyards means more grapes, which means more room needed for production and storage, Wright notes. To that end, the owner recently had a huge barn constructed for that purpose. Currently, the basement of the tasting room is chocked full of vats, barrels and other equipment, with hardly enough room to move around. The new building, he notes, will provide much needed room. Right now, shipments of fresh grapes arrive from California on a regular basis, which have to be processed immediately. That means crushing, separating, mixing, testing, and prepping on an almost 24/7 schedule until they are placed in barrels or vats. The larger facility not only gives them room to do that but gives them room to make more as demand increases, which it has over the years.

Melissa and David Wright in the basement of the tasting room, which is chock full of kegs full of wine and other equipment where they process tons of grapes to make their various wines. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

Running a winery, it seems, involves much more than tasting wine.

The best part?

“I can certainly say the people,” responded Wright. “I have met people that I feel as though I am related to. Never would I have thought we would have been embraced so wonderfully by the community and our patrons. I feel like I am related to all of them. The more often you come, the more closely we are related.”

And those customers come, on a regular basis. Last Christmas, some brought presents for the Wrights’ kids: Aubrey, 10; Thomas, 8; and Hailey, 6.

“The kids have met some of their best friends from the winery,” said Melissa Wright.

“We’ve become part of their family, and that is probably the nicest thing anybody could ask for,” said Wright.

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