My husband and I recently took a trip to Montague, NJ (about an hour’s drive from Verona) and visited Westfall Winery. The drive west was amazing. The rolling hills, open space, neighborhood craft stores, produce markets, and farms create a feeling of being in what my mother would call “God’s country.”
I could tell you about the picturesque view and the feeling of total peace and solitude of being at Westfall, but that would make it sound like any other winery or farm in northwestern New Jersey. What I loved experiencing was the warmth. The rustic walls of the main tasting room, the sun on my shoulders as I walked around, the small lakes where kids can fish and bass swim freely. Beyond all of that and beyond the picnic area, lies a path, a walking path. I suppose you could drive it, but that would take away from the experience. This path leads away from the farm and up into the mountains. It goes over Bette’s Bridge and eventually about a quarter mile up the hill continues to Bette’s Bench. Beyond that, is Bette’s final resting place.
Bette and her husband kept the farm going, poured their heart and soul into it, and it is still the place to be for Thanksgiving dinner. Bette’s four children are now all partner/owners of the farm but the winery is in the hands of Bette’s youngest son, Loren. He’s only up here in the summer months because he has another winery in Hilton Head, S.C. I can tell you this: You’d never know that just from walking around the property. Everything is well kept and maintained and it looks as though people are living in the old farmhouse year round. This place shows warmth and history together. I experienced this warmth first hand as I was given a personal tour of the farm by Verona’s own Cardie Mortimer, older brother to wine master Loren Mortimer.
The history of Westfall is as enticing as the wines it produces. Westfall Winery was founded as Westfall Farm back in 1774; by the 1940s, it was a dairy farm with milk provided by Holstein cows. In 1966, the entire herd of cows was donated to the Bordentown Reformatory and the farm began raising Morgan horses, used primarily as work horses. Westfall continued to grow and thrive and has remained in the same family for three generations. While it is no longer home to Holsteins or Morgans, it is currently used as a boarding facility for horse owners.
In 2000, the farm morphed into its next incarnation: wine making. For the first four years, while the vineyards grew and matured, the farm offered wine-making classes. As it happens, this is a prerequisite for anyone in New Jersey looking to start a winery. In 2004, Westfall began producing its own wines. They have the usual varietals of wines, Merlot, Malbec, a Rhone blend, an Old Vine Zinfandel and Cabernet, as well as white wines, but I didn’t taste those. (I’m a red wine kind of girl.) Part of what makes Westfall unique, aside from it’s rich history as a New Jersey farm, is the fruit wine varietals: strawberry, blueberry, cranberry and my favorite of the fruit wines, Spanish Passion, which is great served cold on a hot summer night. Think Sangria without the floating fruit.
One of my other favorite aspects of Westfall was its family friendly atmosphere. Children are welcomed and encouraged to join in the family fun by running around the grounds, playing catch, feeding the horses, or just sitting on a blanket with a picnic lunch. The casual atmosphere lends itself to a family day with no television, no iPods, and no distractions other than wondering how quickly you can get to the pond in the back to do a little casual fishing. This is my kind of day trip. There are various scheduled events from spring through the fall, and they are all listed on the events page of Westfall’s Web site.
The Westfall tasting room is open Saturdays and Sundays from Noon until 5pm as is the picnic pavilion. Tasting and picnics are free as are some events, whereas others have a moderate (and I mean very reasonable) fees.