Family, Community And Wine

Creating Handcrafted Wines By Blending Old World Traditions With New World Flair

After Violetta Neri's husband, Sergio Neri, retired in 2001, seven years after moving to Mercer County, they established Hopewell Valley Vineyards as "something new and exciting," Violetta says, a logical choice considering Sergio's grandfather, father and brother in Italy were experienced winemakers, as were Violetta's mother and grandmother, who made wine for the family.

That year, they built their family home on the property, which their children call the "Mothership."

"No matter where anyone in the family is in the world, it still somehow embraces us all," Violetta explains. Additionally, eliminating a daily commute helped the couple better balance the demands of work and family, including caring for their now-31-year-old autistic son, Davide, who lives with them.

In 2003, Hopewell Valley Vineyards opened to the public. The couple moved their baby grand piano to the tasting room, and Sergio, also a talented jazz pianist, played on weekends. The winery morphed into a full-fledged business, with the Neris expanding in 2008 into a larger winemaking room, their Main Tasting Room. Along with incorporating a stage, a grand piano and a larger bar, they added live music on weekends and expanded menu options, including their "now-beloved" brick oven pizza, and converted the parking lot into an outdoor piazza with patio tables, umbrellas and lighting. 

Known for its European-made wines created using only grapes, the winery is open year-round, offering a limited menu Monday to Thursday, and live music Friday through Sunday afternoons. Nov. 20 is their Friendsgiving event with seasonal menu. Planning also begins for their annual December holiday market.

Private events, coordinated by Jess Dalton, are accommodated in either or both tasting rooms, the outdoor piazza and under the tent (which closes soon for winter). Events, including weddings, feature homemade Italian food prepared by Sergio, also a talented chef, reveals Violetta, who enjoys their married couples returning to visit. "We have nourished some great friendships over the years, and we continue to do so," she says, adding, "Wine brings humans together in magical ways."

In 2013, the couple launched Project Autism to generate jobs for adults with autism. In 2017, the project's success led them to develop Pennington Adult Living Services (PALS), a fully-licensed nonprofit providing services to individuals with developmental disabilities, something Violetta says is "heartwarming, gratifying and greatly needed."

These days, apart from the Neris running their businesses, maintaining their wine quality, focusing on sustainability — with the vineyard being a preserved farm operated on solar panels, plus composting, reusing, repurposing and recycling — and spending time with their children and grandchildren, major expansions are on hold.

"Waking up and seeing the morning mists of the Sourland Mountains hovering over the vineyard still fills me with such gratitude," says Violetta. "I'm deeply grateful for our family and life together with all its complexity, challenges, diversity, care and love, and for our business that supports our family and offers joy, fun and a serene place for our guests to rest and escape everyday stress."

Sergio recommends pairing these wines with a traditional Thanksgiving meal:

  • Spumante Secco (appetizers): This wine's "crisp effervescence and gentle dry acidity" pairs well with roasted pumpkin, hummus crostini, gourmet cheese, puff pastries and deviled eggs.
  • Sangiovese and Rosso della Valle (turkey): With "tame tannins and balanced acidity," these wines bring forth "the delicate flavors of the turkey," providing "a satisfying and round finish."
  • Porto Rosso, Porto Bianco (dessert): Chocolate and fruity desserts work well with Porto Rosso, while Porto Bianco is perfect alongside cream and pastry-based dessert.


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