‘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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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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