Heading home from a day of hiking in Northern Rhode Island we made an impromptu stop at the Purple Cat Vineyard and Winery, set back just off of Route 100 in downtown Chepachet … wait for it … right behind where the Purple Cat Restaurant used to be.
Despite those local-yokel directions, this really is a place you should make a point of finding on your own. The winery is actually one of several businesses located in a huge — and I mean, huge — barn-like building that delivers a warm, welcoming vibe the second you pass through the doors.
The first thing you’ll see is the Philanthropy Coffee & Tea Co., a big-hearted eatery that puts part of its profits toward fighting human trafficking. The name aside, this is much more than a coffee shop: in fact, their crepes may be more famous than their drinks. As for the winery, the tasting room is really a bar set in the corner of a vast, open space with dangling stained-glass chandeliers. The three-level building housing the winery, a former craft emporium, is full of quirky spaces to sneak off with a bottle of wine and a panini: the bistro tables by Philanthropy and a den-like room with a flat-screen TV off the atrium-like first floor seemed equally inviting. Closer to the bar, the “Meow Room” hosts occasional concerts and productions from the Theater Company of Rhode Island .
But what about the wine, you say? Surprisingly good, in fact. We tried five whites, four reds and a hard cider, and not a miss in the bunch — not bad for a local winery located in rural Rhode Island, even if the grapes come from Newport and other vineyards farther afield. We found the merlot and other reds to be surprisingly sophisticated and ended up taking home our favorite white, a Vidal Blanc, while making a note to return during the summer for a bottle of Betty’s Blush, which seems like an excellent hot-weather “pool wine.”
We’ve been to a lot of wineries, but none have had the ernest sense of community of the Purple Cat. So relaxed, so laid-back — and that’s not even the wine talking. Groups of women seem to flock here on a Sunday afternoon to sip and chat, and we’re looking forward to catching some live music and sampling some of those famous crepes the next time we’re in town and have time to linger longer.