, Salem, MA


July 25, 2012

Through the grapevine


In Rowley, Salem native Donna Martin takes a scientific approach to wine at Mill River Winery. She is a retired chemist who once worked on more caustic elements in industry. Today, she’s measuring the chemical nature of her wines, made in seven stainless-steel tubs. “A lot of what we do here is testing to make sure everything is well-balanced.”

She works with partner Rick Rousseau, growing some grapes locally.

“We have a vineyard out back that we planted this spring,” she says.

She’s expecting a “bumper crop” this year.

Some of her grapes are imported from as near as Amherst, a farm run by the University of Massachusetts, and from as far away as Chile and California. “The most important thing is the quality of the grape,” Martin explains. The level of sugar contributes to the alcohol content, “and each (variety of) grape has its own distinctive flavor, which expresses itself in the wine.”

Ultimately, she says, “a great wine needs a great grape.”

After more than five years in the business, the pair opened the winery to the public for the first time this past year.

“We do all the crushing and processing and make the wine here on site,” Martin says.

Mill River Winery is a restored cider mill dating from the late 1800s on 3


acres, turning out 2,000 cases of wine a year.

A tasting bar is constructed with “reclaimed wood,” and a retail shop features cheese selections, olive oil, jams and jellies.

“You’re not only buying wine here,” Martin says, “you’re getting the wine experience.”

A GUIDE TO LOCAL WINERIES Alfalfa Farm Winery 267 Rowley Bridge Road, Topsfield 978-774-0014 Mill River Winery 498 Newburyport Turnpike (Route 1), Rowley 978-432-1280 Russell Orchards 143 Argilla Road, Ipswich 978-356-5366 The North of Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau is among a number of agencies that have supported creation of a brochure listing winemakers and cheesemakers throughout the state. The brochure is available online at

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