Say Cheers: Shepherd’s Run in South Kingstown is RI’s Cool New Vineyard and Event Venue
The 1933 summer residence-turned-winery, hotel and event venue in South County continues the tradition of tranquil grounds and stunning architecture.
What was once the manor gifted to Rush Sturges and Elizabeth Hazard Sturges by Thomas R. “Shepherd Tom” Hazard is now the site of fine wine gatherings and joyous celebrations. The mansion is called Shepherd’s Run, and it’s been revived by a Connecticut couple that’s renowned in the New England hospitality industry.
Co-founders of Morgan Schoen Hospitality, Ryan Schoen and Ashley Morgan stumbled upon the abandoned thirty-six-acre estate brimming with history – it was once a summer residence, a convent, then a boarding school – and predicted its potential. By December 2020, they purchased the property and, with the rest of the crew, began the laborious tasks of installing a sprinkler system, removing the pews and repainting the chapel. The building was once a church. They also had to build the decks on the terrace, level off the backyard where the tent stands, and complete more renovations.
Prepping the vineyard to plant grapes was another huge job. The brunt of the project was finished in time for the first wedding at Shepherd’s Run.
“Couples who booked, even 2022 brides, booked under construction so we’re really lucky people had faith in us that it was going to turn out all right,” says general manager Susan Denice. Previously, she had worked in sales and distribution at Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington, Connecticut, along with the estate’s winemaker, Michael Harney.
The goal with this gorgeous estate was to keep the architecture and its history intact while also modernizing and expanding the property. The door handles, archways, floor tiles and windows are all original.
“We tried to leave as much as we possibly could that made sense,” says Denice. Stephanie Schoen, Ryan’s sister, was the interior designer and worked with the crew all the way from the San Francisco area, doing mock-ups of the rooms and purchasing the necessary materials.
As for the vineyard, until the grapevines can start producing the winery’s grapes – which takes about three to four years, they say – the estate continues to buy crushed, fermented grapes from farms in Washington state and California and they finish the rest of the winemaking process onsite.
“It just depends on the grapes we want, where we find them and how accessible it is to get there,” Denice says.
Shepherd’s Run currently carries a light to dark range of wines, including a riesling, rosé, a blanc de blanc (their Champagne), pinot noir, a blend of red and a syrah. Wine tasting is by reservation only so guests can enjoy their time slots and make the most of the experience. Those without reservations are free to visit the property and walk the grounds.
“We’re here to guide you into an experience that you might not be used to when it comes to a winery,” says Denice. The wine tasting at Shepherd’s Run is a balance between calm and lively to accommodate everyone. No need to wait in line at the bar for a pour; settle down on the terrace, study room or any of the spaces on the main floor, then get served a tasting of the estate’s wines.
Up the spiral stairs, the hotel contains ten rooms, with eight upstairs and two on the main floor. The team hopes to add twenty-four more rooms by the terrace. Rates depend on the time of year; rooms cost about $230 to $500 a night in the off-season; and from July through September, it’s about $350 to $800 a night.
For those looking to reserve the venue for events, Shepherd’s Run is completely booked for 2022 and trucking right along for 2023.
“I want to say it’s because people are looking for somewhere new to go and get married, but also the property is just beautiful,” says Denice, who is preparing to host seventy weddings next year. “They see pictures or somebody tells them about it. It’s been by word of mouth and social media has really helped.”
Shepherd’s Run has plans in store for expanding the property and, since they have plenty of time to get started, they’re not rushing into the next step.
“We’re here for the long haul, to expand a culinary experience and wellness; we’re going to build a yoga studio, a spa and have a full-scale restaurant,” Denice says. “Right now, we want people to understand that the vibe of the place is a lot more low-key than a lot of people are expecting.”
At Shepherd’s Run, simplicity meets adventure whether you book a wine tasting with your closest confidants, stay for a night or two with a significant other or toast to a new chapter. Visit the grounds and admire the architectural design of old and new.
The winery and hotel are open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Visit Facebook and Instagram for updates on hours and events. 4780 Tower Hill Rd., South Kingstown, 401-386-4956, shepherds.run