The Triumphant Wines & Vines of Hunterdon County
Caroline Fassett, NJ.com, September 2019
In the words of winemaker Connor Quilty of Unionville Vineyards, there is “a renaissance” in the New Jersey and Hunterdon winemaking industry, specifically in the prominence and growth of its vineyards and wineries. According to General Manager of Unionville Vineyards John Cifelli, since the business’s establishment in 1993, there have been “times the tide rises quicker,” and times when it falls all together. However, in recent years, Cifelli said the tide has been “absolutely, without question, rising.”
Ever Try Wine Made from Counoise Grapes? NJ Winery is Offering a Chance
Paul Vigna, Pennlive, March 2019
Unionville Vineyards made the decision a couple years ago to go all in on Rhone grapes following a decade of experimentation. After the 2017 harvest the winery in Ringoes, in central New Jersey, pulled out the Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon vines and turned that part of what it calls its Amwell Ridge vineyard over to several Rhone white grape varieties -- Marsanne and Rousanne.
Vineyard Designate: Pheasant Hill Vineyard
Carlo DeVito, The Cork Report, March 2019
Pheasant Hill Vineyard, which is owned and managed by Unionville Vineyards, currently has one of the largest and most celebrated blocks of chardonnay in the state, as well as blocks of pinot noir, syrah, viognier, and mourvedre. It’s that chardonnay that has garnered the most praise.The vineyard is located on the southern edge of the Sourland Mountains and is planted on a southern exposure, on a 12% south facing slope with a neutral pH, well-drained soil, over sandstone, shale, and clay. In short, an ideal location. The chardonnay comprises one whole block by itself.
Grapes on the Vine Draw NJ Tourists
Brenda Flanagan, NJTV News, September 2018
What is big, and growing, is New Jersey’s winery tourism industry. It’s another agritourism business that’s off the beaten path. Vineyards like Unionville, located in the rolling Sourland Mountains of Hunterdon County, showcase a vintage venue: the 1858 estate with an updated tasting room and several wines made from locally-grown grapes that offer visitors an opportunity to sip and savor and buy by the bottle. “It’s beautiful. It’s like a different state,” said Leslie Heymann, a Jersey resident. “It’s full of greenery — so many plants and beautiful farms — and a lot of Jersey that doesn’t get the good press, so it’s almost like a hidden gem which is nice. The wine’s the best part, it’s delicious.”
How New Jersey is Producing Some of the Best Wines in the East
Lenn Thompson, Wine Enthusiast, April 2018
“More wineries are focusing on quality, both in the vineyard and in the winery,” says John Cifelli, general manager of Unionville Vineyards and executive director of the Winemakers Co-Op, a group wineries pushing fine wine in the state. “The next era of wine drinkers are anti-wine establishment and reject the notion of preconception.” With more and better wine than ever, as well as a growing base of consumers who are increasingly open to trying new things, New Jersey is ready for its time in the spotlight.
Stephen "Zeke" Johnsen & Conor Quilty Earn Local Heroes Award from Edible Jersey Magazine
Nancy DePalma, edible Jersey, February 2018
If the passionate staff behind this Ringoes vineyard has anything to do with it, their bottles will be continue to top “best of “ lists in the state—and beyond. “When people think of East Coast wineries, it would be incredible if they think of us,” says John Cifelli, general manager. Unionville Vineyards, set in the rolling hills of Hunterdon County, has been named one of Food & Wine’s Top 500 Wineries, among other industry accolades. “We make good wines that wine lovers love,” says Stephen “Zeke” Johnsen, associate winemaker, who joined Unionville in 1998. “Making wine is like cooking,” Johnsen says. “It’s a blend of art and science.” Johnsen splits the duties with Conor Quilty, who studied viticulture in college and worked at vineyards in California and Australia before returning to Unionville, where he’d begun at 18. “It’s deeply scientific, but creative,” he echoes.
Tastemakers: Stephen "Zeke" Johnsen & Conor Quilty of Unionville Vineyards
Lenn Thompson, The Cork Report, December 2017
Unionville Vineyards, undoubtedly one of the top wineries in the east- doesn’t have a head winemaker. Instead, it employs our first ever co-tastemakers- associate winemakers Stephen “Zeke” Johnsen and Conor Quilty- who share the winemaking duties. Winemaking by committee doesn’t always work, but it does for Unionville. They are true tastemakers — learn how their diverse backgrounds and experience are leading to some of the best wines from New Jersey.
12 gorgeous New Jersey wines you must drink now
Carlo Devito, East Coast Wineries, December 2017
We were fortunate enough to taste six different New Jersey wineries while on our trip. All of them put out a full list of accomplished, elegant, and complicated quality wines. Lenn and myself have both been covering local wine for more than a decade. But, maybe you don't want to hear from two local yahoo wine writers. You'd rather hear from someone more notable. How about Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal, or Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post, or Mark Squires, from The Wine Advocate? Are those names big enough?
Paul Vigna, Pennlive, December 2017
Unionville Vineyards has built itself into one of New Jersey's top premium wineries, operating amid farmland that covers Hunterdon County in the west-central part of the state, less than a half-hour from the Pennsylvania line. While its niche is Chardonnay, it produces a variety of other dry wines, from Syrah and Pinot Noir to several blends. As a member of the 2-year-old Winemakers Co-Op, it has teamed with three other New Jersey wineries in an attempt to raise its quality and profile. In both cases, that is working.
Jersey wine is no longer a joke
TJ Foderaro, Inside Jersey Magazine, November 2017
More recently, widely respected British wine critic Stuart Pigott hailed Unionville, in Ringoes, for the quality of its chardonnay and syrah. Pigott called Unionville's consulting winemaker, Cameron Stark, "one of America's great winemakers." Of Unionville's "Pheasant Hill" Chardonnay, Pigott wrote it is "surely one of the best wines from this grape anywhere in America."
NJ Wine Industry Sees a Challenging Year Buoyed by Stellar Harvest Conditions
JerseyBites, October 2017
Grape growers statewide this year battled bouts of rainfall and dodged several tropical storms to reach a satisfying conclusion to the season: several weeks of sunny, warm, and rain-free weather during the critical harvest period. A “redemption vintage, similar to 2013” as one grower put it, 2017 was far from picture perfect wire to wire...
Wineries expand their reach: Unionville in New Hope, PA
Paul Vigna, Pennlive, October 2017
Explained general manager John Cifelli on the decision to set up in New Hope: "Unless you're an NJ winery in Cape May, you don't have an underlying current of tourism to ride, and to count on for visitation. So you have a few options: stay small, hit the festival circuit, wholesale, or satellite tasting rooms. Once I decided to move forward with licensing in PA, I knew that I wanted to take advantage of a town with a pre-existing tourism market...
How NJ Wine Became Big Business, What to Know About a Growing Industry
Hunter Hulbert, NJ.com, August 2017
"You have basically the ability to grow 90 percent of the world's great wine varieties and wine grape varieties [in New Jersey]," said John Cifelli, general manager at Unionville Vineyards. "And you have winemakers that are constantly becoming more skilled."
New Jersey Wine in Pursuit of Excellence
Paul Vigna, Wine Industry Advisor, August 2017
John Cifelli is Unionville’s general manager and the executive director of the Co-op. He says the success of the Co-Op’s wineries is a win for the state as a whole. “It goes back to the cost of doing this business in this state – we need broader acceptance of premium bottles of N.J. wine and the price tags that they command,” he says. “That means more higher-end consumer tastings, stronger support from restaurants, sommeliers, liquor stores, and wine shops.”
Jersey Matters with Larry Mendte
Preconceptions Still a Problem for East Coast Wines
Kim Badenfort, Wine Industry Network, May 2017
The quality of wine produced in the Eastern U.S. continues its upward trajectory, but wineries still struggle with consumer perception and their doubts about the quality. “The hardest thing for East Coast wineries is the general attitude toward their wine,” says Elizabeth Slater of In Short Direct Marketing, who works with wineries across the nation to improve their sales.
Does New Jersey Make the Best Wines?
Esther Davidowicz, The Daily Record, March 2017
Don’t believe New Jersey wines are top-notch? Meet Karl Storchmann, economics professor at New York University, who has been making the case for some time, not only with his wallet (he has many New Jersey wines among the more than 1,000 bottles he stores in his Brooklyn apartment) but by employing his considerable statistical prowess and analytical skills to the study of wines. “I love the wines of New Jersey,” the German-born, 54-year-old wine economist declared recently, drinking coffee at a casual café in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. “The quality of New Jersey wine is awesome. The major wine magazines don't write about Jersey wines at all.
Native Expressions: Wine Pros Show Regional Loyalty
Kelly Magyarics, Cheers Magazine, December 2016
Moratis selects regional wines that—first and foremost—prompt a sense of surprise. He also seeks quality, consistency, pricing, availability and any opportunities for cross-promotion with the winery in the form of tastings or dinners.
The 136-seat steakhouse offers nine wines from New York and New Jersey. One
is the 2012 Unionville Vineyards Big O Red Montage ($75 a bottle) from New Jersey, with leather, blackberry jam, vanilla bean and mango notes. Soft and creamy yet tannic and well structured and balanced, Moratis calls it “a little bit of heaven” with a charred strip steak or ribeye.
Unionville Vineyards Earns Spot on List of Nation's Top Wineries
Paul Vigna, The Patriot News, November 2016
Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes, in central New Jersey, has been named to Food & Wine magazine's 500 best wineries in America 2017. It's one of just two wineries from the mid-Atlantic (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware) to earn the distinction; the other is Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy, Md. Here's the entry: "In the rolling hills of Hunterdon County - out where it's easy to see why New Jersey is called the Garden State - Unionville manages five vineyards of diverse wine grapes in the midst of the nation's most densely populated state."
Winemaker Cameron Stark of Unionville Vineyards
Rosie Saferstein, NJ Monthly Magazine, June 2016
The Unionville Vineyards winery [...] sources grapes on five estate vineyards from over 300 acres of preserved farmland located across three New Jersey counties. Winemaker Cameron Stark makes 26 different wines and has 22 years experience in the field. He studied viticulture at UC Davis and spent 10 years making wine at Napa Valley wineries. He now produces 26 wines and manages every step of the wine-making process from grape growing to bottling. The vines are cultivated, pruned and harvested by hand. Almost all barrels are 5 to 15 year old French oak.
We tasted many wines and all were worthy of purchase. Our favorites were the refreshing 2013 Pheasant Hill Chardonnay; 2002 Hunter’s Red Reserve; 2012 The Big O Red Bordeaux-style blend (their best seller); and 2013 Pheasant Hill V
Dinner at The Strip House with Culinary Director Chef Tom Valenti
Rosie Saferstein, NJ Monthly, April 2016
Upon being seated, we were offered notable raisin, onion and baguette breads, and were told that our four-course dinner would be paired with Unionville Vineyards wine. Lowell and I would like to go on record that we initially turned up our noses, as we had never tasted any New Jersey wines that we liked. That has now changed; we were wrong. The wines we had (see pairings below) were so good that we would put them on a rotating list of wines that we drink. A fieldtrip to Ringoes, where the winery is located is now on our to-do list.
Ringoes' Unionville Vineyards wines gain awards but seek respect
John Foy, The Star-Ledger, June 2014
At my May visit, I was impressed by the 2012 Pheasant Hill Vineyard Chardonnay, which is made in older oak barrels with only a quarter of the wine subjected to malolatic fermentation- the process that changes the grape’s natural tart acidity (think green apple) to the softer lactic acid (think dairy). It results in a delightful fruit and mild floral aroma, with medium body, pleasant fruit flavors with balanced acidity and not a hint of alcohol in the finish. It’s a classic Burgundian style.
In introducing Unionville and Stark to the guests of the $288-per-head dinner, Robby Younes, Vice President of the Resort, graciously admitted his concern with including a New Jersey wine in this keynote event. Younes noted that he approved including Unionville only after his staff, led by Sommelier Mme. Suzanne Laresecu, surprised him with a blind tasting of Pheasant Hill Chardonnay, a Grand Cru Burgundy and a highly rated California Chardonnay pulled from Latour’s famed cellar. Younes was astounded by the quality of the Unionville offering, initially mistaking the wine for a fine Burgundy.
The Pheasant Hill Chardonnay is surely one of the best wines from this grape anywhere in America...The 2011 Pheasant Hill Syrah is a great example of this grape and a stunning achievement for that very difficult vintage. It has the smoky bacon, pepper, blackberry and leather aromas of a top Northern Rhône wine and very elegant dry tannins. Equally impressive is the 2011 ‘The Big O’, Unionville’s Bordeaux-type blend...Then there’s the ‘Vat 19′ Port, a multi-vintage wine made entirely from the hybrid Chambourcin, which can stand next to the best LBV ports.
Wine Econ Class is Best Kind of 'Dismal'
The Wall Street Journal, October 2013
JerseyBites, June 2013
Does All Wine Taste the Same?
The New Yorker, June 2012
NJ Wine Takes Second Place
Garden State Woman, June 2012
Hey, France, Jerseyans can make wine, too
Times of Trenton, June 2012
Grapes of Rapture
The New York Post, August 2011
Two Ringoes Wineries Win Awards
Hunterdon Democrat, June 2011
A Winemaker's Tail
Edible Jersey Magazine, Spring 2011
Wine and Dance at New Jersey Vineyard
FOX News NY, 2011
New Jersey Wine Country
Chatham Patch, January 2011
Unionville Full of Rich History
Hunterdon Democrat, July 2010
Unionville Still One of The Best
East Coast Wineries, May 2010
New Jersey's Unionville Vineyards
Star Ledger, June 2010
Garden State Wine Makers
The New York Post, June 2010
Harper's Bazaar Magazine, November 2009
The Star Ledger, October 2009
Atlantic City Food & Wine Show
FOX News NY, August 2009
Unionville Vineyards Tastes Gold
NJ BIZ Magazine, 2007
The New York Times, 2005
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