1. The Grapes:
I have unlimited access to delicious grapes. Fresh-picked wine grapes are juicier and more flavorful than anything you get in the grocery store. Even freshly-picked, each clone of Pinot Noir tastes unique. Each type highlights a different flavor profile, and when blended, the result is an aromatic and complex wine (hint: keep an eye out for our Pinot Noir reserve). These fresh grapes are so delicious I don’t even mind the seeds!
Freshly-harvested Pinot Noir grapes
Fun Fact: Assistant winemaker Stephen Johnsen reminds us how Pinot Noir got its name: the French word Pinot for pine cone, because the tight little bunches look like pine cones, and Noir for the dark skins.
Fun Fact: Our winemakers examine the seeds to help determine ripeness.
Our grapes are transported in these yellow containers called “lugs.” Each container holds about 20 pounds of grapes.
2. The Smells:
The cellar smells like bananas, and the lab smells like bread. We’ve got tons of grapes fermenting in our cellar right now, throwing off mouth-watering aromas, including something like bananas. Call me crazy! But bread? Really, bread? Cameron, our wine maker, chooses specific yeast strains for the fermentation of the white grape juices and red grape musts. Similar to bread yeast you would find in the grocery store, our yeasts arrives dry. With rehydrating yeast filling every container imaginable the lab begins to smell like a warm homey bread shop.
Fermenting Pinot Noir
3. The Sunsets:
Daytime hours are waning, yet there is more and more to do! Every once in a while, we stop and take in a deep breath - appreciating the beautiful sunsets we are blessed with in the valley of the Sourlands.
4. The Customers:
You – the customers – come out and see us more! As the weather cools everyone is out and about. This is prime festival, farm market, wine trail, and wedding season. Speaking of which, have you gotten your tickets yet for our Annual Fall Festival? You can try your hand…er, foot…at grape-stomping!
5. The Interns:
Unionville Vineyards has a couple of wonderful harvest helpers, including Kathryn, a current Rutgers University, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) student, Emily, a SEBS alumnus, and Pam, a sommelier. We couldn't do it without them.
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Today, we are picking the first grapes for what is Unionville's 27th harvest. Two years after the first grapes were picked and fermented, they were sold in the newly-opened tasting room- 25 years ago. Although I've been thinking about this moment for about a year, we've started our anniversary celebration and I'm still struggling to put it all in context.
In the past few years I've learned so much that could be shared with you now. I've spent hours at the township building, reading through letters written back and forth between parties involved in the winery's founding in the early 1990's. I've walked the vineyards, pausing with each "King of the Vineyard" as Conor calls them- the craggy, gnarly vines nearly as old as me. I've stared at the black and white photos in the hallway of the 1858 Farmhouse of the family and workers who tended to this property many decades ago.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I know that is cliché to say, but it truly is a great time at Unionville. We’ve got all of our reds pressed and in barrel. Cooler, stainless-steel fermentations are finishing up in tank, I’m finally able to breathe a little easier, and wake up a little later. With the holidays upon us, the wine making team has a lot on the mind, but one thing standing out is the blending, bottling, and release of Vat #23 – the latest rendition of our opulent Port wine.
Port has a storied history at Unionville – the fortified delight has been made at the winery since its first vintage in 1993, Before we delve into that, we have to talk a little about how Port is made and the different styles in which it can be presented. Port, named for its origin country, Portugal, is typically a sweet or medium-dry red wine, fortified with distilled grape spirit, then cellared and bottled at different times and in different ways to present specific stylizations. The two most recognizable presentations of Port wine are Ruby and Tawny Ports. Ruby styles are young wines usually aged for only a couple of years (or less). They’re released early to showcase juicy acidity and fruity characteristics of young wine with fuller mouthfeel and complexity
Since I started at Unionville 5 years ago, it has always been a goal to have our wines evaluated by top critics. In the years since, John Foy at the Star-Ledger has called our wines "Napa worthy," and Stuart Pigott, who freelances for James Suckling and Wine Business Monthly wrote that our Syrah was the best expression of the grape in the United States. T.J. Foderaro at Inside Jersey Magazine, Alan Richman (Saveur), Robin Shreeves (Cherry Hill Courier-Post), Rosie Saferstein (NJ Monthly), and the Trenton Times' Susan Yeske have all added their voices to the coalition of the willing in the last couple of years.
Having Unionville in the pages of one of the major wine magazines had remained elusive, until last summer when Mark Squires, East Coast wine critic for the Wine Advocate sat down and tasted...
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