BY DIANA BIERMAN
Torne Valley Vineyards, located at 1 Torne Brook Road in Hillburn on an historic 19th century country estate, opened their stone gates this past May and officially became the only fully functioning winery in Rockland County. The elegantly restored Victorian mansion overlooks views of the Ramapo River and 15 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Inside, you’re transported back to the rustic charm of the 1800s (with modern additions like air conditioning, of course!).
It all didn’t happen with the snap of fingers, however. Torne Valley Vineyards has been a long time coming. The property, originally built in 1875, functioned as many different services, from apartment buildings to a farm and a religious retreat. Yet, by the late 1900s, the property had fallen into a state of disrepair.
To the rescue: Brothers Jon and Stephen France, who saw potential in the run-down estate. They bought the property, uncertain what it would become, and began a gradual restoration that would take over a decade.
While Jon’s interests lie in fine wine and dining, Stephen, an accomplished jazz guitarist, finds passion in jazz music. And so began the start of their vision—a chic winery where Rockland residents could enjoy a glass of their favorite Chardonnay accompanied by live music.
With the help of David Weber, a former businessman, writer and bartender, their vision became a reality. David, now the general manager of Torne Valley Vineyards, helped to build partnerships, create an enthralling website and essentially give Torne Valley its identity.
In 2011, before the vineyard was ready, the three began holding all sorts of events, from weddings to corporate parties and family reunions. “It was important that we didn’t become just a wedding factory or banquet hall,” David explained. “We still won’t crank out two or three weddings a day, just one—we want our clients to feel special, not thinking that some other bride is getting her makeup done while you’re tossing the bouquet.”
“My goal was to create a one-of-a-kind venue that I could uniquely brand and set us apart from any other venue that did what we did,” David continued. “While there’s lots of wedding venues, you won’t get the one-on-one personalized treatment or your needs specifically catered.”
That attitude was one that contributed to Torne Valley’s forthcoming success. “Events were taking off and people were loving how we did business,” David said.
When wine was bottled in the spring of 2013, David, Jon and Stephen eagerly opened the tasting room. “And people started coming!” said David. “They loved the wine, the grounds, the property, the approach.”
Each weekend, the vineyard conducts wine tastings and provides live music. Wines tasted are both red and white and range from dry to sweet. And, if you find a wine to your liking, you can purchase a bottle and enjoy it outside while taking in the bucolic views. In addition, the recently opened kitchen can provide various cheeses, cold cuts, veggies and sandwiches to complement your vino.
“It’s so exciting to build something from nothing—to really build something that has your spirit, your soul and your personality,” said David. “People told us we were crazy, that it could never happen. And now it’s the newest jewel in the Hudson Valley!”
What’s ahead for Torne Valley Vineyards? Besides live musical entertainment each weekend, mark October 13 on your calendars for Torne Valley’s annual grape crush. You’ll have a chance to roll your pants up and stomp grapes, all while enjoying music, food, wine, sangria and craft beer. “There’s also a lot that we’re going to do that we’re not even aware of!” David said. “We’re really excited about the future.”
For further information about Torne Valley Vineyards, visit www.tornevalleyvineyards.com.