Unionville’s winemaker Cameron Stark is dedicated to creating wines that highlight varietal flavors and terroir. Driven to showcase the fruit character and food-friendly acidity of wines from our estate vineyards, Stark forgoes the “butter” and sweet oak by limiting malolactic fermentation, using neutral French oak barrels, and using pure fruit.
Malolactic fermentation occurs in the wine making process after primary fermentation (sugar → alcohol) has finished. Oenococcus oeni, one of the key players in malolactic fermentation, is responsible for imparting the buttery notes found in some Chardonnays.
At Unionville Vineyards, we limit malolactic fermentation in our Chardonnays. The result: fruit-forward wine that has a higher acidity, which imparts a crisp clean finish on the palate and makes it perfect for pairing with food.
Stacy Brody, our Operations Coordinator, likes to compare oak barrels to tea bags. “Neutral oak barrels are tea bags that have been used a few times. The essence is still there, but it is muted.”
By using neutral oak barrels, we allow the unique flavors of each varietal to be prominent in the final wines. New oak, particularly American, can impart strong wood and vanilla notes, which often dominate the delicate flavors of the grape. At Unionville, we use all French oak, mostly neutral.
Varietal and site typicity are our main focus at Unionville Vineyards. Managing five estate vineyards, totaling 54 acres under vine, we know that each site is unique.
We continually showcase each vineyard and its unique characters. We have Pinot Noir Clone 115 on four different sites, and each one tastes different. In order to express the grape in its truest form, we are very diligent about harvest time and yeast selection. This diligence creates a balanced fruit-forward wine with depth.Unionville’s goal is to make the best wine on the east coast. Period. Cameron pays homage to the grape’s varietal expression by using fresh hand-picked berries. Neutral French oak barrels and limited malolactic fermentation allow the pure expression of a grape’s typicity as well as the vineyard’s terroir. A recipe sure to create a yummy wine.
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My name is Rachael White, and I am the new vineyard manager at Unionville Vineyards. I am thrilled to be part of the team and produce exceptional grapes for exquisite wine. I’m eager to begin this role and I wanted to introduce myself to share a little of my background.
I became interested in grape production right out of high school while working at my local research and extension center with the viticulture team. Little did I know when I started that viticulture would become my passion and career going forward. I got to work with industry famous people like Dr. Tony Wolf and Dr. Cain Hickey and interact with growers that were more than happy to share their joys and dismays about farming grapes. I fell in love with the seasonality and the fact I could always be outside! With a newfound purpose, I attended my first semester at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2013 and immediately focused my degree on wine grape production. I took every wine and vineyard related course offered at the time and enjoyed other horticulture courses along the way. I studied
abroad in Cortona, Italy where I learned old world wine tradition and began refining my palate.
I finished my Bachelor of Science degree in December of 2016 and looked to gain more knowledge from elsewhere in the world. I decided to work a vintage in the southern hemisphere and set my eyes on New Zealand. In March of 2017, I started work at a contract winery in the Marlborough region that produced Sauvignon Blanc, but also small batches of Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. I worked on the “Red Team," and processed mostly Pinot Noir
in small orders for clients.
What a difference a year can make. August 2018 through July 2019 was the second rainiest 12 month stretch in the recorded history of New Jersey weather. These records stretch back into the late 19th century, which gives context just to how wet that is. It's not easy growing wine grapes when it rains every other day from August through the end of harvest. As we slogged through a wet May and June, we were making preparations to endure another difficult season. A torrential thunderstorm on July 11th dropped over three inches of rain on most of our vineyards. Todd Wuerker, winemaker at Hawk Haven Vineyard said to me on the phone "it has to stop, it always evens out" and I scoffed at that idea. The weather today doesn't know what happened the day, week, or month before.
Todd was right! An atmospheric switch flipped in mid-July, and high pressure dominated the mid-Atlantic for the rest of the season. There were isolated thunderstorms to dodge through the rest of summer, and Unionville fared particularly well in this stretch. Over the 10 weeks of harvest, less than three inches of rain fell across our vineyards. We went from a historically wet stretch to historically dry, and it came just in the nick of time.
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.
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