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.
When my time in New Zealand came to a close, I began looking for a position closer to home. Dr. Cain Hickey reached out to me and asked if I wanted to earn my master’s degree in viticulture. I was overjoyed at the chance to work with him again and in a new region with different challenges: Georgia. I moved to Georgia in August of 2017 and immediately began working on my Master’s degree focused on different pruning measures and how best to optimize
production in a humid climate. I was also involved in projects related to leaf pulling to increase air movement in the fruit zone and delayed pruning to mitigate frost injury. UGA gave me the opportunity to work with many different growers all over the state and into North Carolina along with some incredible extension agents. I finished my degree in December of 2019 and graduated
with a Master of Science with a focus in environmental horticulture and viticulture.
One of the growers I had collaborated with offered to bring me on full time as a vineyard manager. I managed 7 acres of beautiful, north Georgia vineyard where we produced Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Manseng, and Traminette. I spent a year there recovering from my whirlwind of a Master's before deciding to move to the north.
I am excited for the opportunity to work at Unionville and manage a large vineyard with multiple cultivars I have not directly worked with. I believe that the Amwell Valley has a climate conducive to producing high quality Syrah and Viognier. The Rhone white program at Unionville is particularly intriguing and I'm looking forward to going through this season with these grape varieties. My time at Unionville has been short, but my colleagues here have been extremely welcoming and I am constantly impressed by their knowledge and drive for excellence. I look forward to supporting the growth of Unionville’s vineyards and producing some of the best wines New Jersey can offer.
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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.
Unionville Vineyards provides guests with a safe, comfortable environment to relax and enjoy fine wine in the serene countryside of pastoral Hunterdon County. With this vision in mind, several important updates to our hospitality policies have been put in place related to group size, children, dogs, food, & more. Please click here to read them before planning your visit to Unionville, to ensure a pleasant experience for all. Thank you.