By Joanna McQuillan Weeks
Standard-Times Food Editor
Conjure up a mental image of a winery.
You probably envision ranks of well-kept vines marching up a sun-bathed hillside and a group of buildings including a European-style tasting room.
There’s a new concept — urban wineries — spreading across the country, and downtown New Bedford boasts one of its own.
Marco Montez of Dartmouth opened Travessia Urban Winery at 760 Purchase St. in mid-December. He plans a grand opening in the spring for Travessia, which means “journey” or “passage” in Portuguese.
Mr. Montez, who is the winemaker at Running Brook Vineyard and Winery in Dartmouth, has installed winemaking equipment, a tasting area and product displays in a Bristol Building storefront. Fortuitously, the tiled walls already were decorated with a mosaic border of grapes and vines.
Currently, Travessia is open noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, staffed by Mr. Montez’s cousin, Edson Pereira of New Bedford, on weekdays and by the owner on weekends.
The wines now on sale under the Travessia label are 2007 vintages Mr. Montez crafted at Running Brook: chardonnay ($16), unoaked chardonnay ($14), vidal blanc ($13) and a sweet vidal blanc dessert wine (375 ml, $15). He expects to expand his line by spring with cabernet franc and merlot. His target for the first year is to sell 1,000 cases.
As for winemaking on the premises, “We’ll be bringing grapes in in the fall” from Massachusetts vineyards, and the 60-gallon oak barrels and two, 2,200-liter stainless-steel fermenting tanks will be brought into play.
The 35-year-old is gratified by the early response to his enterprise. “People overall are very eager to taste the wine, excited to have a winery in downtown New Bedford, and honestly like the wine,” he said.
He is proud that the wines are made entirely from Massachusetts-grown grapes. “Transparency is very important to me as a winemaker,” Mr. Montez said.
Tastings, which cost $5, offer approximately 1-ounce samples of the available wines.
However, if you choose to join Travessia’s wine club, complimentary tastings for yourself and a guest are just one of the benefits. Wine club members agree to buy 12 bottles in a year.
Already, Travessia’s membership is twice what Mr. Montez had projected at this point.
“It’s free to join, and they get some benefits,” he explained, such as a 10-percent discount on purchases, invitations to special events, discounted shipping and first dibs on limited-production wines.
In addition to wine, Travessia sells a sampling of related merchandise, such as glasses, gift and glass tags, a selection of books, a Wine-Opoly game, humorous “greeting labels” for occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, and a handy wheel that aids in matching food and wine.
Born in Angola, Mr. Montez moved with his family to Loivos in northern Portugal at the age of 2. At 17, he emigrated to New Bedford and earned his diploma at New Bedford High School before gaining his electrical engineering degree at UMass Dartmouth in 1996. By day, he works as a software testing engineer in Osterville.
Mr. Montez first helped make wine as a child in Portugal, and learned more from his uncle, Octavio Pereira, Edson’s father.
Later, he studied winemaking intensively, reading books, watching videos, trolling the Web and talking to experts. “I made a lot of wine on my own, and tried different things,” he said. After Running Brook’s winemaker left for California, Mr. Montez took over the duties there.
Travessia’s proprietor is enthusiastic about being part of the resurgence of downtown New Bedford.
“I think part of this has to do with all the young people coming in,” he said. Travessia is on a block bracketed by Cafe Arpeggio and the Green Bean and that also includes the Judith Klein Art Gallery, the Pour House Tavern and a Korean restaurant that is slated to open in the spring.
Mr. Montez’s wife, Claudia, is part-owner of Vetu Gifts & Fine Consignment, which recently relocated from the foot of Johnny Cake Hill to 143 Union St. They have two daughters, 2-year-old Gabriella and 5-year-old Sofia.
In his brochure introducing Travessia, Mr. Montez comments, “If you visit downtown and meet the people that work and live here, you will find that for the most part everyone is upbeat about the future … The city and its people are adapting to the challenges of a changing world, and I’m very proud to have jumped in for the ride.”
In taking steps to become part of what he calls “a vibrant community of people,” Mr. Montez will be offering monthly AHA! programs about the culture of wine. “They’re going to be talks about wine, 20- to 30-minute events,” he explained. The one planned for the Feb. 12 AHA! Night will be on “wine myth vs. reality.” Travessia will also be presenting a tasting in conjunction with the Feb. 14 opening at the neighboring Klein gallery.
Like those other downtown entrepreneurs Mr. Montez cites, he is upbeat about the future. “To be honest, I’m not even worried about the economy. … In the big scheme of things, I can’t do anything but work hard.”
To learn more about Travessia Urban Winery, visit www.travessiawine.com, www.travessiawineblog.com, or call (774) 929-6534.
February 04, 2009
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090204/LIFE/902040318/-1/ENTERTAIN
By Joanna McQuillan Weeks