Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Jersey Grand Harvest Festival: A Fantastic Surprise! (NJ)

So, I went to the New Jersey Grand Harvest Festival in October in New Jersey. I was asked to speak by Nancy Painter, the publisher (along with her husband Ray) of Edible New Jersey. Edible was sponsoring the speaker's tent. I wasn't sure what to expect. It was during he busy season, and I had twenty other things going on. I wasn't sure which wineries would be there or what they would bring. Sometimes wine festivals can be a really mixed bag.
I was pleasantly surprised.
One of the first people I saw was Dr. Gary Pavalis. He's a frequent contributor to Edible and he has been the wine guy at Rutgers for many years. He has seen the New Jersey wine world explode during his tenure. He has not always been the most encouraging guy - often dissuading people from starting a winery. A little way back I thought he was a little too tough, but hey, it's Jersey! And now I see his point.
He was right. You don't need a lot of dabblers and a bunch of people who will bail out when the going gets tough. Making wine is not easy - even in the best of years. You not only need passion, you need money and knowledge. And you don't want a lot of bad wine being made giving the state's industry a bad name. Gary's done a good job of guiding people through this terrain. He believes, as all real wine people already know, that great wine is made in the vineyard. It's taken a while, but more and more New Jersey winemakers are truly starting to follow that edict, and the results are in the bottle.
Gary was very blunt. You can tell who's doing it right in their vineyard because you can taste it in their bottle. And there were a really nice number of people doing it right!

Ventimiglia had three wines I really liked.

Chestnut Run is a long time fruit wine producer. I was skeptical, but the wines were spectacular. A great surprise. Gary had recommended them, and I was wowed! Great for Thai, Chinese, or Sushi!

 Monroeville's Stillwater Red was a really amazing addition to the line-up, aged in Bourbon Barrels.

Villa Milagro had a very nice line-up of very drinkable blends.

Hopewell Valley is one of my favorite East Coast producers, and their Chambourcin did not disappoint. Always an incredible wine.

Heritage continues to absolutely impress. One of the things about going to a wine festival is that you don't always see the best wines from every winery. Heritage broke the mold and brought their best stuff. And boy was it ever impressive. A full review is for a different post. Suffice to say, Heritage has made a bold move to join Unionville, Turdo, Alba, and Hopewell Valley as a premiere winery in New Jersey and on the east coast.

Gary and his wife.

I had never had a chance to visit Sharrott so I was thrilled that they were at the event. I instantly fell in love with their wines. I tasted several wines I really liked.

One of my other new discoveries was Coda Rossa, a fabulous husband and wife team who make extraordinary blends. These wines are for serious wine lovers only! Great blends. Super wines. A great new find!

Belleview, like Heritage, took the chance on bringing their better wines. Their more popularly priced wines can be found at Wegman's, but I had not had a chance to get to the winery to taste their better offerings. Wow! A stellar line up of really terrific wines. It's clear Bellview wants to make the same jump as Heritage to join Unionville and the others at the top of the food chain. An impressive line-up of wines!




My general impression after the event was this: New Jersey wines have come a long way. Some of the best producers on the east coast now reside in New Jersey. Unionville, Turdo, Alba, Heritage, Bellville, Coda Rossa, Beneduce, are all making spectacular wines And there are a great number of very good wines as well.
If you live in New Jersey and aren't trying the local wines - you're ignorant. End of conversation. There are some terrific wines in the state. You really need to get into the tasting rooms and try some wines. I wouldn't steer you wrong.