Friday, January 27, 2012

Boston Globe: Rowley, MA Debuts New Mill River Winery

Donna Martin and Rick Rousseau, owners of Mill River Winery. (John Blanding/Globe Staff)

Rowley uncorks a new winery
By Joel Brown, Globe Correspondent / January 19, 2012

ROWLEY - She had the analytical chemistry degree and years of working in industry. He was a contractor who made wine in his basement. They started dating, and realized they made a pretty good blend.

The Mill River Winery, at the corner of Route 1 and Wethersfield Street is already a large wine-making operation, but a portion of the 3-plus acres will soon be planted with grapevines. And the heart of the operation is the partnership of Rick Rousseau and Donna Martin.

They met when he did some painting at her house. Martin had been a corporate chemist, mainly for area medical device firms, but had dialed back her career to raise her two kids. Rousseau had already won awards for his homemade wines, made from purchased grapes, when they started dating in 2006.

“He would talk to me about classical music, about Beethoven . . . I was very impressed. He was a little rough around the edges but, jeez, he knew his classical music,’’ said Martin, as Rousseau cackled at this description. “I started tasting his wines, and enjoyed them. I started automatically taking my chemistry and using it to comment on his wines.’’

“I ended up building her a lab in my basement,’’ said Rousseau, who lives in Rowley.

“Instead of making a heart angioplasty catheter, I was making the best wine I could,’’ said Martin, of Wenham.

With her kids growing up, she was ready for a new challenge, but diving back into a life of 60-hour weeks and a Route 128 commute wasn’t it. Both North Shore natives and in their 50s, she and Rousseau started talking about a winery, and a dream took shape.

Martin wrote a business plan that was strong enough to interest area banks even in the dark days of 2008. In 2010, they closed on the run-down property that had housed Dodge’s cider mill and ice cream stand. Much of the main building had to be rebuilt, though they saved the beams and reused much of the wood. A newer, cinder-block building out back fit their plans nicely.

The main building now houses a stylish shop and tasting room, open for a few months now. (Hours and details at There they sell their Mill River varietals, such as zinfandel and chardonnay, and Plum Island red and white blends, by the bottle or in flights of five one-ounce tastes. Tucked away in the kitchen are a couple of empty old Dodge’s Sweet Cider bottles brought in by a local customer.

The rear building is now filled to the corners with stainless-steel wine tanks that hold up to 1,000 gallons, fat plastic “flex tanks,’’ and French oak barrels, plus gleaming new machines for bottling and labeling the wines.Continued...

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