A rainy Wednesday here in Ringoes. Cold, too! Harvest is definitely over. I miss warm, sunny afternoons, snacking on grapes fresh off the vine….I can’t feel my toes.
I postponed my lunch break to taste wines in the “cellar,” and it sure is chilly down there! (Our “cellar” or “winery floor” is actually the floor of the converted barn which also hosts our historic tasting room.) A science and an art, winemaking relies heavily on tasting, on the winemaker’s ability to break down what he tastes in a wine and also to blend wines for the best tasting experience.
In tank right now, we have wines from hybrid white grape varieties, such as Horizon, as well as Riesling, a bit of Gewurtzraminer, and Pinot Grigio. (We also have our Port in tank, too. We did not taste that, but I might sneak a taste later, especially if I don’t warm up!) Cam assigned taste-testing of these white wines to our interns and me. It seemed a worthwhile reason to postpone lunch and a great excuse to leave the office for a few minutes.
Equipped with glasses, we went down to the winery floor and started on our mission, tasting through tanks from Pinot Grigio to Riesling. Some were still a bit sweet, while others had fermented to dryness – it all depends on a number of factors, from harvest date to temperature to yeast strain.
We called in Cam for help with a few of the wines. He’s got a good nose for this and a great palette. More importantly, he has the vocabulary and the memory. I’m standing down there, tasting this wine, going Wow, that sure tastes familiar, racking my brain, trying to associate this taste with the right word.
Duh, Stacy, of course pear!
That’s why he’s the winemaker.
After tasting through 9 wines, I was cold and oh so hungry. Time for lunch.
~Stacy Brody, Operations Coordinator and Unofficial Taste Tester
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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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