Cheers to a great place to sip opening up downtown; there are certainly a lot of wonderful spots to choose from these days, but this latest one has a different twist and it tastes like apples!
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Tapped Apple Winery has been in the works for the last few years and opened its doors a couple of years ago, but the owners’ passion for wine and their winemaking process goes back even further than that. It began around 2004, with John H Wiedenheft III, his son John IV, and John’s friend Adam Mercer (sometimes referred to as John 4.5) started looking to create something for themselves to enjoy while sitting at home by the fireplace.
However, each year the wine got better and they began to make more of it, until they found themselves making 200 gallons! At this point, they began to ask themselves if they could turn their passion project into a business, and thus began the journey to open Westerly’s own licensed farm winery, with apples fresh from Sunset Orchard in Scituate, RI.
When asked about the task of building a tasting room out of a former fitness studio, John laughed. “We’ve never done this before so there was a lot to learn,” from planning and zoning to licensing from the federal government, the state, and the town, to over a year of demo and construction.
“There were a lot of holes to fill,” said Adam, referring to all the physical work of laying new floors, building platforms, putting in new plumbing, electricity and lighting fixtures, and painting the ceiling and walls to restore the color of the original brick.
Then of course they had to put in the bar, which is crafted from a piece of beautiful raw wood found for a bargain on Craigslist and made to resemble a wine barrel. Virtually everything in the building is custom made, and Adam believes that “the quality of the wine can also be recognized in the craftsmanship of our facility.”
The trio hails from nearby Connecticut but chose to open the tasting room in Westerly for a number of reasons. Practically speaking, Connecticut has more restrictive sampling laws when it comes to wine and hard cider, capping it at 2 oz per customer per day, which is not terribly conducive to the vision that John, John, and Adam had in mind.
Apart from sampling, the tasting room is licensed for live music and Adam said he hopes to see people playing cards and perhaps even having a cribbage league for slower weekdays, and the group also remains open to the possibilities of hosting private events as well.
Beyond sampling restrictions, opening up in Rhode Island and particularly the town of Westerly held a lot of appeal for the group. “We love this town,” John III said, adding that that the other downtown shops, restaurants, and bars have been very welcoming to them. Sporting a Malted Barley shirt, Adam explained “I’ve been wanting to be a part of something like this for a while. I shop local – you might spend a couple of dollars more but it’s worth it. Neighborhoods can grow well, when we grow together.”