Author Archives: pleitner@mountsalemvineyards.com

Putting the Reds to Bed

November 6, 2018

Our annual cycle has milestones – pruning, bud break, veraison, harvest – but none signal the end like pressing and racking the last reds in November.  We call it “putting the reds to bed”, where they will lie quietly in the wine barn until spring, when they bubble again.

A secret in making fine red wine we learned from our first mentors, Lauren and Georgene Mortimer of Westfall Winery, near High Point, New Jersey.  While interning there in 2005, our winemaker asked why they fermented their red wines outdoors under a tent when they had ample room in many outbuildings on their farm.

“Dude, that’s how you get deep color, aroma and flavor”, Lauren replied.  “Cool October temps up here slow fermentation to a crawl, but bring out the best without artificial extracts, additives and fake temperature control.  Be patient, and don’t fear unless you hit 25oF”, meaning the ambient temperature when a fermentation will likely stall.

The cooler it is, the longer it takes; the longer it takes, the better the wine.

Today in the cold, windswept November rain – under a tent, of course – we pressed this year’s final bins and put the last reds to bed.  The Cabernet Franc and Blaufränkisch have been fermenting for over three weeks, which is about 3x longer than most commercial wineries ferment theirs, and they are beautiful even in a challenging vintage like 2018.

That’s where the color, aroma and flavor come from, Dude.

Visit soon, the holidays are soon upon us and we want to see you.

  • November 6, 2018

Last Dirt Road in Jersey

November 6, 2018


The end of an era is upon us with the imminent paving of Mount Salem Road.  We’ve waited 18 years for this, assured by five mayors who said, “definitely next year”, and one who said it never will happen.  Another admitted that it’s just politics, you know.

Unpaved rural roads do have a certain charm and many people around here would like it to remain. But they don’t actually live on the unpaved portion, or grow fine wine grapes right next to it, or deal with the consequences whenever a vehicle speeds by.

Consequences like a permanent layer of fine dust on everything, and the inability to open windows for fresh air, or even hang laundry on a clothes line unless it’s just rained.  Gutters that clog with silt instead of fallen leaves; central air conditioning systems that fail because they, too, choke with dust; and the inability to keep paint on this 1811 farmhouse because dust prevents it from adhering properly.  Perhaps worst of all are grapevines that are less productive because of they don’t like to breathe road dust any more than people do.

Some neighbors drive slowly by, mindful of the consequences, while others think nothing of exceeding 50 MPH and showering the farmhouse with dust, gravel and arcs of rain or slush puddles that splatter our windows.  Indeed, some neighbors, so-called, took to referring to this as “The Dirt House”.  Nice.

For these reasons and without hesitation, we welcome the paving crew next week.  Yet we pause for a moment to reflect on what’s about to end.

This road, about 3 miles long with distinctive twin doglegs at its midpoint, can be seen on the earliest maps of Hunterdon County and was believed to begin as a path used by the Lenni Lenape.  It bisected the Abbott Taylor Farmstead, of which our farm was the center, that has been cultivated for over 300 years.  As recently as 50 years ago, according to a neighbor who was born across the road from us, Mount Salem Road was so lightly traveled that it not only was unpaved but had a grass strip right down the middle.  How’s that for rural charm?

While Mount Salem is not literally the last dirt road in Jersey, it sure felt like it at times particularly when one of those consequences reared its ugly head, leaving us angry, frustrated and occasionally humiliated.  All of that is about to pass, as most things do.

Come visit soon, or at least drive by, before this era comes to an end. 

  • October 30, 2018

September on Mount Salem

August 30, 2017

QUICK SIP

• Sunday Dinner
• Harvest Volunteers
• Market Days
• LongTable
• Going Private
• Summer into Fall

DEEP POUR

Sunday Dinner

We invite you to join us this Sunday, September 3, at 2:00 PM for Sunday Dinner. With a menu drawn from the south of France, bursting with the peak flavors of summer:

SUNDAY DINNER
September 3, 2017
~
MEAT BALLS – LOCAL LAMB
Provençal Tomato Sauce

TAPANADE ON TOASTS
~
PESTO PRAWN RAVIOLI
~
PROVENÇAL CHICKEN FRICASSEE
Lavender, Clementines, Garlic & White Wine
BRAISED & GRATINEED FENNEL with NEW RED POTATOES
FOUGASSE
~
APRICOT TORT

There is no charge to attend Sunday Dinner, as you will be the guest of the winemaker and his family in their farmhouse. Most leave with $50 to $100 of wine to enjoy at their homes.

There are a few seats left this Labor Day weekend, so if you wish to attend please contact us.

Harvest Volunteers

We are asked year-round if we allow volunteers to help with harvest, resulting in names and numbers scribbled on paper scraps and filed away until now. Or so we try.

We can’t predict exactly when we will harvest (generally mid-September through mid-October), but if you are available for half or all of a day, we welcome you. Simply contact us and we’ll add you to our list of potential volunteers.

You’ll be well fed and quenched.

Market Days

Perhaps the coolest culinary master classes we offer are Market Days, when we teach how to shop at a farmers’ market and then cook on the fly without a menu, recipes or even a shopping list. All that’s needed is a strategy, which we share, and you’ll see your local farmers’ market in a whole new light.

We offer two this September, both on Sundays – the 10th and the 17th – at 10 AM. We meet at the Clinton Farmers’ Market, shop the stalls, and then head to the farmhouse at Mount Salem to prepare the meals, which will probably be Northern Italian or French in style.

The class is $65/person, covering course materials, ingredients and a wine tasting. Contact us if you wish to attend either the Sept 10th or Sept 17th Market Day.

LongTable

September 23rd is the 10th Anniversary of LongTable, at which we seat 100 friends at one long table in our vineyard for a harvest supper.

That is cool enough, but what makes LongTable most special is that every part of the meal is:

* Made by the guests
* Reflects the contributor’s family heritage, and
* Includes at least one locally-grown ingredient.

The result is an incredible dinner made from family recipes that have spanned five continents, each with a story about the grandma who passed the recipe down or the family’s story here in America. It’s not to be missed.

Tickets are $30/person and are a credit toward wine that you enjoy at LongTable or take home with you. There is no other fee to attend.

Simply let us know how many people are in your party, what you will bring for the table, and when it should be served, i.e., appetizer, main course, vegetable dish or dessert.

There are still a few seats left and we will start a waiting list. Contact Us if you wish to attend.

Going Private

Have a special occasion you’d like to celebrate with fine wine and food in charming 1811 farmhouse? Host it here, such as a…

• Private wine tasting, with or without a food pairing;
• Private lunch or dinner, with wine;
• Cooking class that includes a wine pairing; or
• A luncheon or dinner you plan & cook (up to 30 guests) that we support, including clean up

People choose us for celebratory meals large or small; family reunions; marriage, birthday, anniversary and retirement festivities; and even business groups aiming to schmooze clients or tighten bonds among teams.

Our culinary repertoire includes Italian, French, Austrian, Polish, American Creole (not Cajun!) and Thai.

You may host your event any day of the week; morning, afternoon or evening times are available.

Have an idea? Contact Us with your vision and budget, and we’ll tailor a private event just for you.

Summer into Fall

While the waning weeks of summer are upon us, we look forward to autumn with its cool nights, brilliant foliage and aroma of fermenting grapes filling the air.

We can’t wait to move from enjoying mostly whites to mostly reds, and eating heartier if not earthier meals.

The potager Continue reading

Rediscovering France in the Kitchen

March 14, 2017

We invite you on a little journey of Rediscovering France through a series of culinary clinics and classes offered as winter rolls into spring, when our palates waver between heartwarming soul food and dishes that are lighter and brighter.

This journey will include pairings with our wines, all of which are grown by hand with more than a little French influence (especially Burgundy) in both the vineyard and winery, including Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Riesling, and Chardonnay, all echoing France while no doubt raised here.

Why France?

Arguably among the finest (some say the finest) cuisines in the world, the principles and techniques of French cooking underlie other great ones such as the Bolognese (Italian) and Viennese (Austrian). The influence of both home and professional kitchens of France is thus felt almost everywhere.

We hasten to add that this is very much a two-way street: French cuisine reflects the influence of the many Italians, Austrians, Poles and others who worked in professional kitchens there, especially in Paris, which for almost two hundred years was the center of the culinary world, much like was Silicon Valley is to technology today.

Yet as other cuisines rose in popularity, interest in French cooking waned to the point where many of us today don’t really know what French cuisine is. Perhaps highly complicated recipes finished with heavy cream sauces come to mind, but this is not the case.

Come visit us and explore, perhaps for the first time, the joy of home cooking in the tradition of France.

We offer a series of clinics (informal, 1 hour, Saturdays at 12:30 PM) and classes (hands-on, 3 hours, Sundays at 12 noon) right up until Easter. You can find them listed on our Events page.

Here’s a complete list:

Clinics, 12:30 PM Saturdays

Gougères, Mar 4
Bistro Prawns, Mar 11
Pommes de Terre aux Lardons (potato pie with bacon), Mar 18
Lentils & Carrots, Mar 25
Moules (steamed mussels), Apr 1
Rack of Lamb, Apr 8
Leg of Lamb, Apr 15

Classes, 12:00 PM, Sundays

Artisan Bread, Mar 5
Pot au Feu (Corned Beef, Cabbage & More from Celtic Brittany), Mar 12
Chicken Fricassee, Mar 19
Onion Tart, Mar 26
Provencal Lamb, Apr 2
Roast Chicken, Apr 9

Why Thai?

June 9, 2016

Guests are asking that a lot lately, often while nibbling on Thai morsels like:

* Sliced cucumber graced with a mélange of lemon grass, coriander leaf, sweet chili and minced kaffir lime leaf;

* Pork sausage, freshly made with Thai seasonings and grilled on our crush pad, sliced and served with nam pla (Thai fish sauce) and sweet chili; or

* Chicken noisettes braised in red curry, served on a pillow of jasmine rice.

Aren’t these tasty bits a departure from the Austrian/Italian/French thing we typically have going on here? Why Thai in a Hunterdon County winery?

The quick answer is that Thai pairs wonderfully with three of our early summer wines, namely Riesling, Traminette and Cabernet Franc Rosé: all stainless steel fermented and – except for the rosé – eschewing malo and neutral oak. This creates bright and brisk wines with a hint of fruit, and in some cases more residual sugar than our other wines. Thai food, with its spicy/sweet/sour and occasionally lush DNA, pairs beautifully with them.

Another factor is our Riesling, Traminette and Rosé typically debut in June, when the weather in New Jersey begins to feel like Thailand: hot and humid, punctuated by pop-up showers and occasionally monsoon-like rains, making it the perfect seasonal pairing.

The longer answer to “Why Thai?” is that good winemakers imbue their wines with the culmination of their life experiences: what they’ve drunk, eaten, seen and otherwise done. This is particularly true with artisans who make relatively small amounts and whose imprint is all over their wines. There is no doubt my travels in Asia and Europe influence my wines, especially because I make them to be food wines, i.e., wines that taste best with food and that make food taste best.

And thus in the case of Riesling, Traminette and Rosé, Thai cuisine is among the best pairings one can make.

While on my culinary pilgrimage to Thailand, I developed such a deep appreciation for the people and their culture that I’ve not only tried to master their cuisine but to make wine that complements it perfectly. I consider this a divine challenge. Ditto for the cuisines of Austria, Italy, France and a few other places, but those stories are for another day.

If you’ve never paired Thai with a crisp Riesling, I invite you to try it here or elsewhere. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if you’re really ambitious, we have two more Thai master classes that you can take here this month:

Sunday, June 12, mussels steamed in Thai seasonings followed by salmon filet roasted with a Chinese-influenced “black lacquer” coating of hoisin, soy and vinegar crust; and
Sunday, June 19, rack of lamb in a stunningly awesome Thai marinade.

Join us for either or both, or simply visit the loft in the Wine Barn to see what the fuss is all about.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA