Wine is more than that bottle on the shelf. Wine is warmth. Wine is the thing that you welcome inside. Wine is the finishing touch. It is the friend you thought you had lost. Wine helps you settle down after a week of obfuscation and deception. Wine can take the edge off winter.
Several first class wineries call this area home. Vineyards in Hunterdon include Unionville Vineyards, Old York Cellars, Beneduce Vineyards, Mout Salem Vineyards, and Federal Twist Vineyards. Grape Finale is a winery in every sense except it has no vineyard.
The terroir is conducive to establishing vineyards. The sun, the rain, the land, the vines — all the elements come together hereabouts to produce superior harvests of grapes. Then, experienced winemakers work their magic to create award-winning wines.
“We’re doing an introduction to the process of wine-making,” says Lisa van den Woldenburg. She runs the Grape Finale operation, Flemington, and she has set aside several days in February and March to show people how wine is made.
Barrel Sampling days are set for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5 and 6. Two sessions are scheduled each day — 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and 8 to 9 p.m.
“Barrel sampling is common in California, but not so much in this area,” Lisa explains. “If you like the sample from a particular barrel, you can buy a share and come back later in March to label and pick up your bottles.”
In March, Grape Finale will be offering a series of complimentary wine sampling sessions. In these, attendees learn how to make their own wine. Reservations are required and sessions are set for Friday and Saturday, March 12 and 13, 19 and 20, and 26 and 27, 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Grape Finale obtains premium grapes from California, Oregon and Washington in the fall months and from Chile and South Africa in April and May. Wine-making is always underway at these facilities–from start to finish it’s about a 10-month process.
Lisa oversees the process from beginning to end — this includes lots of hand-holding for the newbies to wine-making. She graduated from the University of California at Davis — the leading enology and viticulture school in the world. She established Grape Finale in 2011, and it occupies more than 6,200 square feet in the Bartles Corner Business Park, 8 Bartles Corner Road, Flemington.
Wines made here boast 174 medals and seven titles. These include Best of Show, Best of Show Red, Best Red Wine and Best White Wine, awarded at the American Wine Society/New Jersey State Fair Wine Competition “The Garden State Wine Challenge.” In 2020 Grape Finale was voted Best Hunterdon Winery or Tasting Room in the Happening List competition.
“We’ve been open since last July,” says Lisa. “All the pandemic protocols are in place.”
Wine-making events are frequently held here. The spacious main floor and mezzanine is used by schools, foundations, institutions, corporations and smaller businesses for special events, offsite meetings, holiday parties, and fundraising sessions. Custom-labeled wines commemorate weddings, anniversaries and team-building events.
For more information and to register for upcoming sessions, call 908-237-0302 and visit GrapeFinale.com.
Old York Cellars is having a Virtual Wine Tasting Event on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. It supports the Singer Strong Foundation — an organization involved in the research in sarcomas affecting children.
This is a one hour guided wine tasting that features three bottles of award-winning wines in the What Exit series — red blend, white blend, and blush. Bottles are 750 ml each and can be picked up at Old York Cellars. For the virtual wine tasting event, the wines will be paired with hand-crafted chocolates.
This virtual experience is via Zoom, held with sommelier and wine educator Laurin Dorman. A question and answer period will follow the one-hour virtual session. The event is $100 and is enough for 2 to 4 people.
Old York Cellars holds many events. These include Chef Jose’s six-course Menu Pairing, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5 to 6 p.m. Or, you can spend two hours with friends in the Winter Wine Village here–firepits and cabanas and a bottle of wine. For more info on all these events, call 908 284-9463 and visit OldYorkCellars.com.
“Winter affords an opportunity to rest, refresh and prepare,” says John Cifelli, noting the sunnier side of the weather this time of year. John is general manager at Unionville Vineyards.
The Februaries are upon us. It’s the season to slow down and reflect. And what better way to invigorate the spirit than with fireplaces and wine. They seem to go together.
Unionville Vineyards offers fireplaces for up to six adults any Saturday or Sunday during the winter months. The staff takes care of the fire while you and your friends take care of the wine.
To book a tasting appointment or a fireplace reservation, call Tiffany Baldino at 908-788-0400, ext. 2. Only one bottle of wine per person may be consumed with the fireplace arrangements–for example, with six guests no more than six bottles of wine are allowed. You may bring your own food, but no cooking is allowed over the fire. Purchase a case of wine to reserve your fireplace.
You may combine your fireplace visit with a tasting room visit. These are available by separate appointment at noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Check out the rules when you call to make reservations.
No reservations are needed for the dozen picnic tables at Unionville. Bring your own food, lawn chairs, and blankets.
For more information, call 908-788-0400 and visit UnionvilleVineyards.com.
Al Warr can be reached at 610-253-0432 or AlWarr16@gmail.com.
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