A short distance from the infamous kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s baby, and near Hunt’s House, where George Washington in 1778 convened the largest gathering of Revolutionary War military leaders, Unionville Vineyards is producing a single-vineyard Pinot Noir that is making its own history in the story of New Jersey wine.
Yes, New Jersey wine. If the mere mention brings visions of Tony Soprano drinking Chianti over a plate of lasagna, or college kids drinking Two-Buck Chuck down the Jersey shore, get ready for Unionville’s 2015 Pheasant Hill Pinot Noir to make you a believer in the Garden State’s wines.
Pheasant Hill Vineyard is one of Unionville’s five estate vineyards. The vineyard sits on the southern edge of the 17-mile loamy sandstone, shale, and clay ridge called the Sourland Mountains. It is home to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Mourvedre vines surrounded by rolling hills, forest, and farmland with a climate that has been likened to Burgundy. The winery itself, nearby in Ringoes, New Jersey, houses its tasting room on the second floor of an old barn that overlooks a production area, where Festival the orange and white winery cat may sidle up to you looking for a pet and maybe a piece of cheese.
According to one of Unionville’s winemaker, Stephen “Zeke” Johnson, who has been with the winery in different roles since 1998, 2015 was a good year for Pinot Noir at Pheasant Hill Vineyard. The days were warm and the evenings were cool, which is just what Pinot Noir loves. The fruit was dark and dense at crush. Unionville’s winemaking philosophy is to let the fruit and terroir speak for themselves, and it show in this Pinot Noir.
Aged nine months in mainly neutral French oak, Unionville’s 2015 Pheasant Hill Pinot Noir tastes elegant and smooth with notes of cherry and currant. Balanced with good acidity and body, it was recently awarded a score of 89 from the Wine Advocate. Only one other New Jersey wine has scored higher, but that is a story for another blog post.