I set out from my home in Glassboro to meet with Dustin, the manager of Bellview Winery and soon to be owner of Cedar Rose Vineyards . As I drive just a bit further from home, more and more housing developments turn into farmland. When vast stretches of farms turn into acres of vineyards I know I’m close. It is 8:00 in the morning, before the winery opens. I am surprised at the size of the winery, it reminding me of a small country home rather than a large functional winery. I pull into the gravel lot, open my car door, and gather my belongings. I hear someone walking up. “Hi, Toni right?” I drop my pad and pencil into my oversized purse, fling it over my shoulder, and shake with the same hand.
We began with getting to know each other. Dustin told me he is the vineyard manager since August 2011 and studied horticulture at Clemson University. I told him I was a grad student doing research for an article on wineries in South Jersey. We pretty much hit on all the topics I wanted to cover in my pre-interview and Dustin added much more commentary in certain places than I was expecting. For example he mentioned a blind taste test of Jersey wines versus French wines called the Judgment of Princeton. Through my reading I was familiar with the Judgment of Paris whereby Californian wines beat out their French counterparts thereby putting California on the map for wine. I was only partly familiar with the Judgment of Princeton and am glad I asked Dr. Pavlis, in the emailed interview, more about it. When we were discussing the topic of what it is like growing grapes in NJ, he explained how hot and dry is the best because too much rain causes the grapes to soak up water diluting the flavor. This was something I hadn’t learned through any of my readings and I was fascinated. At the end of the interview he said he had two Cabernet Sauvignons, one from 2010, a good year for them, and one from 2001. “I know it’s early as hell, but would you like to taste the difference between an aged wine and a young wine?” The topic of young wine had come up in the midst of our conversation. There I sat at 8:45 in the morning sipping wine thinking this research thing is not too bad. I could taste the fruitiness of the young wine and the olive taste of the older wine, which made me feel like a true wino. Not a bad start to a morning.
As I reflect on the entire process I can say that certain aspects met my expectations and others did not. In my pre-interview I said how I wanted the interviewee to be an active participant and I felt the way to do that was to ask engaging questions. Like Narayan and George write in Chapter 7 of Postmodern Interviewing as we reflect we may notice that we asked too many yes or no questions. I feel that I asked engaging questions eliciting an active interviewee. I was very conscious to not ask yes or no questions. On the other hand sometimes I let my own agenda impede the natural conversation. When I had my own agenda in mind, such as New Jersey being just as good as California for wine, I tried to steer the conversation towards that. Luckily that did not stop Dustin from saying his opinion that a 2011 NJ Cabernet Sauvignon cannot stand up against a 2011 Californian Cabernet due to the rainy 2011 season. After the interview I just now thought of asking him how you remedy too much moisture. I also want to ask him how many gallons of wine are produced each year at Bellview. I also just read in a book about NJ vineyards that it is important to protect against cold and wind in NJ. I’d like to know how they do that. I would also like to know if a good portion if their sales is through liquor stores or through the winery or through direct shipment? If I had to do the interview over again I might do less talking and interjecting and just allow Dustin to elaborate further on what he means.
My next step is to interview the manager at Amalthea Vineyards through email. I also want to interview local liquor store owners and the owner or winemaker at Cape May Winery. I’d like to see if there are some commonalities between wineries and where there are differences understand why they are there.