‘Newness’ has been the theme of Unionville for the past year or so, and this Spring is certainly no different. With days getting consistently warmer and sunnier, the grapevines are waking up from their long Winter’s nap in full force and with the emergence of new leaves and shoots comes a slew of growth and expansion for the winery.
The extremely harsh Winters of 2013 and 2014 were hard on Central New Jersey, and subsequently hard on some of our most sensitive grape varieties. We’ve lost almost 3000 vines over the past five or so years, so this Spring we took it upon ourselves to get our vineyards back up to snuff. Over the next three weeks, Alvaro, the vineyard crew, and I will be facilitating a massive replant of all four of our vineyard sites, filling in all missing spaces with brand new baby grapevines. By restoring the vineyards to full capacity, we are not only ensuring cost effective vine management and balanced canopy and root growth, but also larger crop loads to turn into yummy wine for all of you!
However, just filling in our vineyards was not enough! For the first time in over 5 years, we are beginning to expand our current sites with new varieties and clones to keep up with our growing popularity. We started this year by constructing over an acre of trellising for 1700 Pinot Grigio vines on our Unionville Home site, and plan on continuing our expansion at home and Pheasant Hill Vineyard over the next few years. And if that wasn’t enough for you, this week we are breaking ground on a brand-new Unionville-managed vineyard site in Princeton, New Jersey. This new plot, located on the grounds of Coventry Farm Park across from Princeton Day School, has excellent southern exposure, guaranteeing plenty of sunshine on the new Chardonnay vines being planted and well-drained, silt loam soil with red shale, just like our Unionville Home site. Here’s hoping three years from now when these babies produce their first crop, we’ll be able to bottle a brand new single vineyard chardonnay for everyone to enjoy. I’m optimistic that that will be the case.
With all this talk of new vines, I guess it’s only fair that I speak on some new wines! We have recently released updated vintages of crowd favorites such as our Pinot Grigio, Fields of Fire Blush, and Revolutionary Red, the latter of which is a real revamp of the wine we’ve been pouring over the past four years. The new Rev Red is a little bigger, a little spicier, but still just as smooth and delicious. We’ll be rolling out the 2015 Cool Foxy Lady dessert wine within the next couple weeks, and after that, the world premiere of our Hunterdon Mistral series, a group of three Rhone grape blends showcasing some of the lesser known varieties in our repertoire and some of my favorite varieties to work with. The wine I am most excited about, our Hunterdon Mistral Rose, is a dry Provence-style Rose consisting of Counoise, Syrah, and Mourvedre, It’s bright and fruity and perfect for sipping on a sunny day, just in time for Summer.
As you can see, things are really ramping here at the winery, but don’t just take it from me, come see for yourself!
-Conor Quilty, Associate Winemaker
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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.