All posts by Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery

Behind the Bar Series: Rick

Rick Leiti of Cape May Point has only been on the Hawk Haven staff for two years but his interest in wine runs deep.

Leiti is originally from Delaware County, Pa., and spent a lot of his twenties working in an office. Eager for a change in scenery, he took some time off to work in Peru.

“That was where I really discovered wine,” he said.

Leiti eventually returned to the Philadelphia area to be close to friends and family. At the time he returned to the area there was a burgeoning wine scene.

“I wanted to be a part of what people were growing and learning about the industry,” he said.

He went to Auburn Road Winery, where he started working part-time in the tasting room. As he gained experience there, his interest in the wine industry grew, and Leiti decided he wanted to invest more time at the vineyard.

Eventually he increased to full-time, working in the vineyard, as a liaison between their wine retail locations, in the wine cellar, and managing the tasting room on weekends.

When Leiti met Seneca Reiley, they moved to Cape May County to start their life together (and will soon be married in Costa Rica, April 2017!).

Leiti asked the advice of the owners of Auburn Winery where they thought he should pursue he wine career locally. They pointed him in the direction of Hawk Haven Vineyard.

“The first thing that I really connected with was their amazing wine,” said Leiti. “The next thing was the vibe there. Todd and Kenna are working tirelessly to create amazing wine and surround themselves with a staff that is as passionate about their vision as they are.”

At Hawk Haven, in addition to working in the tasting room, retail outlets and working in the vineyard, he also does the winery tours.

“I love interacting with the public and educating them about all the amazing wine that is made here,” he said.

Leiti said that on the top of his list of dreams is to one day own his own winery. But for now, he is enjoying learning all he can and helping make great wine at Hawk Haven. He recently received a certificate from Wine & Spirit Education Trust and noted that there is always something new to learn.

“For the better part of my twenties, I spent so much time not knowing what I wanted to do. Then I found my passion is wine and it gave my life a direction,” he said.

When he isn’t working, Leiti enjoys relaxing with his favorite Hawk Haven bottle, Quill. 

Cheers Rick!

Behind the Bar Series: Celine

We at Hawk Haven firmly believe that you should find something to celebrate in every day, and as it is her birthday, today we are celebrating  the hat-wearing, wine-loving, people-charming Celine!

Hceline-winetastingailing from Northeast Philly, Celine met her chef husband of almost 30 years when she was still an Archbishop Ryan Ragdoll.  A graduate  of West Chester University, Celine went to work for the railroad, marketing transportation to food & agriculture shippers.  It wasn’t  long after Celine moved to Warrington, Bucks Co., PA that she  suddenly found herself facing a breast cancer diagnosis .  A mother of two little boys then, she  was determined to turn lemons into lemonade.  Immediately focusing her attention on cultivating a healthy lifestyle, she pursued her master’s in health education and her health & wellness coach certification.  Now, when Celine’s not in the Tasting Room or mingling on the crush pad, you’ll find her teaching healthy eating classes at Bucks County Community College or hard at work for a leading healthcare company.

Celine fancies herself a world traveler, and what makes her hair 35944_144287892264787_1938330_nfly back the most is following her rock star heroes around the globe to take in concerts in exotic places.  One lucky lass, she’s had the good fortune to be in Dublin, Ireland twice when Bruce Springsteen was performing.  And, as Rod Stewart’s #1 fan, she’s even traveled to Scotland to see him perform at Edinburgh Castle!

Celine achieved “rock star” status herself when she landed every college kid’s dream job!  She had the honor of strolling Sesame Street as the first Big Bird character during the Sesame Place Theme Park’s debut season.

Thrilled to become one of the cast members of Hawk Haven’s Season 5, Celine started pouring in our Tasting Room in April 2013. A desire to learn about all things wine set Celine on a path of discovery.  She toured many wineries until she found just the right mix of vino & vibe.  When she met our proprietors, Todd & Kenna, she knew Hawk Haven was the real deal!

Hats off to Celine! You may notice that she dons a hat every weekend. In fact, you'll never see her wear the same hat twice. So where does a lady keep 100 hats? In the bathtub, of course!
Hats off to Celine! You may notice that she dons a hat every weekend. In fact, you’ll never see her wear the same hat twice. So where does a lady keep 100 hats? In the bathtub, of course!

Celine’s favorite Hawk Haven bottle is any one she has on  hand to give to a friend.  She used to give fudge from the shore as her calling card; now, she loves to give Hawk Haven wines and regale friends and family of stories from the winery.

Her favorite thing about working at Hawk Haven is getting to mix and mingle with our extraordinary patrons — every person, without exception, who crosses the threshold of Hawk Haven comes seeking pleasure.  When the day is done, Celine always leaves with a smile on her face, happy to have shared her passion for wine with fascinating, like-minded people.

Her advice to other wine drinkers: “Be adventurous!  Don’t be married to one varietal.  Love the wine you’re with, but keep trying new things!  And never take yourself (or your wine) too seriously! Drink whatever makes your hair fly back!  Sláinte!”

Did you know…

Over the years, we have been collecting questions that we are often asked in the tasting room referring to wine and grapes.  We are always happy to answer your questions but have decided it would be easier for people to have some more tangible answers rather than just taking our word for it.  Without further ado, here are 11 of the most frequently asked questions here at HH…

Can you eat the grapes off the vines?                                                               No, while the grapes growing on our vines are an actual fruit that can be chardgrapesconsumed, we would like to save them to make more delicious wine.  But, I promise that each grape is just as delicious as the wine they produce! 


Is it ever recommended to chill red wine?                                                     Red wine is meant to be enjoyed at 5 degrees under room temperature to help showcase the fruits.  A cellar can provide this slightly cooler temperature, but unfortunately, not everyone has a cellar, so drinking red wine at room temperature is recommended as opposed to chilling the wine in a refrigerator. 

Do wines with screw-caps age as well as wines with cork?            Wines with screw-caps have always been looked at as lesser quality wine compared to wines with corks.  However, screw-caps were designed because wine makers were getting tired of low quality corks ruining their wines.  Some really excellent wines have screw tops because it was the wine maker’s preference.  Studies have shown a noticeable difference between wine that has aged with a cork and wine that has aged with a screw-cap but it is not necessarily a bad difference, just slight changes in color and brightness on the palate.  You might want to be the judge on whether or not you enjoy an aged screw-cap wine.

Is there a simple way to learn about and explore the tastes of wine? Learning about wine takes some time and getting knowledge from accurate sources.  We suggest opening your mind and be willing to try anything and everything to learn what your preferences are.  We also have some great wine experts here at Hawk Haven that would love to talk to you about wine and even take you on a tour of our vineyard and winery to inform you of the wine making process.  You can also follow this link to read what other sommeliers have to say to beginner wine enthusiasts. 

How do wines get their names?                                                                                A popular question we often hear is how do we name our wines?  Most of our wines are actually named from the varietal they are made from.  Grape varietals that we make as standalone wines are _mg_5825Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, Albarino, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Gerwurztraminer, and Viognier.  Those are all grapes grown here and we even have more varieties in our different blends. 

Why does red wine cause headaches?                                                        Many people believe that the sulfites in wine causes them headaches but that is just a myth.  The reason for your headaches are actually from the histamines, which dilate your blood vessels and cause flushing and inflammatory sensations.  Another headache inducing factor is the tyramine found in wine and this is what constricts your blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to rise and give you a headache.  Drinking a full glass of water along with your wine should prevent your headache from ruining your drinking! 

Which is healthier- red or white?                                                                        Both white and red wine have excellent health benefits.  White wine can improve heart and lung health and prevent heart disease.  Red wine can improve heart and lung health but also has a powerful antioxidant provided by the fermenting grape skins.  This antioxidant is called resveratrols that help prevent blood clots and protect your blood vessels. Polyphenols are another antioxidant in red wine that can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  Both have about the same calorie count of around 70-80 calories for 3-5 ounces.  Red wine seems to have a tad more health benefits, but both red and white do have notable health benefits.  So drink up, but watch out for the residual sugar levels! 

What is residual sugar?                                                                                   Residual sugar is leftover sugar from the grapes after fermentation takes place.  Sweeter wines have a higher percentage of residual sugar, while dryer wines (like ours), have lower percentages or no residual sugar at all!  Residual sugar is left when the yeast hasn’t turned all the sugar from the grapes into alcohol.  Wines can be categorized as dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, medium sweet, and very sweet from the percentage of residual sugar as well. 

Is the flavor in wine actually from different fruits?                             Some wines are combined with other fruits such as Cranberry or Blueberry.  Hawk Haven doesn’t produce any fruit wines but our grapes do offer different flavor compositions that give our wines a fruity flavor from the surrounding environment and natural causes.  Wine that is aged in our oak barrels will have more of an oaky taste and the wine will pick up aromas of cinnamon, vanilla spice, mocha, chocolate and coconut depending on the type of barrel used.  So, when you hear someone talk about the different flavors on the palate, now you know where those flavors are coming from.

Why aren’t all wines vegan?                                                                            During the wine making process, the grape juice is filtered through “fining agents” which remove yeast and cloudiness from the wine.  Often animal-derived products are used as the fining agents.  At Hawk Haven we don’t usually use animal-derived products, but it doesn’t hurt to ask next time you’re in! 

Why are their different wine glass shapes?  The shape of your wine_mg_6006 glass is usually determined by the type of wine you are drinking. has a great explanation of the difference in wine glasses.  


We hope that you found this little FAQ helpful and informative.  Now go out into the wine world with more knowledge and a better understanding of your alcohol!


The Bottling of Cabernet Franc

Empty bottles entering the mobile bottling truck
Empty bottles entering the mobile bottling truck

Just a few weeks ago on seemingly peaceful Thursday and Friday workdays at Hawk Haven, the winery was abuzz as the staff bottled a total of 14 varieties of wine. The bottling took place on a mobile bottling truck that was brought straight to our winery. As the empty bottles were loaded into the bottling line, along with the wine of course, staff was packaging the wine into cases which went onto palettes to be stored in the cellar for the next couple of months. However, before any of this could occur, the proper steps had to be taken to get from the barrel to the bottle.

At Hawk Haven, we use two different aging methods for our wine: French White Oak and stainless steel. Wine aged in our French White Oak includes all of our red wines, and few select white varietals including our Signature Series Reserve Chardonnay. The majority of our white wines are aged in stainless steel, so that all of the flavor and aroma can come from the grapes themselves. Wine aged in both stainless steel and French White Oak are pulled a month and a half before bottling to ensure enough time for proper blending and filtration.

The bottles, just after being filled, on their way to be labeled
The bottles, just after being filled, on their way to be labeled

The filtration process takes roughly two weeks and consists of multiple phases of filtering. While a panel of sommeliers at University of California Davis reached the conclusion that both filtered and unfiltered wine tastes the same after a month or so in the bottle, filtered wine is more stable in the bottle and potentially ages better. The first phase in filtration is the coarse filtering, which entails removing larger solids from the wine, like grapes husks and any remaining lees. The next phase is the polish stage, which removes most microbials that were able to get through the coarse stage. Using a special filter, we are able to perform the coarse and polish filtering simultaneously before moving onto the following stages. The third stage of filtration is the sterile phase, which catches any microbials in the wine left over from previous filtration, to ensure the wine will be at the highest possible quality. Sterile filtration must be done within seven days of bottling to be certain the wine is bottled before new microbials are able to grow.

A packed case ready to be cellared
A packed case ready to be cellared

The final stage, absolute filtration, is done during bottling when the bottles are filled with nitrogen (an inert gas which is heavier than oxygen) to ensure no oxygen is left in the bottles when they are filled with wine. This stage is very important to the quality of the wine, because oxygen left in the bottle can oxidize the wine, affecting the quality and taste, hence the importance of minimizing the amount of oxygen in the bottle during the bottling procedure.

2012 Signature Series Cabernet Fran, winner of the 2016 Governor's Cup and a gold medal.
2012 Signature Series Cabernet Fran, winner of the 2016 Governor’s Cup and a gold medal.

One wine we are particularly excited about is our 2014 Signature Series Cabernet Franc. Our 2012 vintage was submitted to the New Jersey Wine Competition where it won the Governor’s Cup, so we have great hopes for our newest vintage. As with previous vintages, our 2014 is 100% Cabernet Franc grapes and barrel aged for 18 months prior to bottling and has smooth plum, rich black currant, and baker’s chocolate. Cabernet Franc vines grow very well for us on the east coast because the climate and soil here are similar to that of Bordeaux, France. We hope you’re all as excited as us for the release of our new vintages, including our Cabernet Franc! Visit the Hawk Haven tasting room this weekend, July 16 & 17, when we will be offering a Premium Wine Tasting of these new releases.


2014 Wines that were bottled:
*Syrah (Signature Series)
*Cabernet Franc (Signature Series)
*Cabernet Sauvignon (Signature Series)
*Tempranillo (Signature Series)
*Cabernet Sauvignon

2015 Wines that were bottled:
*Reserve Chardonnay (Signature Series)
Naked Chardonnay
Flying Press Rosé

*Released July 16 & 17!

Tasting the Future: Barrel Tasting Hawk Haven Wines

Wine Maker Todd and his handy dandy wine thief.

Winter is a quiet time in the vineyard. The vines are being pruned and are enjoying a well deserved respite after a long growing season. But inside the winery walls, the winemaker and his staff are hard at work making all that grape juice into delicious wine. I managed to grab a few moments with our assistant winemaker, Lou, to talk about all that has been going on.

Stainless Steel tanks are chilled to about 40 degrees

Since harvesting last fall, the white wines were cold settled to around 40 degrees, then racked into their fermentation vessel.”Racking is a fancy wine word for moving between barrels or tanks,” Lou explains. “For the white wines that are barrel fermented, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, we use the ‘sur lie’ technique.” This is a method of aging where the wine is allowed to hang out with the dead yeast (lees), making sure to stir it up every once in a while until the desired flavor is achieved. “This way we get the full rich body of an oaked white wine but still maintain the desired elements of crisp acidity and fruitiness.”

Lou racking some wine

At that point, it’s time to age the wine. The winemaker must decide: oak or steel? For the most part, Todd prefers to stick to tradition; wines such as Pinot Grigio and Albarińo are sent to stainless steel tanks, while others like Chardonnay and Viognier are put into oak barrels. But every so often he chooses to break with tradition and experiment, like his 2012 Signature Series Barrel-Fermented Riesling, or the Naked Chardonnay which is aged in stainless steel.

Lou explains: “We do both styles of Chardonnay because we want to have a nice, crisp, refreshing wine (Naked Chardonnay), as well as a rich, full bodied wine (oaked Chardonnay).” We will soon see another variation… the 2015 Viognier. “Todd decided not to barrel ferment the Viognier this year, but rather to cold steel ferment to capture all those big fruit flavors that are indigenous to the grape.”

The wine making staff taste every barrel for "quality assurance"
The wine making staff taste every barrel for “quality assurance”

And what about the reds? After these grapes are harvested, the juice is fermented as Must, which is another fancy wine word for the grape juice, skins, and seeds all mixed together. Then they are pressed and moved into barrels. “The red wines are from the 2014 harvest, so they’ve been patiently waiting in barrel, being racked every 6 months, and finally blended for your enjoyment. Todd and I did the painstaking work of tasting every barrel to make sure the blends were just right.”

Lou’s favorite part of the job: drinking the wine!

Heartbreaking, I know. It’s not hard to see why this is one of Lou’s favorite times of the year. Tasting the wines is a big part of the job. “It’s like bread right out of the oven. The wines have a perfect balance of oak and fruit. There’s a freshness, a unique flavor. It’s not something that everyone has the opportunity to do.”

Wine Maker Todd Wuerker
Wine Maker Todd Wuerker

That is, until now. Guests at the Hawk Haven tasting room get the opportunity to share the winemakers’ experience at this weekend’s Barrel Tasting and Futures Sale. You are cordially invited for a complimentary taste of wines to come on Saturday, February 20th and Sunday, February 21st. No reservations required! These wines (listed below) will also be available exclusively this weekend for pre-order at significant discount before they are bottled and released at retail.


2008 White Port (second bottling)
2014 Quill
2014 Signature Series Syrah
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
2015 Chardonnay
2015 Signature Series Viognier
2015 Sauvignon Blanc

Discounts available on futures only:
1-5 bottles: 15% off
6-11 bottles: 20% off
12+ bottles: 25% off
Wine Club Members will receive an additional 10% off