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Franklin Lakes Native Turns To Jersey Shore For Wine Inspiration

Mary McAuley, Founder/Wine Producer of Ripe Life Wines. Photo Credit: Submitted
Clambake Chardonnay. Photo Credit: Submitted

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. -- Looking for a taste of summer in the midst of winter?Franklin Lakes native Mary McAuley, the founder of Ripe Life Wines , an artisanal food-focused small batch wine business, recommends her company's Clambake Chardonnay, crafted from grapes grown in Mendocino, CA. The grapes are picked slightly under-ripe for a tarter, citrusy flavor, then stainless-steel fermented for a clean, crisp taste, she said.

Capturing the flavors she grew up with along the Jersey Shore are a big part of her company's mantra. The Garden State's coastal cuisine is McAuley's favorite, both for the flavor and the memories it triggers.

So, when she became a sommelier after years at the International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York City, and still couldn't find the perfect wine for a clambake, the notion to create her own came naturally. The idea formulated in 2011 and was put into motion in 2013 shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit her hometown of Mantoloking. At that point, McAuley felt even more connected and grateful for her upbringing  and strived to build a brand that was inspired by the shore itself. "Think of it as sort of the Nantucket Nectars of Mantoloking ... only alcoholic!" she said.

Now dividing her time between Napa (for production) and the Eastern seaboard (for sales), McAuley said small batch wines are a growing part of the craft food movement.

"I think the wine and beverage industry is bound to follow the 'slow food' movement, or what I like to call 'The Michael Pollen' effect," she said. "Ripe Life Wines is one of the very first 'lifestyle' wine brands to be creating small-batch craft wines. That sometimes means (a) sacrificing profit opportunities and (b) making batches of wine that are not exact replicas year-in and year-out, like you'll find from mass-produced wineries.

"But I believe in this risk whole-heartedly because I think people are starting to understand, now more than ever, that food from a mass-produced agriculture chain supply doesn't taste as good, doesn't nourish them as well, and isn't as good for the environment."

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