Working Dog Winery hosts twilight tour of operation
ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. — Working Dog Winery recently hosted a “Twilight Talk” and tour of the winery with some of the state’s leading wine, grape and soil experts on July 11, a hot day in central New Jersey.
Located on Perrineville Road on the border of East Windsor and Robbinsville, co-owner Mark Carduner, one of five partners at Working Dog Winery, hosted the small crowd.
The small group got to sample various Working Dog wines and listen to various experts offer grape growing tips on a short tour of the vineyards.
Fortunately for the owners who came in with the idea of starting a working winery in Robbinsville, the soil here was well-maintained by the previous farmer, who grew vegetables on the property, Carduner said.
“We’ve been blessed and had access to a wonderful, well-drained piece of agricultural land here in central New Jersey,’’ Carduner said to the group in the tasting room.
The previous farmer worked hard to ensure the soil would drain well, “so there’s very little casual water in the vineyards,” Carduner said, “and all that good drainage keeps our vineyard as dry as can be, so even after a heavy rainfall, it’s easy to walk between the rows of grapes.”
Other partners at Working Dog Winery include Carduner’s brother, Brian, also of Hightstown; Jerry Watlington of Hightstown, Russel Forman of Metuchen and Todd Abrahams of Cranbury.
After an initial planting in 2001, they were making wine by the summer of 2003, Carduner said, and their large tasting room opened in 2004.
Initially planting cabernet franc and chardonnay grapes in 2001, after expanding their acreage, the owners planted merlot, riesling, pinot grigio, sangiovese and a few other varieties.
Guest speakers on the vineyard tour among rows of healthy-looking grapes on fresh cut grass were small fruit plant disease specialist Dr. Peter Oudemans, soil fertility Extension specialist Dr. Joe Heckman and Dr. Gary Pavlis, an Atlantic County- Extension agriculture agent who specializes in grapes and blueberries. Vineyard manager Madeleine Cozine also offered up tips to control birds, airborne fungus and other pests.
“We are dry wine lovers,” Carduner said in the tasting room, “and we just wanted to make good solid dry wine.
Pavlis recommended cabernet franc and chardonnay, “and they have been, without question, our workhorses here.”
Carduner noted 16 inches of rain fell at Working Dog Winery in the summer of 2021, so the owners felt blessed they had planted additional varieties that could withstand extra humidity without a lot of resulting disease.
Working Dog Winery hosts wine tastings four days a week and hosts musicians on the patio or in the expansive tasting room three days a week.
The facility is open to a wide range of events, but children and pets are not allowed.
Partner Mark Carduner said he was pleased with the success of the meeting. Like a group of smaller farmers in one area, winery owners are no different; they recognize that farming in New Jersey can be a dicey proposition, so as a result, they help each other out.
“I think we have a great, collegial group of wineries in New Jersey. We love to help each other out. A lot of the new wineries are trying to get up and running. We welcome them out here to come and see what our vineyards look like,” Carduner explained.
“Sure we make mistakes, but now, we make a lot fewer than we did when we started. There were people who helped us 20 years ago when we were starting out, and we appreciate that. And the Garden State Wine Growers’ Association is the mothership for New Jersey. We now have 60 wineries that are members; it links us all together.”