Think outside the Napa Valley. Uncork a bottle of wine from New Jersey. Let it breathe. Enjoy the bouquet. New Jersey is the fifth largest wine producing state in the country. Wines from the Garden State have won hundreds of national and international medals as well as the respect of the national industry.
There are more than thirty wineries statewide. Forty varieties are now grown here, from Pinot Noir and Riesling in the North, to some of the more popular Italian varieties such as Sangiovese and Barbera in the South. We have everything from vinifera vines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, to French American Hybrids to Native American vines. A Spanish winery has just started planting in Lower Township, Cape May County. They will offer Albernino and Tempernio. In addition, at New Jersey wineries, you can find many excellent fruit wines including : apple, blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, cherry, plum, raspberry and strawberry; as well as blush wines, ports, spice wines, sangrias and several sparkling wines.
The temperate climate of the state, especially in the south, made New Jersey suitable for growing. However, early winemakers found the local fruit unpalatable and the imported vines failed to transplant. It took a century for the wine industry to blossom. Renault in southern New Jersey is the oldest winery, dating back to 1864.
On a sticky day in May, my roommate and I headed out to explore two local wineries that were toasted by the local media. On the edge of Hammonton (“Blueberry Capital of the World”) is Plagido’s Winery which opened to the public in 2007. Plagido Tomasello, arrived in the United States from Italy in the late 1800’s. He was one of Hammonton’s pioneer farmers. Over a century later, the original farmland became a vineyard. The winery, owned and operated by the Tomasello family, opened to the public in 2007.
As we approached the winery, neat rows of vines sprouted from sandy soil, characteristic of South Jersey. I observed, “It reminds me a lot of Italy.“ Busy parking the van, my roommate nodded in agreement. With a tooth pick dangling from his mouth Tony Bravora, greeted us. During the tour, he explained the wine making process. We stood beside huge oak barrels and stainless steel vats; some labeled Merlot, Chardonnay. We sampled several fine wines before selecting Plagido’s Choice, their signature white wine, made from the seedless Marquis grape, The wine is subtle. It starts dry but finishes sweet, Tony suggested the wine be served chilled. Wines range in price from $10.99 to $18.99 to include reds, whites, dry, sweet, semi-sweet, dessert and fruit wines.
Award winning competitions cited Plagido’s Winery were : San Francisco Chronicle, Florida State Fair Authority International, Finger Lakes International and others. Bottles showcased their medals like proud Olympians.
Do pick up a brochure that gives serving suggestions and useful information. Plagido Winery hosted a jazz and wine tasting event in late May. There is ample parking, and the winery is handicap friendly. Visit 7 days noon-5pm.
Diving north about fifteen minutes from Hammonton, we reached Blue Anchor and Sharrott Winery, the next stop on our wine tasting trail. The winery sits atop a grassy knoll overlooking thirty-five acres of rolling hills( a rarity in South Jersey). Six acres are used for planting. As we walked up the landscaped path, a lady rushed out to turn off the sprinkler system. She said relieved, “I’m glad I got here in time before you got soaked.”
I shaded my eyes from the sun. “Might not be such a bad idea in this heat.”
She smiled broadly and pointed to the empty tent set up for “Ladies Night Out”.
Eileen Sharrott, former teacher, guided us through a tour after providing us with a supply of glossy brochures. Father and son Sharrott graduated from the University of California at Davis. After completing a program in professional wine making, they opened the family business for public consumption in 2008.
Wine tasting of six samples, a souvenir wine glass and guided tour will cost you $5.00. We bought a light-bodied and dry Pinot Grigio, winner of a Gold Medal-2010 Indianapolis International and a Bronze Medal-2010 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition. Next we purchased a lightly sweet yet refreshing red wine labeled Crimson Sky, winner of Double Gold & Best in Class-Indy International, Gold Medal-2010 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Silver Medal-2009 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition. Wines range in price from $12.99 to $24.99 to include reds, whites, dry, sweet, semi-sweet, dessert and fruit wines.
Other awards include : 2010 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle 2010 and 2008-2009 New Jersey Wine Competition.
Sharrott Winery hosts many events. There is ample parking, and the winery is handicap friendly. Visit 7 days noon-5pm.
Join me when I uncork rose and sparklingly wines from the Garden State. For a complete list of New Jersey wineries check out The Garden State Wine Growers Association.
570 N 1st Road
Hammonton, NJ 08037
From Atlantic City:.
1. Take the Atlantic City Expressway North
2. Take Exit #28 ramp and go right onto SR-54 (12th St.) – 1.4 mi
3. Turn left onto CR-559 (N. Chew Rd.) – 0.3 mi
4. Keep left onto N. 1st Rd. – 0.6 mi
5. Arrive at 570 N. 1st Rd.
1. Take the Walt Whitman Bridge entering New Jersey – 7.6 mi
2. Merge onto SR-42 (toll road name changes to A.C. Expy) – 16 mi
3. At Exit #28, keep right onto the ramp – 0.4 mi
4. Once on the ramp, bear left until you reach local road – 0.1 mi
5. Bear left onto 12th Street – 1.4 mi
6. Turn left onto N. Chew Rd. – 0.3 mi
7. Keep left onto N. 1st Rd. – 0.6 mi
370 S. Egg Harbor Rd. (Rt. 561)
Winslow, NJ 08037
From the South via Atlantic City Expressway
Take the Atlantic City Expressway to exit 31, Rt. 73 North. Follow Rt. 73 North for 2.5 miles. Follow directions from Rt. 73 North.
Take the Ben Franklin Bridge, 676 East into NJ. 676 East becomes I-76 East. Continue on I-76 East. I-76 becomes 42 South. Continue on 42 South. 42 South becomes the Atlantic City Expressway. Take the Atlantic City Expressway to exit 33, Winslow/Blue Anchor. Turn left on W. Winslow Williamstown Road. Turn left on Rt. 73 north. Follow directions from Rt. 73 North.
Sidebars : Wine Etiquette
A general rule is whites with lighter foods like grilled chicken or salads, reds with steaks or heavy red sauces. Serve lighter, fruitier reds with anything else. Think outside the box when pairing wine with food. When dining at a restaurant, do not be intimidated by a sommelier or wine steward. It is their job to give advice.
You may want to get the serving ritual down pat before that important dinner date. The steward will first show you the bottle before it is opened. Inspect the label and vintage to make sure it is what you ordered. The server will present you the cork. Simply make sure it is not dried out and cracked. Then the server will pour a small amount in your glass. Check the aroma to make sure there are no strong, offensive odors.
Once you have tasted the wine, approve with a simple nod or a “it’s fine”. The server will start filling the glasses beginning with guests first and finishing with your glass.
Phone: (856) 740-4889