Usually I go somewhat far from New Jersey to do that – Sonoma or Spain, Sicily or Sancerre. Yet right in my own backyard, or perhaps more correctly my front yard, there’s a winery that is remarkably technologically advanced, but also fun, charming and beautiful. Especially if you live in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, a visit to Stoutridge Vineyard is well worth the trip.
The current property of Stoutridge goes back to at least the mid 1800s, although it wasn’t always a vineyard and winery – at times it’s been a pig farm, autmobile garage, illegal distillery, orchard, even a training ground for rifle and pistol shooting. This rather eclectic history turned in another direction in 2001, when entrepreneurs Stephen Osborn and Kimberly Wagner bought the place and began returning it to its roots.
Like many other Hudson River wineries, Stoutridge is known for its hardy (and, well, hearty) whites: Pinot Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Muscat and Riesling varieties – and they do a nice job with these. Unlike other area wineries, however, they also produce northern Italian-style reds: Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Teroldego and Refosco. But most striking of all is how progressive, modern and sophisticated this winery is. You have to see it to understand, but among the highlights: The winery more than powers itself via a 2,000 square-foot solar array that covers the entire south-facing part of the roof. In fact, they’ll soon be selling power back to their local community.
Stoutridge practices what are called “slow-wine” processes, using a tiered architecture that keeps the juice flowing downward naturally. In addition to reducing energy consumption and capital equipment costs, many winemakers swear by gravity-flow techniques, believing that the less the juice is jostled and pressurized, the better. Amazingly, using tailor-made equipment including electric hoists, a single Stoutridge staffer can take a batch of grapes from crush to bottled wine.
It’s not “just” a winery. Stoutridge is also a Vodka distillery, and as you can see, these gleaming stills are impressive (let’s face it, winemaking equipment other than barrels is pretty…ugly). New York and, I think, federal law requires winery and distillery facilities to be physically separated, and here the distillery room is a world unto itself, lined with small barrels in which the vodka ages.
It’s all tied together by a beautiful farmhouse, vineyards, picnicgrounds and tasting room, so even if you’re not into New York-style wines you should consider a visit to Stoutridge.