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Let's hear it for New Jersey wines

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I hope it's ok to post this here rather than the wine page because most readers in the region will see it here. I have been more than pleased with the number of quality wines now available from New Jersey wineries. Unionville Winery in Ringoes and Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Penningon were my favorites in the central part of the state. Unionville has been around for a while and has gained a reputation for both excellent whites and reds. Hopewell has been around now for a few years and is run by an Italian winemaking family that havs brought considerable skill to the area, including an outstanding Barbera two years in a row. I've fooled more than one doubter with them when I've served them and not let on where they were from until after the initial tastings and reactions were garnered.

I've lately become impressed with two wineries in Cape May. Cape May Winery, which is owned by the folks who own the Washington Inn, has been around the longest and until recently was producing ok wines but nothing to write home about. But they're getting better thanks to a new winemaker, an Aussie who was previously the winemaker that made Unionville such a success. He moved here a year or two ago and his skill is showing in their pinot grigio, which is absolutely delicious, as well as the latest reserve chardonnay, which is very good. Their cabernet sauvignon and merlot have also improved considerably.

But my latest find is simply astonishing. Turdo Vineyards in North Cape May is a must try (yes, Turdo). They are producing top quality wines that are very old world in style, elegant, refined, and well structured. They've only been open for about three years and are producing about a dozen varietals, most of which are grown on site, including an outstanding pinot grigio, an excellent reserve barrel aged chardonnay and a very nice stainless chardonnay, a fabulous barbera and nebbiolo, plus very good merlot, sangiovese, syrah, and a beautiful moscato. I have tasted everything they produced twice now and have not found a clunker in the bunch. It's a small family-owned operation and the owner/winemaker is self taught and apparently does this in his spare time, as I understand it it is not his full time job. I simply cannot get over the quality of these wines. I've been to countless wineries in Calilfornia, New York, New Jersey and Virginia and rarely have found so much to like in a single winery. If you haven't been, this winery is definitely worth a drive to the end of the parkway.

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  1. The link to NJ wineries and year round events:

    1. Ellen - I will try and remember to give Turdo a chance. My experience with NJ wines however has been pretty darn bad. I'll try to keep an open mind. :)

      1. update: Ellen, the debut issue of Edible Jersey has an article devoted to NJ wines and the gold medal winners during the NJ wine competition. Your new enthusiasm for wines in our state will be greatly enhanced by the page 20 spread, "Liquid Assets."

        1. Ellen,
          I'm curious about something. Are these places producing wines made with California (or elsewhere) grapes or are these all of them NJ grapes?
          When we went to Crossings Vineyard in PA, just across the Delaware, the majority of their wines were made from grapes not grown in their vineyard, let alone PA.

          1 Reply
          1. re: brownie

            same here, NJ grown.
            I've had the same enjoyable experience with Long Island wines.

          2. I don't have as many problems with the quality of Jersey wines as I do with the QPR. For what the wineries are charging for their product, there really are none I care to purchase.

            I wish I didn't have to say that, and I look forward to the time when that will change.

            Brownie, All the Jersey wines I've tasted are made with grapes grown here in NJ.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ChefJune

              I totally agree with your price point concerns, but I'm also willing to spend a little more to eat and drink locally and support a local business as well, but only when the product is truly superior. Turdo really is better overall than any other winery I've tried in this state and is priced a bit lower than most of the other NJ producers with wines worth drinking. That's why I decided to post about it.

            2. I used to enjoy driving to Cream Ridge Wineries when I lived in NJ. Once you get past looking for the same wines you would normally look to California for, it was quite enjoyable. I remember a good Catawba and a magnificent Ciriglia (Cherry?) that had won some awards. My open mindedness was not exactly matched by my wine snob friends, however, who couldn't stand a single gulp of their Holiday Spice Wine (a mulled wine that I used to like served warm on cold days). I couldn't give that stuff away, but then again I like holiday fruitcake, so I assume I must have an unusual palate.

              The owners of the Washington Inn were a wonderfully sophisticated couple with a great menu and wine selection from what I remember, so I am not surprised that they owned a winery. It's a shame that I never got there before moving to another part of the country,

              1. Ellen, we total agree with your review and look forward to drinking more of our local NJ wines!

                We attended the recent NJ Food & Wine festival at Hopewell Valley Vineyards and tasted quite a few NJ wines. Our favorites were the 2005 Barbera from Hopewell Valley Vineyards and the 2005 Cabernet Franc from Silver Decoy Winery (Robbinsville, NJ). Both were well structured reds that compare favorably with some of our favorites from top Napa or Italy producers.

                Others may be surprised with the quality of NJ's wines: We poured the Hopewell Valley 2005 Barbera into a decanter Saturday night and servered it along with a decanted Banfi Rosso di Montalcino (similar structure). Of (8) experienced tasters, 7 preferred the Hopewell Barbera and could not believe the results!

                For now, the NJ wine industry looks to be up and coming. Most NJ producers don't have the marketing / distribution or volume to make a significant impact. Yet the next time you're considering a $50+ cabernet from Napa, it may be worth your time to check out what's being produced - down the turnpike!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Foody4life

                  I couldn't agree with you more, Foody. Unfortunately I missed the festival at Hopewell Valley a few months ago, but will definitely hit it next year. I found most of Hopewell's wines were good to very good. I picked up a case of Barbera over the summer, brought bottles to BBQ's, parties, etc., and people loved it. A quick question for other NJ food/beer/wine lovers.........has anyone tried Tomasello's from NJ & how did you like it? There's a store in Wemrock's in Freehold & I'd like to buy a bottle or 2, but want opinions first.