David Schmeltzle's first attempt at home winemaking resulted in a foaming 55-gallon barrel of grape juice, a basement that smelled strongly of acrid fermentation, and a polite request from his wife that he find somewhere else to make wine. Instead of giving up, David decided to transform his passion for fermentation into a business concept, founding Vintners Circle as a way to teach the public to understand and appreciate wine and even craft their own.
The dedicated oenophiles at Vintners Circle commit themselves to teaching the public how to taste and assess wines with confidence. Introductory classes explain how to approach a glass of wine from swirl to sip, and the staff usually keeps a few bottles open at the stores, allowing visitors to try small samples.
Beginning with pre-pressed grapes from one of 15 international vineyards—including sites in France, Australia, and the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley—staff members can also show customers how to transform 6 gallons of juice into 28 bottles of wine in just seven to eight weeks. The process involves four major steps over that time, allowing patrons to stop by periodically and control the development of their wine through primary fermentation, secondary fermentation, clearing and stabilizing, bottling, and designing a custom label. At the end of the two months, customers leave with more than two cases of ripe, effervescent zinfandel, floral viognier, or another varietal from the 50 available winemaking kits.
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As a lifelong resident and explorer of New Jersey, Vaughn Tiedeman possesses an intimate familiarity with the region’s natural beauty and hidden entertainment gems. He started Living Adventure Tours to get folks out of the city and exploring the natural majesty of the northeast. He and his guides lead an endless array of seasonal activities such as hiking, kayaking, and hot air balloon tours during the warmer months. As winter sets in, they lead snowshoeing journeys and wine- and beer-tasting tours of the vineyards and breweries nestled throughout the scenic countryside.
Stony Hill Farms traces its origins a generation back, to when owner Carol Davis's parents bought an idyllic 40-acre plot of New Jersey farmland. Where Carol spent her childhood milking cows, customers now wander through 18,000 square feet of greenhouses and stroll past garden benches laden with ornamental plants and flowers. Carol, her husband Dale, and their children carry on the family tradition of horticulture, helping clients select a rare, treasured orchid to decorate their home, or obtain a Community-Supported Agriculture membership to fill their pantries with local, seasonal produce. Families can also bond with a wealth of fun activities, such as winding through five different mazes in the fun park.
Upon entering Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, one can immediately sense the aroma of fudge melting in a traditional copper kettle. At hundreds of locations throughout the United States, candysmiths concoct an array of treats from fresh ingredients within eyesight of perusing customers. In addition to dunking strawberries into chocolate or coating Granny Smith apples in fresh caramel, they carve out 1-pound bricks of made-from-scratch fudge for customers to take home and repair their gingerbread house’s half-eaten foundation.
After traveling to vineyards throughout the United States and Canada during wine-tasting trips, Michele and Paul Crecca realized they could show others how to make their own wine. They founded Your Own Winery to share their passion and know-how with newcomers to the world of wine.
Today, they help hobbyists produce and bottle more than 200 varietals of wine, including cabernets, pinot noirs, chardonnays, and pinot grigios. The staff will provide free samples to help students decide what kind of wine to make. It can be a tough decision, because winemaking is a six-to-eight week process that spans from primary fermentation to bottling. Each batch makes 28 bottles, and Michele and Paul even help their clients create custom labels, which have ranged from family photos and beloved pets to cherished pictures.