Monday, September 27, 2010

Hopewell Valley Vineyards

Despite the dreary weather this weekend the NJ wine escapades carried on and led us to Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Pennington, NJ. I'm no stranger to Hopewell; it's one of the first NJ wineries I ever visited and definitely my most frequented vineyard. For my birthday last year the girls and I did a tour of some wineries, including Hopewell. Amanda, a Marylander, e-mailed me recently asking about the next trip there because she is out of the Hopewell port and is craving more.

The main tasting room was closed for a private party yesterday so we were directed to the larger room below, which I had never been in. Partway into our tasting a man walked in, and said he was here for the "NJ Nets party."
"The NJ Nets!" I whispered excitedly to Jonaid.
"Did I hear that right? The Nets?" our wine hostess Sherry asked us.
"I think so!" I exclaimed. "Although, maybe they should spend a little less time on the wine and a little more on the practice."
Jonaid rolled his eyes. "They're no good, I don't even care if they're here," he said. Minutes later I sauntered up to investigate the scene, and spotted the a gentlemen covering the windows with paper. I assumed this would be for privacy and it only increased my enthusiasm.
Shortly after our tasting, Jonaid and I walked outside so I could snap a few pictures, when we saw the sign. "NJ NATS" it read. The New Jersey National Association of Teachers Singing. Glee for the working professional, I suppose. Ah, so naive.

Anyway, onward to the grapes!

For $5 you pick six tastes and you keep the glass. I think I have enough glasses to set the table for an entire dinner party with the extended family. I insisted I didn't need the glass but Sherry wrapped it up anyway. "Less for me to wash later!" She said. "Oh, more for me to wash later!" I countered, and laughed.

Sherry reminded us when you do a tasting you go dry to sweet and typically white to red. We must have looked like wine amateurs yesterday because when we visited Unionville later in the day our taster there also reminded us of that rule. Typically at Hopewell they also set out some house Olive Oil (also for sale) with bread, but that was not available yesterday. It's tasty when they do that.

Dry White and Rose Wines
Stony Brook Blush - Jonaid enjoyed this lighter blend, but for me it was too sweet. Definitely would go well with light appetizers in the summer.
Pinot Grigio - The sprightly grape aroma is noticed instantly. Drinking it is delightful; it's very light and brings a crisp flavor to the mouth. The proceeds benefit Autism Intervention, which Sherry explained is inspired by Sergio's (the owner's) eldest son, who has autism.
Chardonnay (2008) - Very oaky and deliciously smooth. Jonaid and I got a glass of this; I was surprised that he also found this agreeable.
Spumante Secco Dry Sparkling Wine - did not try

Dry Red Wines - the chilly turn in the weather made these perfect.
Chambourcin (2008) - This is an old favorite and I recently just polished off my bottle of it that I've had at the house. It's good but tasting it yesterday it was much sharper than I recall. Very flavorful.
Rosso della Valle - 75% Chambourcin and 25% Cabernet made this a fantastic wine. "The cabernet softens the taste," I remarked, and Sherry mentioned that is exactly how she describes it. (I then jokingly offered my know-it-all smile to Jonaid, who rolled his eyes. I don't know why he puts up with me.) The Rosso is has such a solid flavor; the blend is perfect and distinct.
Merlot - So far it's the best Merlot I've had in NJ. Enough flavor that it could be enjoyed on its own but mild enough to compliment a meal and has minimal sharpness. Enjoyed it.
Barbera - Unfortunately I do feel the flavor of this wine is overshadowed by the excellence of the Rosso. The flavor of cherries was noted to me quickly but my mouth was still watering for more of the Rosso, so the Barbera didn't stand a fair chance.
Sangiovese - both Jonaid and I agreed that this burns. The acidity is very noticeable here which makes it less enjoyable.
Cabernet Sauvignon - not available (sold out!!!)

Sweet/Dessert Wines
Vidal Blanc - Jonaid enjoyed this. As he was tasting, I was encompassed by the White Merlot. I gave his a sip, but the minor flavors went unnoticed after the strong impact of the white merlot.
White Merlot - This is a wine of my sister, Alex. Sweet but very aromatic and easy going down. For the upper-amateur wine drinkers, aiming to get more dry but still enjoy the sweet, this is a good choice.
Porto Bianco - did not try
Porto Rosso - did not try
Spumanto Sweet Sparkling Wine - did not try
Dolce Vita Late Harvest Vidal Blanc - did not try, and am regretting it. Noted for next time.

Heading outside, albeit briefly due to the weather, we noted Hopewell has adopted Alba's idea of utilizing canons and balloons to keep away the birds. When we visited Alba, our wine hostess explained they are very close (personally, not geographically) with Hopewell. I guess ideas are contagious between the two.

Jonaid declared while we were there this is his favorite winery we've ever been to. That's saying a lot considering this summer we made it to two festivals and have tasted in four states. I agree, though; the wines at Hopewell are always a good fit for a variety of wine drinkers, the atmosphere is relaxing- it's inexcusable if you live in NJ and have never been here. As you can see in the photo above they have won a number of medals, and that's the cabinet only displaying the whites.

Another successful wine tasting weekend. Slowly making progress through the passport!

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