Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, and you’re still trying to decide where to take that special someone for a romantic date. Let the Garden State Wine Growers Association help with their annual Wine & Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend, February 9th and 10th at participating New Jersey wineries. The trail features wine tasting and chocolate samplings from noon to 5 pm at more than 40 wineries across the state.
According to Tom Cosentino, Public Relations for the GSWGA, this a great opportunity for the wineries of New Jersey to shine. He says, “The Wine & Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend provides a tremendous opportunity to showcase the New Jersey wine industry to individuals and couples throughout the state and surrounding regions. There is no better pairing than wine and chocolate and this trail weekend allows New Jersey wineries to offer visitors a sampling of their finest wines paired with chocolates, gourmet food and delicacies, and local entertainment. By promoting our wine trails we not only allow visitors to meet and talk with the winemakers themselves and see the vineyards, but they also get to experience the unique locales of the regions, including bed and breakfasts, restaurants and shops.”
Many of the wineries are offering more than just the standard tasting for this special weekend. Tours, live entertainment, food pairings, and even dinners are a part of the wine trail experience. “It’s an opportunity to check out many wineries in one day and know that there is something special going on at each one,” remarks Kate Quarella of Bellview Winery, New Jersey’s 2012 Winery of the Year. “We’ve always enjoyed the Wine & Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend, but we are really excited about some new additions this year,” she adds. These include a customizable cupcake bar featuring The Sweet Life Bakery and the release of Bellview’s cellared 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon.
At Plagido’s Winery in Hammonton, the Wine Trail Weekend gives winemakers a chance to meet with their customers. “Guests are able to come through and tour the winery, like an Open House,” says owner Ollie Tomasello. Since he is so often out working in the vines during the year, this is an opportunity to learn what his customers like. And according to the Plagido’s tasting room staff, customers love chocolate. Look for chocolate-dipped wine bottles, courtesy of Cheryl Pirrera of Creative Customs, all weekend long.
The Wine Trail Weekend can also be an occasion for wineries to have a little fun with their guests. Sharrott Winery in Blue Anchor is featuring a special wine tasting featuring foods that “put you in the mood.” There may be more than a little tongue-in-cheek humor and certainly lots of innuendo on the Sharrott menu, but according to Larry Sharrott II, owner and winemaker, choosing to serve aphrodisiac foods this year was a no-brainer. “We wanted to try something new and fun, to give our customers an interesting experience.” He adds, “Many of our customers tell us that Sharrott wines make them feel more romantic!” Perhaps Sharrott sums up the weekend best when he quips, “Food and wine is sex you can talk about!”
If you go:
Call ahead or check the winery’s website. Many wineries charge an additional fee for special events and tastings. You may also need reservations for some wine tours or dinners.
Map out your route. Visit www.newjerseywinetrails.com for event information and maps.
Bring bottled water in the car. For hydration between stops.
Choose a designated driver.
And most importantly, have fun savoring the wonderful variety of New Jersey wines!
Jennifer Malme is a full-time mother, sometime substitute teacher, avid locavore, and enthusiastic supporter of New Jersey wines. Her lifestyle blog, Down-Home South Jersey, explores ways to live simply and eat well in and around Cumberland County. When she is not blogging, she enjoys cooking, touring local wineries, and reading. She has never met a cheese that she doesn’t like, and she especially enjoys finding new, authentic ethnic restaurants in her area. Jennifer lives in Vineland with her husband, teenage son, and very smart Siamese cat.