Sunday, January 21, 2007

Unionville Vineyards 2003 Hunter's Red Reserve Meritage

Maybe I am just a Jersey guy after all, no matter that I spent much of my youth in Connecticut or lived in NYC for more than 14 years. Or maybe, like Robert E. Lee, I cannot draw my sword against my own state. Suffice to say, I have a soft spot for the state Franklin said was like a barrell tapped at both ends (he made the point that NJ's two biggest cities were Philadelphia and New York).

Yesterday, was a cold, blustery day. The chilly wind was pressing against us everywhere we went. Wegmans. The library. The backyard. Church. It was brutal. And so, early in the morning, Dominique and I were thinking of making something really wonderful for dinner on Saturday nite to treat ourselves. Something robust and heart warming.

Our ideas differed slightly. She suggested mussels. She suggested salmon rissotto. She suggested brook trout. Now, it does occur to me that the reason my wife has stayed thin and beautiful (at least to me) is that she is better at making food choices - good food choices. Given an opportunity, I can be honest and tell you that I do not always choose the less fattening menu selection - in fact my barometer goes completely the other way.

So I pushed back. How about steaks done on the grill, Pittsburgh style? How about a pork roast? Casoule'? Finally, I prevailed somewhat. It would be a lamb roast, done with butter, salt, pepper, studded with garlic and sprinkled liberally with fresh rosemary. And instead of potatoes au gratin, we had roasted cubes of butternut squash with butter, salt and pepper. And a very nice salad of greens, cranberries, sprinkled with just a little bit of shredded broccoli and carrots and a touch of blue cheese.

What to drink? I have to admit, some pretty big names drifted across from me in the cellar....a Turley? a Hanzell Pinot Noir? a Kistler Pinot Noir? a Neibaum Coppola Cab Franc? a Pinchon Longville? or even a first growth? what should I serve?

Now, during the day, I had bought a 2003 Hunter's Red from Unionville. I put off my making my main selection for dinner, and curious to see where the Unionville Meritage had come to recently. I was so curious. I opened that as a starter wine, as both our mouths were drooling as the roasting lamb wafted through the house. The potatoes were done first...and that was t, I couldn't take it any longer. So I opened the bottle, initially to let it breath a little, but the smells coming from the kitchen invaded the house, and I was a dog in Pavolov's test.

So I got out the good wine glasses, and poured a taste of this wine from New Jersey more as an experiment than as a choice. I wasn't going to take a chance on such a good meal.

The label featured a photo of a fox hunt. Using the theme of fox hunting, a sport practiced in the Amwell Valley, Kris Nielsen and Pat Galloway, owners of Unionville Vineyards, constructed the main winery building in 1992 by renovating the historic former peach, apple and then dairy barn. The barn had been built in 1858 and expanded in 1900 and 1947. The original pegged, mortise and tendon joints connect the hand-hewed, post and beam structure and have been maintained throughout the winery building. All field stone used in the winery is from original foundations. The wishing well at the entrance is the original cistern used for livestock in the barn. I had been going to Unionville since 1994 or 1995. I consider them one of the btter wineries in the state, and are, unabashedly, among my favorites.

The 2003 Reserve Meritage is made from 72% cabernet sauvignon, 24% merlot, and 4% cabernet franc.

Dominique and I both stuck our noses in the glass after the requisite swirling around of the wine. It had legs. It also had a wonderful ruby color. And the nose was exquisite. Cherries and vanilla filled the glass. We both looked at each other? Could this be? We smelled again. Smooth and beautiful. We tasted wih great anticipation. The flavors came through. Bright and dark cherry came through, and the vanilla also showed through a little bit. And the finish was dry and ended with a touch of pucker. A delicious wine. We immediately agreed to decant the rest - we would have it with the meal and forgo one of the bigger wines - this would be excellent.

Waiting that extra 45 minutes seemed like a day-and-half. And we finally sat down. Our eight year old sons, Dylan and Dawson, has macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, and were totally grossed our by the smoldering leg of lamb and the orange potatoes. We all clinked glasses (they had milk) and we dug in. The lamb and squash were done to perfection. And now came the perfect compliment. The wine smelled even better, having had a chance to open up, and tatsed wondeful. It was an exciting moment.

New Jersey reds are really coming into their own. With Turdo and Silver Decoy, and a few others, Unioville also is now producing one of the better reds in New Jersey. I'm going to buy more and lay half of it down. But I am looking forward to some lamb leftovers today.