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NEW JERSEY AGRICULTURE, WINES INTERSECT AT TERHUNE ORCHARDS by Dw. Dunphy, Jan. 2012
Mercer County farm market offers state-grown food and drink
New Jersey may no longer be dominated by farm life, but there’s still plenty to remind us why it is called the “garden state.” Independent farms have carved out a niche for themselves here.
And while the bounty of the harvest season is past, there are still plenty of reasons to drop in at a local farm market.
Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil Road in Lawrence Township, is a family-owned and operated destination with a long history. Gary and Pam Mount bought Terhune Orchards in 1975, but the facility had a rich history before that, having been run by the Terhune family for two generations prior.
Running the present operations is daughter Tannwen Mount.
“Our farm, farm store, barnyard and winery tasting room area all open and wonderful to visit this time of year,” Mount said.
Tannwen mentioned the winery's tasting room. The orchards originally only had apple and peach trees (with a few pear trees interspersed) but after her time living in San Francisco, she persuaded her father to give a vineyard a try.
"When I came back, we decided on expansion, but it came about because I came on full-time [at the Orchard]," she said. "Otherwise, they really weren’t planning to expand."
The family was not setting out to remove trees from the pre-existing space. Instead, a farm adjacent to Terhune was up for sale and, after its purchase, became the land for this new venture.
In 2003, father and daughter planted five acres of grapes, with the first crops of grapes being picked in 2009. By September of 2010, the wine was in the bottle and the Terhune Orchards tasting room was opened inside the longstanding barn, which has been a fixture of the property for over 150 years.
But how does New Jersey wine taste, you might ask? Pretty good — and that's why we've made it the subject of this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.
Why it’s Worth the Trip: The area offers plenty of things to do beyond just shopping at Terhune Orchards, but the home cooked, handmade and local products are reason enough for a stop. Sure, you can buy a Napa Valley wine from a local store, but consider the conversation starter a New Jersey-grown, pressed and bottled wine would make.
You’ll Probably Get Hungry: If you choose only to shop from Terhune Orchards instead of endlessly snacking, take a short drive and eat at Chuckles Pizza and Pasta, Amalfi’s Italian Restaurant, Masa 8 Japanese Sushi Restaurant. The historic Village of Lawrenceville also has several popular places to eat on Main Street, also known as Route 206.
While you’re in the Area: Why not go to a park? Better yet, why not go to many parks? Terhune Orchards is nearly surrounded by the Old Mill Road County Park, the Rosedale Park, and the Curlis Lake County Park, all in bucolic Hopewell; the North-West Mercer Park in Lawrence Township; and the Carson Road Woods and the historic Princeton Battlefield State Park on Mercer Road (a Revolutionary War landmark), both in Princeton. If you’re more inclined to take part in indoor activities, or still have holiday shopping to do, hit the Quaker Bridge Mall off U.S. 1, or head downtown to visit the Princeton Record Exchange, a must-stop spot for vinyl lovers.
Tannwen Mount’s father, Gary, had grown up on a large apple farm Mount Farms on Route 1 in West Windsor, but the property was sold in the early 1960s. Tannwen’s mother, Pam, grew up in Princeton on Terhune Road. Gary and Pam dated while they were students at Princeton High School. Pam went to college in Ohio, studying art and education while Gary went on to study at Princeton University, and later joined the Peace Corps.
And yet there was still farming left in his blood, so after the couple reunited, the opportunity to purchase the Terhune Orchards occurred in ’75, and everything seemed to come full circle.
With Tannwen’s return came the impetus for new ventures.
“My parents are very supportive,” she said. Terhune Orchards grows more than 35 different crops on 185 acres with almost half the property devoted to the trees of the orchards. Thirty varieties of apples, 28 varieties of peaches and seven varieties of pears make up the primary yields—and then there are the grapes.
The question was whether the buying public would be equally supportive because, even though several wineries have developed throughout the state, there is still the stigma against Jersey wine.
“People have been pleasantly surprised,” Mount said of when customers give the products a fair tasting. “There are a lot of up and coming wineries in the state producing really great wines. New Jersey has a unique soil type that’s conducive to certain varietals of grapes. They’re not as well-known, but they produce really great wines.”
Terhune Orchards is one of the few operating farms in the Garden State with a winery and tasting room. Mount said that supporting local foods and food producers has positive, far reaching effects.
“There are two parts to this. If you buy from, and support, local farms and businesses you contribute so much to the local economy. Plus, you know where your food is coming from. The shorter the distance between the farm and the table, the fresher the product. The food doesn’t have to be treated with preservatives to handle long transport routes,” she said.
The second benefit to buying local, specifically from farms, goes to the heart of Jersey’s identity.
“Keeping farms thriving helps preserve open space, and that is so important to the nature of what the state is,” she said.
FROM THE GRAPEVINE TO YOU by Gary Mount, Sept. 2010
This fall, Terhune Orchards announces its latest project--growing grapes, making wine and selling it in the old barn at the home farm on Cold Soil Road. We expect to open in September--please read on.
Farm wineries in New Jersey started with the passage of the New Jersey farm winery law in the 1970's. The law permits farmers to make wine from the fruits that they grow and sell on the farm. In addition the farm winery license can cover the selling the farm's wine at up to three other locations (now that number is expanded to six or seven).
An early farm winery is this area was Lafollette Winery in Griggstown. It was owned and operated by John and Mimi Summerskill. Terhune's became one of their three outlets and John and Mimi became good friends. They were an amazing couple, both gone now, with a vision far beyond the ordinary. And eating a meal at the Summerskill's cooked by Mimi was something not forgotten.
Time has passed and events have come full circle. In April of 2006, we planted 4.5 acres of wine grapes on our new farm on Van Kirk Road. This 65 acre farm that we purchased from Dave and Libby Johnson in 2003 has greatly increased our farming potential. Not only are our wine grapes planted there, but about 40% of the farm is devoted to organic production--mostly vegetables but now also a 2010 planting of 2 acres of organic apples (more on these in a future issue of Terhune Orchards News). The farm is known in this area as "the Johnson Farm". The Johnson's owned it for fifty years which might give some idea of how long it might be before it's called another name.
Planting and growing grapes has been an interesting venture. I like farming and am especially stimulated by the challenge of growing a new crop. I now grow about 36 different crops and have added them one or two at a time over the 35 years we have been here, "learning as you go" applying to each one.
First on the list of vineyard planting tasks is to test the soil. Besides nutrient content and percent organic matter (which greatly affects nutrient availability), there is the matter of nematodes. These soil insects, which look like tiny worms, can affect plants by either being so numerous that their feeding stunts the plant or by transmitting viruses that can completely ruin a planting with low production or vine death. Lucky for me there were none of the virus carrying nematodes in the area that I wanted to plant.
My next step was to find enough water to irrigate the new planting. Grapes do not normally need much irrigation, especially in New Jersey, but putting in the effort and money to establish a planting to have it followed by a dry summer could be devastating. This past summer, for example, could have caused a new planting to die completely without irrigation.
Wanting to find water and actually finding it are two very different things. I am, without question, very good at NOT finding water. My first two drilling attempts ended up with no water. Unfortunately, the cost of the well is the same whether water is found or not. We finally found 14 gallons per minute in our third attempt. It is not a lot, but enough to be sure that the young plants would have enough water. ( Wife, Pam says that I should stop drilling wells for a while.)
The next step in wine growing is to choose the type of grape to plant. If I was only going to grow wine grapes and was not irrevocably committed to the community where I was born and where Pam and I grew up (actually, I am the 10th generation of my family to farm in this area), then I would get out US weather and soils maps. I'd pick the best place to grow grapes and buy a farm there. But that's not the way it is. We grow and sell many other crops, we are tied to our community and our daughter Tannwen is the 11th generation farmer. I hope our grandchildren will want to be the 12th.
What to do?--We picked the best site of the land available and planted the best varieties for our area. We planted 14 different types, whites and reds, but most of what we planted were four varieties that have been shown to make good wine and which would withstand New Jersey winters--at least the winters we had when we used to have winter. The other 10 varieties we planted, only 50 to 100 vines each, are less winter hardy and some require a long growing season. So far, they have done very well. Time will tell--despite global warming, weather is very changeable and we could still get severe winters. I am happy to have my base production in the more sure varieties and will now feel comfortable in planting the others in the future.
Planting is always a time of big excitement. The spacing and orientation of the rows is critical. I got the best advice I could find, visited other vineyards and thought about my ability to handle the planting once it was established. Winegrowers are very picky about planting. Rows must be straight, spacing must be precise both across and down the row. . What--a fetish? Maybe, but I have discovered a few sound reasons to make the planting just right. For example, grapes grow differently according to their exposure to the sun and the space they have to grow. A bigger plant will mature the grapes at a different time than a smaller one. Grapes from a more vigorous vine will be different from those on a less vigorous one.
The importance of this is that it is very difficult to make good wine from bad grapes. While bad wine can always be made from any type of grape, the reverse just isn't true. The starting point has to be good grapes and one aspect of good grapes is maturity. If you think about some other crops, such as apples or peaches, it is easy to tell mature fruit during picking. Grapes don't seem to behave that way. Once they change color, they all look the same. Having a non-uniform planting can lead to immature grapes being harvested along with the ripe ones--and like I said, it is difficult to make good wine from bad grapes.
After a season of work growing the grape crop(this article is long enough already), making wine is the next step. It takes a combination of equipment(stainless) and knowledge. We started our equipment(stainless) purchasing by buying the tanks(stainless), press(stainless) and other equipment from the family of the Summerskills, as the Lafollette winery is no longer active. (ed note: "stainless"=$) The knowledge part is coming from our expanding library, from cooperative Extension meetings, and from hiring a consultant, someone who is very knowledgeable in the wine business. So far, with the interest of the next generation on the farm, five of us have been involved. Our wine is made, it is in the bottles and we are in the label approval process--approval being needed from the federal government. My friend, Pat Lyons, who I row with every day, has done remarkable work in designing our labels--just wait until you see. We are outfitting our tasting room in the old barn and hope to open in a few weeks. Our wines taste pretty good-- a couple taste very good and we even won a medal in the New Jersey competition this year.
Hoo-ray! We are on our way.
LAWRENCE GAZETTE by Joe Emanski, Thu, 01/13/2011
Terhune Orchards winery delivering on grape expectations
Lawrence Gazette featured Terhune Orchards Vineyard and Winery in cover article
As the afternoons at Terhune Orchards go from chilled to frigid and autumn turns to winter, the farm that bustles with activity and commerce through the apple-picking months typically slows a bit, until the crops start growing again in the spring.
But now that Terhune is a full-fledged winery, Tannwen Mount sees a reason for visitors to stop by the popular farm on Cold Soil Road year round
Mount is one of two daughters of Pam and Gary Mount, long-time owners and operators of Terhune Orchards. A 1998 graduate of Princeton University, she was employed by The University of California and living in San Francisco, not far from the famed wine-growing regions of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, before returning to Lawrence to work on the farm in 2003.
Around then, Mount had an idea to put some of the farm’s land on Van Kirk Road to use as a vineyard. The first crops were planted in 2005.
“I came back here thinking about having another revenue stream,” she said. “Now we’re into winter, but with the tasting room, we’re open and people can visit all year.”
It takes years for grapevines to start producing fruit fit for winemaking. Terhune’s were finally ready for prime time in September 2010.
Of the seven wines they’ve bottled so far, one has already sold out—the chardonnay. Another, the vidal blanc, earned Terhune’s first wine award, a bronze medal at the 2010 New Jersey State Wine Competition.
The rustic tasting room is in a 150-year-old barn situated a short walk from the farm store. There, visitors can buy all the Terhune wines, ranging in price from $13.50 to $17.50.
They can also sample all the wines on offer—six as of last month—for $5. (For $8, customers can take home a souvenir glass.)
In addition to the semisweet and fruity vidal blanc, Terhune was last month pouring a chambourcin, described as medium-body red with a dry and clean finish and a light taste of cherry; and their Barn Red, a blend of 75 percent Cabernet Franc and 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.
Also available for sampling was Front Porch Breeze, a blush wine, blending cayuga and seyval grapes and gaining color from chambourcin; and Cold Soil White, a traminette with a hint of riesling and cayuga. The Mounts have planted 12 varieties of grapes on the farm all told, and plan to bottle even more varieties in 2011.
They were also pouring an apple wine concocted by Gary Mount and his son-in-law, Mike Hanewald. Hanewald is married to Tannwen’s sister, Reuwai. The Mounts also have a son, Mark.
Including Terhune, there are now 34 member wineries of the Hamilton-based Garden State Wine Growers Association, situated as far north as Montague and as far south as North Cape May. Mark Carduner, a winemaker and one of five owners of Silver Decoy Winery in Robbinsville, said having more wineries in the area helps everyone.
“I wish we had 100 wineries,” Carduner said. “If you look at the areas in the country, the ones that are more successful are ones that have a certain density of wineries.”
Carduner said more wineries in the region give potential consumers confidence that there is quality product in the area, and that the wine industry in New Jersey has a future.
“Hopefully [when you visit Silver Decoy], you’re not coming to see just my winery, but others in the area,” he said.
Terhune Tasting room attendant Ellen Rogers, a resident of Skillman, said so far there’s been a good mix of both wine enthusiasts and casual drinkers. Terhune has seen some customers come with their wine passports, a program of the GSGWA that rewards wine enthusiasts for visiting all the participating wineries in New Jersey. (More information is online at newjerseywines.com.)
Tannwen and Gary have been working with a consultant as they learn the ins and outs of winemaking.
“Foremost, we’re a farm, so we know the growing end of things very well,” Mount said. “Growing grapes is similar to growing other vine crops. Now, making wine is a big learning curve. It’s very precise.”
Terhune Orchards is scheduled to be a part of the GSGWA’s Wine and Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend, scheduled for Feb. 12–13. Terhune is on the Warren-Hunterdon trail along with Brook Hollow Winery, Four Sisters Winery at Matarazzo Farms, Alba Vineyard, Villa Milagro Vineyard, Old York Cellars and Hopewell Valley Vineyards. On the Web: terhuneorchards.com.
Alexandra Yearly did some reporting for this story.
Wassail the trees Jan. 23
Wassailing is the curious English tradition of singing to apple trees in hope of guaranteeing a good harvest for the year to come, and if that sounds like fun to you, you’re in luck: Terhune Orchards will hold a wassailing party at the farm Sunday, Jan. 23 from 1–4 p.m.
The Handsome Molly Dancers are set to lead the way, dancing among the trees and performing traditional British chants to drive away evil spirits and ensure another successful crop. There will be a bonfire and marshmallows for toasting, free cups of hot mulled cider, and donuts.
“It breaks up the winter doldrums,” said Tannwen Mount. “It’s just this really fun afternoon that you don’t expect to have in the middle of winter.”
The wine-tasting room will be open as well. In case of inclement weather, contact the farm to confirm that festivities are still on. Phone: (609) 924-2310.
THE TIMES By Susan Sprague Yeske SPECIAL TO THE TIMES Friday, October 22, 2010
Terhune Orchards adds wine to its roster of local offerings
Trenton Times features cover story on the opening of Terhune Orchards Vineyard & Winery Tasting Room
LAWRENCE — When Tannwen Mount came home to the farm after working for six years in California, she had an idea.
Weekends spent exploring wineries and tasting wines in the Sonoma and Napa valleys had reminded her of her farming roots, growing up at Terhune Orchards in Lawrence. It also had taught her what she liked in wine. So she came home and asked her parents, Gary and Pam Mount, to consider expanding Terhune’s varied crops to include wine grapes.
Known for their apples, peaches, berries and field crops, the Mounts had no background in the specialized field of growing wine grapes. But Gary Mount said rejection was not an option.
“If your children are interested in your business and they have an idea, you listen,” he said. In this case, they also said yes.
With that, Tannwen became the 11th generation of Mounts to farm in New Jersey. She has taken on a variety of roles at the farm while she and her family made the six-year journey toward Terhune Orchards becoming the third winery in Mercer County and one of 39 in New Jersey.
The planning, planting, nurturing and winemaking came to fruition last month when Terhune debuted seven wines in its new tasting room in a 150-year-old barn near the farm store. The timing was deliberate; thousands are visiting Terhune during a fall family weekend promotion to pick apples, choose pumpkins and listen to music. A stop in the wine tasting room was an added bonus.
“The response to the winery has been great,” said Pam Mount. Adding wine, she said, “broadens the scope of the farm.” Now young adults who visited the family-friendly farm as children to eat apples and feed the animals are coming back to taste the wine.
Adding the winery also solved another dilemma that often hits family businesses. “One of the challenges of a family business is when the next generation comes in, being able to find another source of income,” said Pam Mount.
Wine is a growth business in New Jersey. According to the Department of Agriculture the 39 licensed wineries are a dramatic increase from 12 in the state just over a decade ago, and the Garden State ranks seventh in the nation in wine production. In first place is California, followed by New York.
In 2009, New Jersey wineries produced 1.7 million gallons of wine and the state netted $144,666 in tax revenue from the sale of locally produced wines.
While the Mounts make establishing a winery look easy, it took a lot of work. Gary, who learned to grow apples from his father while growing up in West Windsor and became an expert on growing coconuts while serving in Micronesia in the Peace Corps, has remained a student of farming. Each year he adds to and refines his repertoire and the farm’s range of crops.
But growing wine grapes is complicated, and it meant going back to school. “You buy $10 worth of seeds and $100 worth of books,” he said. Reading the books comes before putting any seeds in the ground.
“Wine grapes are a very demanding crop,” he said. “Getting the grapes right is very important because it’s critical to have good grapes to start with. You can make bad wine from good grapes or bad grapes, but you can only make good wine from good grapes.”
Sharing much of the journey has been Tannwen Mount. “It’s a whole other business,” she said. “Knowing what you like and how to make it is a big learning curve.”
Starting the vineyard coincided with the Mounts’ purchase of the former Johnson farm on nearby Van Kirk Road, which increased the farm’s total acreage to 185. The purchase “opened up a lot of possibilities,” Gary Mount said, allowing them to plant nearly five acres in wine grapes and the rest with certified organic crops.
As they planned and planted, Gary Mount spent a week at Cornell University taking a course in winemaking. He kept buying books, this time on how to make wine.
Wine vines take a while to grow, and their yield increases over time. So newly planted vines produce little juice for wine, which is one reason the grower must wait years for a return on his work and financial investment.
A professional winemaker has helped make the current wines except for the apple wine, which was crafted by Gary Mount and his son-in-law Mike Hanewald using the farm’s apples.
Daughter Reuwai and son-in-law Jim Washburn offered emotional support, the family said, helping to taste the early versions of the wines and sharing in decisions on the wine labels. Those feature common sights around the farm: the tractors that children climb on, the front porch where the family dogs sleep and one of the 100-year-old apple trees.
While a lot of work was involved, Tannwen is quick to say it has also been a lot of fun. “We always like a new challenge around here,” she said.
The challenges haven’t ended. Terhune debuted six wines made from homegrown grapes: Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Barn Red (a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon), Front Porch Breeze (a Cayuga and Seyval blend) and Cold Soil White (Traminette with a hint of Riesling and Cayuga). The seventh is apple wine. More varieties are in the works.
“We want a full range of fruit wines,” said Tannwen. Peaches, blackberries, blueberries and cherries grown on the farm would be used in future wines.
More red wines also are in the future, she said.
Also part of the future is the next generation of Mounts, their five grandchildren, who could be the 12th generation of family farmers. Tannwen Mount’s 2-year-old son, Becket Washburn, already proclaims, “I’m the farmer,” when he climbs on his grandfather’s tractors.