Polseno Farms moves toward wine production in Scituate

Polseno Farms moves toward wine production in Scituate

Ava Polseno harvests grapes off the vine at Polseno Farm, the first vineyard in Scituate. Her father, Lou Polseno, hopes to begin making wine next year, and the following year sell the wine and have tasting events at his home. (Breeze photos by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SCITUATE – Hidden in the woods along Hartford Pike behind a large three-bay stone oven is Scituate’s first grape farm, owned and maintained by Lou Polseno, of Lou Polseno and Son Landscaping, producing five varieties of New England wine grapes.

Polseno, originally of Smithfield, moved to Scituate after graduating from the University of Rhode Island in the 1980s. He purchased the last remaining parcel of the old Highland Orchard apple orchard and amusement park.

Polseno said he’s proud of the work he’s accomplished on the land at Polseno Farms and what he says is Scituate’s first vineyard. Many of the old apple trees were diseased and needed to be removed. Luckily, he said, about a half-dozen of the original apple trees survived, producing sweet McIntosh and Macoun apples.

The land took a lot of work to get ready to produce, he said, including grading the field, removing large boulders known in the area, and installing an underwater drainage system.

“Grapes love the drought. Not California wildfires kind of drought, but they like it dry,” he said.

Polseno said the soil here is good for wine. He said he worked the land and kept the slope to allow the grapes to get the open air needed to thrive. He began growing the grapes six years ago, and the operation is finally working at production levels.

“Reds on the top and whites on the bottom,” he said.

For now, Polseno sells his grapes to local markets for wine use. He said he hopes to begin production of his own wine next year and begin selling it the following year. He hopes to open up to the property to wine tasting events and tours. Of course, he said, the apples will be available to guests.

The Polseno log cabin is surrounded by 4 acres of grapevines. Stone patios encircle his home, where he has an outdoor kitchen with another outdoor pizza oven. Polseno said he is known for his ovens, and in turn, for his pizzas.

He said he comes from a family of agriculture, and he wanted to grow something no one in his family grew before.

And, he loves wine.

“I like red better but I like all wines. I usually go for local hybrids. They have different flavors, more acidity, it’s a different palate,” he said.

His daughter, Ava, a Ponaganset High School senior who’s not quite old enough to enjoy the wine yet, said she likes eating the Concord-style grapes. Though seeded, they’re fragrant and sweet. Sitting on a bucket along one of the many rows of grapevines, Ava helped workers harvest the fruit using a specialized tool, a grape razor fork, that plucks the bundles of grapes from the stems.

Ava said she’s helped her dad since he started.

“She’s as much of this operation as me,” Polseno said.

While Ava cuts grapes and prepares to leave for work at her other job, Polseno reminds her to spray a deterrent for a flock of birds circling overhead. He said birds and bees are the biggest threat to the harvest.

“Those birds could ruin all this in a few minutes,” Polseno said, adding he uses an all-natural deterrent to keep them away.

Polseno, who runs a landscaping and masonry business, said he likes to involve his children with his work as much as he can. His son, Dominic, helps with his landscaping business while also working at the Narragansett Fire Department.

In all, Polseno grows five varieties of northern hybrid grapes in both red and white from the University of Minnesota. Season length varies for each of the grapes, with his favorite and sweetest grape harvested in October and other varieties with harvests as early as August.

The Smithfield High School wrestling coach employs several of his team to help with the harvest, sitting opposite each other on each row chatting while harvesting grapes. Each row has about 100 plants, typically taking a team about three hours to fully harvest.

Polseno Farms features 4 acres of grapes in five varieties of the northern hybrid made for colder climates.