I had the pleasure of having dinner recently with the Estate Director (otherwise known as the CEO) of Newton Vineyards at Ursino Restaurant in Union, New Jersey. The theme of the dinner was “unfiltered flavors.” The wines were unfined and unfiltered and the menu was farm-to-table (unfiltered by middle men).
Matt Wood, the CEO of Newton Vineyards explained to me that the grapes for their unfiltered wines are hand harvested early in the morning. They are kept at 52F and destemmed (by machine) and then sent through an optical sorter to purge any subpar grapes.
The evening’s hor d’oeuvres were served with the Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay 2011. The grapes are sourced from Newton’s Vineyards in Carneros (the Napa side) and use indigenous yeasts to achieve alcoholic fermentation. The wine is 100% barrel fermented (only 30% new oak), and the wine rests in the French oak for 16 months with constant batonnage (stirring of the spent yeast cells helps achieve a creamy texture).
The wine was delicious. It showed lovely, soft fruit flavors of baked apple, peach and melon, creamy texture and excellent structure (acid). There were also honeysuckle, soft spices and vanilla notes. It was compelling, making you want to keep going back for more.
The wine was paired with:
· Nantucket Bay scallop ceviche in a cream of sweet pea, kumquat, avocado and bacon.
· Crispy truffle risotto with aged parmesan and red pepper emulsion
· Mushroom crostini with crème fraiche, chive and sherry
An interesting aside is that the 1990 vintage of this wine was released as the first unfiltered Chardonnay in the United States. The company’s first vintage was 1982.
The first seated course of spice venison carpaccio with sunchoke relish, pickled cranberries, capers and buttom mushroom emulsion was paired with the Newton Unfiltered Merlot 2011. The grapes for this wine come from Newton’s vineyards on the hillsides of Spring Mountain. The wine had a nose of lush red fruit, and a nice tannic structure on the palate. A long finish and lovely acidity made for a great pairing.
The second course of seared pork flat iron with Katamala olive tapenade, pistachio and faro paired stunningly with the Newton Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. The grapes for this wine also come from Newton’s vineyards on Spring Mountain. The nose was filled with sweet red fruit and the palate followed through. I was surprised that the wine showed less tannin than the Merlot, but that was part of why the pork (au jus) paired so beautifully with it.
Finally, Newton’s The Puzzle 2010 was paired with pastrami-cured short ribs with pickled white cabbage, Gryere, pumpernickel and celery. The Puzzle is their flagship wine, and the varietal composition changes with the vintages. Chris Millard, the winemaker, selects fruit from 112 separate vineyard blocks and vinifies each separately. This vintage was made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec grapes. It’s a big bold wine that could use a little time or serious decanting to open up and really show its stuff. It is available for $85 at Sherry-Lehmann.
The wines can be found at the following New York City retailers among others: