Owner(s): Peter Leitner
Winemaker: Matt Parisi
Open to Public
Fri-Sat 12 to 9; Sun 12 to 6
54 Mt Salem Rd, Pittstown, NJ 08867
phone: (908) 735-9359
Mount Salem Vineyards Profile
Written by Brian—Jul 14, 2018
It’s always fun to stumble across a winery that’s doing something different. Mount Salem Vineyards near Pittstown, New Jersey, with its emphasis on all things Austrian, is one such winery. More importantly, they are doing it extraordinarily well. Please read on…
Northern New Jersey seems ideally suited to growing Austrian varietals. Among other factors, the climate is ideal. Despite that, it was not attempted until Peter Leitner started planting vines in 2005. Since then, others have followed suit, but Leitner led the charge. Today he grows Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, St. Laurent, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner among a smattering of other vinifera and hybrid grapes. The Mount Salem wines are produced using 80% estate fruit.
According to Leitner, his is making wine in a historically traditional method. This means that all of his wines see some oak. Wines that are done 100% in steel, Leitner pointed out, is a fairly recent technique. What this means is that many of the lighter, acidic Austrian varieties tend to display more complexity.
Native yeast is another feature of the Mount Salem wines, which is not used widely on the east coast. Native yeast can be less predictable during fermentation. When done right, however, native yeasts can produce wines that are less linear in taste profile and really open up in the mount.
That complexity was on display even in the pair of Grüners I tasted. I will say that oak was more prominent on the nose, but tended to be less obvious on the palate. If anything, it added depth without undermining the fruit and acidity that are important Grüner attributes.
St. Laurent is a grape not often encountered in the Mid Atlantic. For me, the single-varietal St. Laurent was the most interesting wine on the tasting menu. It was well constructed in a light style reminiscent of Pinot Noir. It was a very well crafted and a star of the tasting lineup.
Mount Salem Vineyards is not known as an event winery. There are a few food-driven events, but you won’t find music on the weekend and the space will not close for weddings. They choose to be known for their wine and that is as it should be.
I strongly recommend adding Mount Salem Vineyards to your list of must-visit wineries. Midway between Philly and NYC, it is an easy day trip. After you stop in, please let me know what you think.