There is no rest for the wicked, but there are parties!
The Unionville Vineyards team celebrated the season with a potluck dinner, and we throw a darn good potluck.
The buffet table was overflowing with everything from grilled Haloumi cheese to chicken Marsala to Moroccan tagine to honey whiskey cupcakes. You know those cupcakes were gone before I could whip my phone out to snap a photo.
We love food almost as much as we love wine. Just look at all the mouthwatering recipes we share! Cam even broke out the grill and cooked up some flank steaks for the team.
We were all enjoying ourselves when we learned Cam had yet another trick up his sleeve…
He quieted us, a tough task, and announced that we should empty and rinse out our glasses because he was about to start us on a blind tasting of five white wines, broken into two rounds.
For the first set of three wines we were told the following
We tasted the first wine. Immediately, aromas of vanilla and caramel leapt from the glass, followed by citrus, orange. In the mouth, creamy, rich, buttery. Definitely some new oak. Definitely malolactic fermentation. This has to be California, we guessed. This is not Unionville’s wine.
We tasted the second wine. This one showcased the fruit: white peach and lemon zest, with notes of white flowers. Much sleeker, leaner than the first. Flint on the finish. Had to be French. Had to be!
We tasted the third wine. Pure fruit. Meyer lemon and those same white flowers. Good acidity and flavor throughout. No oak on the nose or on the palate. A pure expression of the variety and the terroir. This was ours. We were proud – ours runs with the best of them.
Then the reveal!
Number one: Mount Eden 2011 Chardonnay. California. 95 points from Wine Spectator. From the producer’s technical notes, we learned the wine was fermented and aged in 75% new French oak and completed 100% malolactic fermentation. Average retail price $70.
Number two: Meursault Sous le Dos D’ane. Côte D’Or, Burgundy. 92 Points Wine Spectator. Average retail $150.
Number three: Unionville’s 2012 Pheasant Hill Vineyard Chardonnay. New Jersey. Featured at the New Jersey Food and Wine Festival at Crystal Springs. Fermented and aged in neutral French oak barrels. Retail $51.95.
Unlike many consumers, we believe great wines can come from New Jersey. We were proved right.
The second round of blind tasting included two wines. We could see these wine were white. We knew nothing beyond that, not the region or the variety. Nothing.
Cam was testing us.
The first had notes of flowers, oak and hazelnuts, with a hint of Gewürztraminer-like spice. In the mouth, rich, full-bodied, almost oily, viscous.
Cam started pouring the last wine. Wow, white flowers! Strong floral notes, minerality on the palate. Start to finish a beautiful wine with a rich mouthfeel.
“Vouvray,” someone guessed.
“Our Marsanne-Roussanne,” suggested Natalie.
“How did you know?” Cam was flabbergasted.
“We tasted it at Matt’s a few weeks ago.”
She was right! We had brought a bottle to a team dinner at Matt’s Red Rooster a few weeks ago, and she remembered!
The first wine - Saint Joseph “Lieu-Dit,” produced by E. Guigal, a well-respected producer in the Rhône region of France. This bottle retails for around $58.
The second wine - OUR Amwell Ridge Marsanne-Roussanne to be released in mid-January. It will retail for $29.95.
We know our wines are good. Now, we tell you from experience our wines are as good as the best of them.
Great things do come from New Jersey.
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Desk or vineyard? This is the question I asked myself when making the leap of faith to leave my corporate life behind to pursue my passion for wine. After working in the medical communications space for 10 years, 2022 was the year of epiphany. It may sound old fashion, but I did have a major realization in the beginning of the new year that I was not meant to work behind a desk and chug along doing work that I was no longer passionate about.
My first notion of my interest of wine came during my frequent business trips to Boston about 4 years ago. For the first time I was immersing myself in the world of wine through client dinners, networking events and a lot of self-exploring through Beantown. During this time was my first encounter with sommeliers and wine experts. I was fascinated and intrigued by the expertise knowledge of wine, wine making and learning about the intricacies that goes into producing a bottle of wine. At this moment, I thought about how amazing it was to witness such passion for the craft of wine.
I enrolled in an online sommelier level one course at the Wine School of Philadelphia and began studying and reading everything I could about wine. This is where my 2nd major epiphany happened – I asked myself, the question that I stated in the beginning “desk or vineyard?”
This is the question that started the major stepping stone to my journey. I no longer wanted my wine passion to be in the background – I wanted to be 100% committed and both feet in. Unionville Vineyards was the first winery that popped into my head when I thought about making my “9:00- 5:00” switch. I attended a wedding at Unionville the year prior and loved the atmosphere, the wine and the people. The position that I applied to was half farm work half hospitality. I was instantly attracted to the idea of being out in the field to where it all begins in wine making. Thoughts of my “office” transforming into the beautiful vineyard was something I desired. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Unionville has multiple vineyard sites with the Coventry site located within Coventry Farm in Princeton being my favorite (love the views there!) Working at the different sites allows you to see how the different micro climates, soil and land impact the vines and fruit cluster growth. Also working in the field to me was the perfect learning opportunity to understand the craft of wine making soup to nuts. Being surrounded by vines that produced grapes such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay was eye opening to me. I was so used to seeing the finished product of these grape varietals in their bottled form, but actually being able to perform farming techniques on the vines starts to create another level of perspective and appreciation for wine.
One of my favorite farming tasks to perform in the field on the vines is leaf pulling. Leaf pulling is when you remove leaves from around the fruit clusters. The rule of thumb is to remove leaves that are across and below from the fruit cluster. Removing the leaves creates oxygen flow, openness for pesticides to be sprayed and exposes the fruit to more sunlight. I enjoy seeing the satisfying result of a perfectly balanced vine with the right number of leaves removed. Working in the field creates a huge bond between you and your other field peers. You become a family unit and learn how to work together and communicate as a team. To me, this is a very important factor for having a successful vineyard. My experience with people at Unionville in general has been amazing. You have the opportunity to interact with people from all different backgrounds (teachers, college, corporate, etc.) which makes for some great conversations and comradery.
To anyone reading this, do not be afraid to follow your passion and take a chance on doing what you want to ensure your happiness. It was scary to make such a drastic shift from corporate to farm work, especially since the two are extremely opposite ends of the spectrum, but I have no regrets and I am happy with where my career and focus is going.