A flourishing wine scene is emerging around the Princeton/Montgomery-area, offering quality wine and experiences at a fraction of the cost and effort required to travel to Napa, Tuscany, or the French Riviera.
Friday Sunset Sip & Sounds at Terhune Orchards Vineyard & Winery in Lawrence. From left: Ariel Wai of Salem, OR; Brooke and Josiah Wai of Princeton; and Bryson and Brenda Sewell of Kingston.
Montgomery played an important role in the creation of New Jersey’s wine industry, which took off after the state legislature in 1981 relaxed Prohibition-era restrictions on making and selling wine.
Operating in Belle Mead from the late 1970s until 2007, LaFollette Winery on Harlingen Road was a trailblazer that lobbied the legislature to get those regulations changed.
The 30-acre winery got its name for Mimi LaFollette Summerskill, the first woman winemaker in New Jersey. (See her book, Daughter of the Vine: A Vintner's Tale.)
Her husband, John Summerskill, became one of the early presidents of the NJ Wine Growers Association. At its peak, the winery produced 25,000 bottles of wine annually.
Mimi’s son Rick Wright, who still lives in Harlingen village, remembers the annual grape harvest became a major community tradition, as neighbors and friends helped pick the grapes. The event became so popular a waiting list was necessary, and it was featured in a 1989 issue of the Wine Spectator.
Wright says crop damage from the exploding deer population, plus persistent regulations, forced the family to close the winery. Yet he is proud to see the growth of local winemaking, which his family helped pioneer.
Above: From chapter one of Mimi's book about her Belle Mead vineyard, LaFollette Winery, which was located on Harlingen Road.
Photo below: John and Mimi Summerskill owned and operated LaFollette Vineyard and Winery, which produced small batches of Seyval Blanc white wine in Belle Mead.
Five Local Wineries
Today, there are five wineries within 17 miles of Montgomery.
UNIONVILLE VINEYARDS, 9 Rocktown Road, Ringoes
John Cifelli, general manager of Unionville Vineyards in nearby Ringoes, points to two factors in the emerging strength of Central New Jersey as a wine region — climate and proximity to wine drinkers.
“New Jersey is very similar to the Rhone Valley of France in that we have cold winters and similar rainfall patterns,” he said. “We are similar to Burgundy in
terms of our young soil.”
Unionville is the oldest local winery, going back three decades. It produces award-winning wines including its Syrah, which a critic in the James Suck-
ling organization has called “the best by an American producer.”
The Unionville tasting room is open daily and the winery often artisan markets and other events. Unionville will host the Sixth Annual Vintage North
Jersey Wine & Food Festival on the weekend of August 24 & 25. Visit unionvillevineyards.com for information. ■
OLD YORK CELLARS, 80 Old York Road, Ringoes
Also located in Ringoes, Old York Cellars has been operating for nearly two decades. Owner David Wolin attributes the success of local winemaking to the special “microclimate of the Sourland Valley,” which also provides an attractive view from Old York’s tasting room and patio.
Old York is best known for its barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Gris, and for award-winning fruit wines sold at the winery and at Wegmans. Recently, Old York opened tasting rooms at two nearby malls — Bridgewater Commons and Quakerbridge. At Quakerbridge, wine can be paired with
Spanish-inspired cuisine made freshly on site.
Old York’s tasting room in Ringoes is open daily, with live Music Under the Stars on Friday nights and special events on many weekends, such as a Maine
Lobster Food Truck night from 4 to 8 pm on Friday, August 16.
In August, the winery also has live music on Saturdays. Visit oldyorkcellars.com for information. ■
HOPEWELL VALLEY VINEYARDS, 46 Yard Road, Pennington
Owners Sergio and Violetta Neri brought the winemaking traditions of their home countries, Italy and Greece, when they established Hopewell Valley Vineyards nearly two decades ago. The winery is in Pennington, at the base of the Sourland Mountains.
They are one of the few New Jersey wineries making the classic Italian Barbera red wine, which won a gold award in the New Jersey Wine Competition in 2016.
Other award winners include: Dolce Vita, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, and Vidal Blanc, to name a few. Hopewell Valley Vineyards is open daily, with free live music Thursdays through Sundays.
They offer a menu of light fare Thursdays through Sunday, with brick oven pizza Fridays and Saturdays. Visit hopewellvalleyvineyards.com for information. ■
TERHUNE ORCHARDS VINEYARD & WINERY, Cold Soil Road, Lawrence Township
Terhune Orchards is well known to locals, offering a farm market, apple-picking, corn mazes, and country music. But Terhune also has a winery.
The return of adult daughter Tannwen to the family business led to the planting of vineyards and the start of winemaking in 2010. Today, Terhune produces grape wines such as Chardonnay, Chambourcin, and Vidal Blanc, as well as fruit wines made from Terhune apples, blueberries, and peaches.
The Terhune Wine Barn is open to visitors for tastings, Friday through Sunday, noon to 6 pm.
The Friday evening music series, Sips and Sounds, runs through September 6 from 5 to 8 pm. A Sunday afternoon music series runs through August from 1 to 4 pm. Both include live music, light fare, and their local wine, available to taste or by-the-glass. Visit terhuneorchards.com/winery/ for information.■
WORKING DOG WINERY, 610 Windsor-Perrineville Road, Robbinsville
Working Dog Winery, which began selling wine in 2004, is located about 17 miles southeast of Montgomery. Partner Mark Carduner compares the soil and geology of his vineyard to “the right bank of Bordeaux, in the commune of Saint Emilion, known for Merlot and Cabernet Franc.”
That may be why Working Dog has received the most accolades for its Cabernet Franc wine. The winery also makes wine with Syrah and Merlot grapes. At first, the winery was a fun project of several friends, but later it became a true business.
Working Dog is open Fridays through Sunday, with live music on Saturday afternoons. Wine education is a focus. Visit workingdogwinerynj.com for information. ■