When choosing Rhode Island’s best wineries, you begin, of course, with the grapes. The quality of the grapes. Unless it’s apples.

The Tapped Apple in Westerly was just named Rhode Island’s top winery by Choice Wineries, an online publication that ranks the best wineries in each state. The Tapped Apple, which produces apple wines and apple ciders, scored an 87.5 on the Choice Wineries ranking system.

Rounding out Choice Wineries’ top five Rhode Island wineries are Nickle Creek Vineyard of Foster (77.9), Diamond Hill Vineyards of Cumberland (75.9), Verde Vineyards of Johnston (75), and Greenvale Vineyards of Portsmouth (74.8).

So, what makes a great winery in the eyes of Choice Wineries? Here’s what they say: 

  • The experience a visitor can expect to have, including quality of the wine served, atmosphere/ambiance/setting, and service. 
  • Data Choice Wineries collects from several sources, including customer reviews, expert wine reviews, and what it calls social signals. “We rank each winery relative to its peers across multiple components of the data we source.” 
  • Choice Wineries then produces its CW Score. Scores range up to 100, The higher the score, it says, “the better the winery experience a visitor should expect.” Choice Wineries says it “examined” more than 6,700 wineries. 

Choice Wineries was quite complimentary of Rhode Island’s vineyards, with what it says is among the most moderate climates in the northeast, producing “wonderfully balanced” wines. 

The Tapped Apple, 39 High Street in Westerly, is described by the publication as a “little slice of paradise,” with nearly a dozen varieties of apple wines, apple cider, and gourmet charcuterie boards and chocolate truffles.

According to the Tapped Apple’s website, the winery began as a hobby by John Weidenheft III in 2003. Initially, he made wines only from grapes but found it wasn’t very cost-effective to have grapes shipped from California. By 2005, his son, John IV joined him, and they began working with apples. As their skills developed, they began creating their vintages, experimenting with apples, cherries, elderberries, and hops. 

Friends began asking if they could buy the wines, and while they couldn’t sell the product, they could share it. In 2017 they created Tapped Apple Cidery & Winery and brought a tasting room to Downtown Westerly. And now John V has joined the business, learning from his father and grandfather. 

The apples are from Sunset Orchards in Scituate.

Here’s what Choice Wineries had to say about the rest of the top five:

  • Nickle Creek Vineyard,12 King Road, Foster is located “in the gorgeous area of Foster. Nickle Creek Vineyard is a family-owned winery that has worked extremely hard throughout the years to produce the highest-quality wines possible. The winery has won numerous gold medals for its excellent red, white, and fruit wines. Although dogs aren’t allowed on the property for safety reasons, this dog-loving winery donates part of the profits of its “Two Dog White Wine” to different canine charities each year to help our pups in need.”
  • Diamond Hill Vineyards, 3145 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland is a “small, relaxed, family-owned and operated winery … Kick back and relax on the porch chairs with a glass of wine while admiring the gorgeous surrounding greenery. There are also charming bistro-style tables sprawled throughout the beautifully manicured outdoor area. A small selection of cheeses and crackers are also available, or you are always welcome to bring your own picnic.
  • Verde Vineyards, 50 Hopkins Ave., Johnston, overlooking “Moswansicut Lake, Verde Vineyards is a true nature lover’s sanctuary. Surround yourself with green, flourishing vineyards and abundant blankets of grass while you indulge in Verde’s incredible wine…Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the serenity that you’ve been looking for. All of their delicious wines are estate grown and carefully handcrafted. It’s no surprise the wines have won multiple awards.”
  • Greenvale Vineyards, 582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth. “This dreamy, waterfront winery provides picturesque views, 100 per cent estate grown wines, and an exceptional picnicking area. The eighth-generation family run winery strongly focuses on producing outstanding wines with authenticity. Taking pride in viticultural techniques, the winery also has phenomenal soil, topography, and a prime climate to tie their fantastic wines together. If you love taking a walk through the vineyards to see where all of the magic starts, vineyard tours are also available during certain times of the year, by reservation.”