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TOP STORY — March 2017

Terhune Orchards has thrived since 1975 after couple’s Peace Corps stint

 

By RICHARD SKELLY
AFP Correspondent


LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, N.J. —
Gary Mount said were it not for his two daughters, who actively help him and his wife Pam at Terhune Orchards, it’s likely the new wine barn would not have been built.
“We’re lucky that we have two daughters that are in the business with us and they’re keeping us working,” he said. “That’s a nice thing.”
His daughters, Tannwen and Reuwai, he said, “have changed the way we did our farming here; when your kids are interested, it changes everything, and so we built a new wine barn instead of eventually selling the farm off, which was what we were initially thinking years ago.”
Gary and Pam, both 72, said they’re not much interested in retirement or travel, because they did a lot of traveling around the world when they were younger.
They each served in the Peace Corps after graduating from Princeton University and spent a lot of time traveling internationally.
“I wouldn’t have started the winery operation without my daughters,” he said. “Actually, I like this. I go to my college reunions and a lot of my classmates are just talking about sitting around the pool. I’m over here scratching my head, trying to figure how to make good wine.”
Terhune Orchards started in 1975 after he and Pam got out of the Peace Corps.
When they returned to the Princeton area they saw a sign for a smaller farm that was for sale.
Since then, they’ve expanded to their current 200 acres, including eight acres of grapes. They knew they wanted to be working together and working locally.
When they opened Terhune Orchards, they offered apples, peaches and pears. Today, they offer 36 different vegetables and fruits.
“Our latest crop is wine grapes,” he said.
Terhune Orchards Market is open year-round and offers fresh vegetables in season as well as baked goods, cheeses and the all-important locally made wines.
The Mount’s sell dry whites, dry reds, semi-sweet wines and fruit wines at their farm.
The grand opening for the wine barn was held Dec. 10.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Gary said in an office inside the barn. “We planted our first wine grapes in 2006.
There were a lot of permits and things we had to do. We had our first crop of wine in here in the fall. It had not been the nicest facility where we were working in the past in another barn.”
The new wine barn is heated for winter work and air-conditioned for summer time work, Mount said.
The spotlessly clean barn has perhaps a dozen imported wine fermenting barrels.
Each barrel is actually a barrel within a barrel of stainless steel to keep fermenting temperatures constant.
“We have about 12 different wines altogether. When you make your wine and harvest your grapes you ferment each variety of grape separately,” Gary said, “then, when it’s finished fermenting you can do different blends and you know what you did before and you can try slightly different approaches and when you finally get it right, that’s when you can put it in the bottle.”
Wine grapes and on-farm wineries are one are the fastest growing segments in New Jersey agriculture, and Gary said there is lots of room to keep growing.
“New Jerseyans drink a lot of wine, we know that. But only three percent of the wine they drink is made in New Jersey. So it’s not like there’s not a market out there. We have room to grow there, and if we can do a good job and come up with good wines, they’ll sell,” he said.
In 2017, the new wine barn will be used for events in winter, spring, summer and fall, Gary said.
“Right after the New Year, we bottled 170 cases of apple wine and just before that we had a white blended wine and bottled 227 cases of that, so there’s always plenty to do.”
“I like growing wine grapes, a lot. It’s very exacting and there’s a lot to it. You can have a place like this, an immaculate, top-notch facility, but if you don’t have good grapes, you’re not going to have good wine,” Gary said. “It has been a nice thing, learning to grow grapes. And I’m still learning, by the way.”