With family roots that extend back more than 200 years, Casola is a well-known name in Holmdel and surrounding towns as a multi-generational farm family. Expanding the family farming business to include wine-making, Joseph Casola has opened Fox Hollow Vineyards – Monmouth County’s newest vineyard where all of the grapes are grown, harvested, and hand-tended locally.
“We as a family are involved in every aspect of the wine making and it’s all done by hand,” Casola says. “We grow every one of our own grapes and they become our fine wines. We hope our passion shows, and we invite folks to stop by and not only sample our wines, but sit outside and enjoy the beautiful vistas of our vineyards.”
A man who loves animals and the land, as a boy Casola dreamed of having his own farm. He found growing his own vegetables and planting flowers rewarding, learning quickly that good tending resulted in abundance. But it is his love for family and bringing people together that comes through when he talks about wine-making.
“I loved growing up on a farm. One of the most rewarding feelings as a child that stayed with me throughout my life was growing my own vegetables and flowers. I learned if I took good care, watered and nourished my plants, I would be rewarded with an abundance that I got to enjoy, cook with my family, and share with friends and family,” Casola says. “We had farm to table way before it became a thing. Every day my mom would cook with us with produce we grew in our home garden or from what my dad was harvesting. So growing up with all these wonderful childhood memories of the farm life, I knew that I couldn’t have an office job or commute into the City. I wanted to be outside breathing in fresh air every day.”
One of five children, Casola grew up around a lot of people, family pets, and farm animals. On his parent’s farm they raised chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, cows, and horses. A visit to Fox Hollow Vineyards will often include time with Frederic, Casola’s dog, and several rescued farm animals.
“Most importantly to me growing up on a farm meant a lot of family time. We always had lots of room to play and explore. I could go to work with my dad any day I wanted to and I loved when he would plow the fields – the smell of the fresh turned over soil and playing in the cool earth with my siblings while searching for earth worms,” Casola says. “I decided that I was going to get into wine making after high school. Wine making was not something I always wanted to do. I did know I wanted to stay in agriculture and I wanted to work with my family on the farm – but I also wanted to start something new.”
Casola took his love for farming and his desire to branch out in a new direction and attended Surry Community College in North Carolina. There he learned about wine making and vineyards establishment. With the help of his parents he took the land that was once Fox Hollow Farm and turned his knowledge into a working vineyard that is producing several award winning varieties. His goal is to raise the quality of wine produced in New Jersey and to compete on the international level.
“I am really excited about some of the reds we grow, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and our Malbec. All of these varieties are proving to be excellent grapes for the Garden State and they have let me produce some really nice varietals, red blends, and rosé wines.”
As the fifth largest consumer of wine in the nation, New Jersey consumes about three gallons per person every year. Wine making is also the fastest growing type of agriculture with more than twenty farm wineries that grow grapes and produce wine in the state. The state boasts more than fifty vineyards that grow grapes and sell them to wineries throughout the nation.
“I think wine making in New Jersey has improved a lot in recent years. As more wineries have opened up, and more people have an interest in wine, there has been an increase in producing better quality wines and not just sweet fruit wines. More wineries have a focus on growing high quality grapes to produce high quality wines. We have wine associations and groups of wine makers getting together to share knowledge to improve quality,” Casola says.
Humidity and unpredictable weather are two of the biggest challenges to wine making in the state, which translates to a lot of time spent in the vineyards tending to the grapevines all year round. The other challenge is educating wine drinkers that New Jersey is capable of producing excellent quality wines.
“I am really looking forward to the Farm to Table dinners,” Casola says. “I get to put together a menu with vegetables we are growing paired with wine we are producing all here at Fox Hollow and share that experience with the customer. My family has been in Holmdel for many generations on both sides and sharing our love of the land is so important to me.”
Casola’s father’s family arrived from Italy in the early 1900s. They opened markets in the Bronx and came to Holmdel to grow produce to supply those markets. His father’s father also had dairy cows until the early 1960s. His mother’s side of the family was in Holmdel before the town had a name. His mother’s grandmother came from a farm that raised potatoes, vegetables, and had fruit orchards they farmed with horses. Several of the streets in town, such as Van Brackle, Beers, and Longstreet, are named for his mother’s relatives.
Fox Hollow Vineyards offers wine tastings on weekends with wine and chocolate pairings with chocolate created by a local chocolatier. Outside there are fire pits where patrons can sit and enjoy their wine. Music nights, Yoga in the Vineyard, Paint & Sip, and Farm to Table dinners are all in the works. The farm is also available for private events, equestrian events, and educational seminars. Visit http://www.foxhollowvineyards.com for more info.
Fox Hollow Vineyards Award Winning Wines
2017 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
SILVER, 2015 Barrel Aged Chardonnay, 2014 Cabernet Franc, 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon; BRONZE, 2015 Riesling, 2015 Field Master Blend
2016 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
SILVER, 2014 Traminette, 2014 Barrel Aged Riesling, 2013 Autumn Harvest Dessert Wine, 2014 Riesling; BRONZE, 2014 Barrel Aged Chardonnay, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Chambourcin
2016 Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine Wine Competition – East Meets West Awards
SILVER, Traminette, Cabernet Sauvignon; BRONZE, Barrel Aged Riesling, Riesling, Chambourcin
2015 Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine Wine Competition – Grand Harvest Awards – BEST OF CLASS
GOLD, Barrel Aged Chardonnay; SILVER, Barrel Aged Riesling, Riesling, Traminette, Cabernet Sauvignon; BRONZE, Chambourcin, Autumn Harvest Dessert Wine