Posted by: tomciocco | September 19, 2012

AN INTERNATIONAL WHITE FROM THE ROLLING HUNTERDON HILLS

An International white from the Hunterdon Hills…Is that a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand? No – a Chardonnay from California? Ah, it must be a Chenin Blanc from South Africa. All wrong. It’s a Pinot Grigio from New Jersey. You can go back and read that last sentence again if you need to.

One fact that never fails to shock almost anyone  – wine expert to utter novice – is that New Jersey is the 5th largest wine producing state in the U.S., with a production made in better than 40 (and growing) wineries from northwestern Sussex County, all the way down to the state’s southeastern-most and maritime Cape May County. This excursion of less than 200 miles represents a pretty dramatic difference in climate. Landlocked Sussex County sees lots of snow in its low mountain terrain that lasts deep into Spring. Conversely, Cape May County is a flat, sandy peninsula that rarely sees any snow at all.

The Hills of Hunterdon County are both geographically and characteristically a midpoint between these two extremes within The Garden State: softly undulating green hills that see only a moderate amount of snow, with a deep, and well-drained mix of silt, stones, and loam with a hard basalt base that is especially well suited (very surprisingly to most) to viticulture. The history of winemaking in New Jersey goes all the way back to 1767, but a full understanding of the state’s various terroirs, and what varieties perform best in them, is just coming to be understood.

Wineries around the state are working with everything from Albarino and Viognier to Sangiovese and Lemberger. All, some, or none of these varieties might eventually prove their suitability to various sites around the state, but some of the varieties that I’ve found clearly do well specifically in the Hunterdon Hills are Pinots: especially Grigio and Noir. Tonight’s wine was one of the former. “Look out Burgundy and Oregon!” he wrote only half joking…

In a whirl of seasonal, New World ingredients, and a good feel for what would pair well with this Pinot Grigio (and it is a Pinot Grigio rather than a Pinot Gris if you know what I mean…)  I made a potato salad with hard-boiled egg, mayo, scallions, yellow peppers, parsley, pickles, mustard, etc. on a bed of baby arugula, and then a stew of  andouille sausage with pinto beans, roasted corn, grape tomatoes, herbs, etc.

 

Unionville Vineyards New Jersey Pinot Grigio 2011  

Very bright pale gold color. Clean and complex nose of pear, yellow cherry, and lime fruit, followed by lychee nut, Gruyere cheese, mint and white roses. The body of the wine is medium-full with a fairly rich, soft, easy-going, and round texture that is very nicely balanced by a fresh acidity and taut minerality that frames very “natural” spicy, white peach and ground berry fruit flavors. Nice, subtle grapefruit finish.

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