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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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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