Category Archives: Other Musings

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.

Honoring the Day

May 26, 2016

The Best Way to Celebrate Memorial Day is:

A. Visit your favorite winery
B. Road trip to the Shore
C. Multiple cookouts/pool parties
D. Hang the hammock under a tree
E. All of the Above

All are correct, but let’s recall the real meaning of the day, uncomfortable as it may be:

• We honor those sons, brothers and fathers, and more recently the daughters, sisters and mothers, who went to war to serve our country and were killed in action doing so.

• We extend this honor to those who served and survived, but who are not unscathed. No one returns home whole from war, wounds visible or not.

• We also honor those still in uniform today, serving our nation at war, whom we hope will return home soon.

So, which is the real way to observe Memorial Day – with gleeful intemperance or somber remembrance?

It’s both. We need to remember, even though we’d really rather not. It is the national irony we endure annually on the last weekend of May.

Consider the small portrait in our farmhouse library of a dashing infantry officer, cigarette in hand, uniform decorated with campaign ribbons, a combat infantryman’s badge, and the shiny insignia of a captain. He was just 24 years old, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, with the hardened look of a man ten years older. This black-and-white portrait was displayed in his parents’ living room in an era when nearly every household sent someone to war.

Twenty-five years later, he spent Memorial Day weekend on a tennis court in leafy Short Hills, New Jersey, with contemporaries who too went to war but now did everything possible to forget it. No parades, no ceremonies. They focused on other things, like tennis, quenched by gin, tonic & lime.

My dad survived his war, but he was not unscathed. He didn’t survive middle age.

There is another portrait in our farmhouse but it’s hidden in a drawer. It is that of a 30-something U.S. Army major, a physician with a gentle smile, whose life ended instantly in a Middle East desert. He was killed by an IED (improvised explosive device) or a landmine, we still don’t know for sure, but it doesn’t matter. My wife misses her brother, Brian, intensely. She has never been the same, and can’t bear to see his portrait daily.

And so now it is we who avoid Memorial Day parades and ceremonies, well-intentioned they may be. They are just too heavy, sometimes evoking an impossibly large lump in the throat or inconsolable sobbing.

So enjoy the hammock, cookouts, the Shore or even your favorite winery. If it’s here with us, you may share a story of your own or keep it to yourself; we understand the need for both. But whatever you do, for just a moment, please consider the memory in Memorial Day.

– Peter Leitner

Frank N. Leitner (1922-1975) 275th Infantry Regiment 70th "Trailblazers" Division U.S. Army 1946

Frank N. Leitner (1922-1975)
275th Infantry Regiment
70th “Trailblazers” Division
U.S. Army


November 28, 2013

She pulled into the parking lot just before closing Thanksgiving Eve, as snow fell in cadence with the day’s vanishing light.  The sweet smell of ash wood from the farmhouse chimney brought a smile to her face as she stepped through the Wine Barn door.

Snow falls on Mount Salem every Thanksgiving weekend, it seems.  Rarely is it serious snow, navigable on Nordic skis and such, but it requires a full wood box and surrender to the year’s darkest days.

Her name and number flashed on my ringing phone just an hour earlier, while other winery customers lingered on this grey snowy Wednesday, and I understood before answering why she was calling.

We hail from the same high school but from different years, first meeting here in Hunterdon decades later.  Yet we knew the same families and teachers, and shared the hometown culture that shaped us as young adults.

Over a glass of Riesling in the winery loft, while wind rattled the roof and rafters of this ancient place, we covered familiar ground of spouses and children; aging parents and sideways siblings; and news of friends.  Then, while we laughed about something I now can’t recall, I felt tears welling up as her eyes glistened, too.  The sad side of nostalgia, it seems, nicked us both at the same moment.

And with that, she cradled her Thanksgiving wine bottles like newborns, promised me she wouldn’t be a stranger, and stepped out into the darkness.

Standing alone now in the falling snow, while I locked the Wine Barn door, I gave thanks for the gift of returning home before making my way toward the sweet farmhouse chimney.


October 31, 2013

By Sophie-Anne Leitner

On the morning of October 31, Martha awoke to piercing, hammering sounds outside her new home in Pittstown, New Jersey, where she moved in April.  She leapt from her bed to see what was going on.

Outside on the far hillside she saw a new massive sign whose single word shimmered in the early light, HALLOWEEN.  This was not a typical sign, like for McDonald’s or something.  It was more like the Hollywood sign.


Each letter of the sign appeared to tell a Halloween story:  the H was two Tootsie Rolls and the A was like a witch, while the L was a black cat and the other L was a Frankenstein.  The O was a pumpkin and the W was a half-devil/half-angel, while the first E was a vampire and the second E was a mummy.  The N was a scary skeleton.

Martha was astonished by this, and she was certain everyone in Pittstown and villages nearby could see the new sign, too.

Later that evening, at precisely 8:27 PM, while the Halloween moon shimmered behind the new Halloween sign, Martha wondered just briefly who built it, no doubt to last.  She walked out into the cold night to trick-or-treat at the farms and village houses down the hill, with the letters sparkling in the distance.