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.
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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
1946

What Makes Our Grüner Veltliner Special?

March 31, 2016

Two words: Terroir and Style.

But first, some background.

Grüner Veltliner is indigenous to Austria and is the most widely planted grapevine there, most grown on soil comprising slate, schist and other decomposing rock. The grapes are typically fermented at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks, resulting in lean, laser-like wines with notes of grapefruit or white pepper, some bottled so young they fizz when opened. Most are like this, but not all (and that includes ours), which is where terroir and house-style come in.

By terroir we mean the unique combination of soil, climate, slope, aspect and farming methods in a specific vineyard that cause wines grown there to be different – perhaps even superior – than those made from the same grape grown elsewhere. You can read more about terroir here.

Our estate vineyard sits at 700 feet above sea level, straddling the border of maritime and continental climates, with a meaningful slope, southwest aspect and 3,000 growing degree days. Our soil is deep silt/clay/loam, well-drained and studded with glacial gravel. We dry farm, adding nothing to the 40+ inches of rain we get each year (we don’t even have irrigation lines). Yes, there may be other places like this, but none exactly like this.

So, where our Grüner grows has a big impact on why it’s so good, which makes the winemaker look brilliant even though this reflects one decision he made long ago. But to be fair, he does a few other things each year that are reflected in our house style.

By style we mean the steps taken with each vintage, from uncrushed grapes through the pour into your glass, resulting in a consistent and even recognizable wine. But it is really only influence, as winemakers don’t make the wine as much as guide Mother Nature, much like a midwife does (some winemakers vigorously disagree, and that shows up in one’s house style, too).

And so, if we combine Mount Salem’s terroir and style, our Grüner Veltliner can be reduced to this haiku:

Austrian grapes
Grown in Hunterdon
Vinified as if in Burgundy
In American oak

This results not in a schizophrenic wine, but rather an elegant and cosmopolitan one with nearly pitch-perfect sense of place. Indeed, if forced to choose only one grape to grow here, it would be Grüner. And that’s not an April Fool’s Joke, either.