Saturday, August 14, 2010

Newark Star-Ledger Raves About Garden State Wines

Ultimate NJ wine tour
Published: Thursday, August 12, 2010, 6:28 AM
Newark Star-Ledger and

When I first set off to discover New Jersey wine culture, I didn’t expect to find a whole lot. Within my immediate geographic area (I live in Clifton) are several wine bars and discount wine shops that sometimes offer free tastings, but there are no vineyards — no place where I can track a wine’s humble origins, the process of vine to grape to barrel to bottle.

In the past, my husband and I always drove to upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region to get our wine fix. I didn’t think we had any other choice. But once I started researching wine spots across New Jersey, I discovered that we really had been missing out. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

This is, after all, the Garden State.

Through the course of three frantic months, we spent every single weekend traveling across all of New Jersey. We drove to the tippy-top — where small family vineyards like that of the Ventimiglias operated — and all the way down to Cape May (which had four of its own wineries, all well worth visiting). In a blur of vineyard after vineyard, our palates slowly changed.

At Four JG’s Orchards & Vineyards in Colts Neck, we salivated over chocolate sauce made with chambourcin, a French-American hybrid grape that is popular in New Jersey. At California WineWorks in Ramsey, we destemmed grapes, crushed them and added yeast, enjoying the hands-on process of making our own cabernet.

At La Griglia in Kenilworth, a restaurant recognized by Wine Spectator magazine, I fell in love with an incredibly light sparkling dessert wine.At Plagido’s Winery in Hammonton, I couldn’t help gushing over the sangria.When we visited Sylvin Farms Winery in Germania — a one-man operation — we had to run through the fields in order to find owner Franklin Salek. It was well worth it, as he then treated us to a history of the New Jersey wine business while we sampled bottle after bottle.

At Turdo Vineyards in North Cape May, we reveled in the unseasonal warmth of late last September by sipping from generous glasses of pinot noir on its outdoor patio. And at Ventimiglia Vineyard in Wantage, we tasted zinfandel straight from the barrel before sitting down to an intimate barbecue with the entire family.

By the time we made it to Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Pennington, we had to invest in a wine journal. The bottles cluttering the floor of our one-bedroom condo were all favorites, and we didn’t want to risk forgetting any of them.

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