For the most part, my definition of “refined” is drinking a craft beer with my pants on. In other words, for me, sitting at a gastro pub imbibing a beverage with my pinky out and discussing the finer points of Fantasy Baseball, without cursing every third word, is generally, as classy as I get. Now everyone knows that every rule has to have at least one exception in order to prove said rule, right. So, every now and again, I don a shirt with at least 2 buttons, slacks instead of jeans, and even take off my baseball hat to enter the wonderful world of wine. Although quite foreign to me at first, I have become somewhat of a novice scholar of wine, and it is all thanks to wine tastings and food pairings like the one I attended at The WineMakers Cellar, located at 1050 Goffle Road, in Hawthorne, NJ recently due to a Living Social Coupon that I stumbled upon.
The first thing to note about the WineMakers Cellar is that they are not a restaurant, nor are they a liquor store; they are actually a full-fledged wine making facility. With that said, they offer something that other vineyards, wineries, restaurants, and liquor stores simply cannot, the option to create your own wine from scratch. This process involves crushing the grapes, pressing the grapes, racking the wine and of course everyone’s favorite, bottling, and the knowledgeable professionals at The WineMakers Cellar will walk you through each process, imparting some of their wisdom to you along the way.
The event my wife and I attended was described as an evening of educational entertainment that will help the attendees diversify their palates in a relaxed and comfortable environment, whilst learning about wine and the wine making process. With a description such as this, I probably would have been slightly interested, but then the gracious hosts at The WineMakers Cellar also included two glasses of wine per person, live music, gourmet cheeses, crackers, hot hors d’ oeuvres, a dinner catered from Justin’s Ristorante in Hawthorne, NJ, and two bottles of complimentary wine to take home at the end of the evening. Considering everything that this deal encompassed, Zoe and I could not say no, and we bought our tickets immediately, unfortunately so did half of Bergen County so it took quite some time to acquire a table to one of these exclusive events.
Not knowing what to expect on our first adventure to the WineMakers Cellar, Kat and I drove to Goffle Road in Hawthorne, NJ. Since this establishment is on my way to work, and I pass the sign every day, I knew that the actual site of the WineMakers Cellar is somewhat clandestine, so if you plan on attending one of these events keep your eyes open as soon as you exit the highway for the small sign that will point you in the right direction. After turning into the parking lot, driving down a slightly narrow one lane, yet two-way road, we found ourselves in the parking lot of an industrial park which is the home of The Winemakers Cellar. To be honest, Kat and I caught the nervous giggles for a second or two as we arrived. But, we have learned to not judge a book by its cover more times than I would like to admit, so we did not let this establishment’s shabby exterior taint our evening’s promise.
While we slowly walked to the front door of the facility, we noticed a quote on the sign that hung above the entrance which read, “Enter as strangers…Leave as friends,” which seemed to sooth our uneasiness for the moment. As we entered the building, the small amount of apprehension that still existed in us, melted away, due to the delightful interior décor of the WineMakers Cellar. The first section of the large warehouse like structure was sectioned off from the rest of the building and decorated as a small bistro complete with its very own bar, which Kat and I headed straight for. With a glass of Red in our hands we decided to explore the expansive structure that is The WineMakers Cellar.
Our first stop was the appetizer tables where we helped ourselves to artisanal cheeses, gourmet crackers, and assorted Hors d‘oeuvres that were each better than the last one we tried. We then took our glasses of wine and plates full of food to the area of the building that was set up with tables. There was no assigned seating, and we chose a table at random to call ours for the evening. The room we were in was full of barrels of all different sizes, presumably full of wine that had been created by inexperienced folk such as ourselves under the watchful eye of The WineMakers Cellar Staff. As Kat and I talked with the newcomers at our table we were serenaded by the wonderful eclectic stylings of Jeff & Karen, which was a delightful addition to the ambiance of this event.
After finishing off our first glass of The WineMakers Cellar house blend Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc which was damn near celestial, Kat and I procured another glass of red before the presentation commenced. With our learning juice in hand, we were ready and willing to be educated. One of the experienced owners of the WineMakers Cellar approached the front of the room and began to speak to us about wine. To tell you the truth, Kat and I were expecting the hard sell approach about what The WineMakers Cellar offers but that was not the case. The presentation complete with a fancy Power Point slide show, consisted of the history of wine, the terminology that wine aficionados use, the different types of wine, the actual wine making process, and a quick and easy wine tasting lesson. I was pleasantly surprised that this educational lecture felt more like a community college course than a time share offer.
After the learning was done, our glasses were empty, which was perfect because the wine tasting was up next. We all had the opportunity to utilize the information that we had just absorbed and taste four different wines that were made on site, at the WineMakers Cellar. As we sniffed, sipped and swallowed the wines that we were given, we discussed the complex flavors of each of the tasty potions.
Just when we thought that this enjoyable and informative evening could not get any better, dinner was served. I have been to Justin’s Ristorante a few times before, and I was really excited when I heard that they would be catering this event. I was not disappointed by the tremendous spread of Italian food supplied by this often underrated local eatery. The offerings included Chicken Parmesan, Meatballs, Eggplant Rollatini, Penne in Vodka Sauce, and a hearty salad all served buffet style. As we ate this truly fantastic Italian smorgasbord, we continued to discuss the wine we had tasted throughout the evening with our table mates as if the 15 minute lesson made us wine experts.
As the night wound down and dessert was served, I thought back to the sign above the entrance of The WineMakers Cellar, and I understood why it was placed at the hearth of this establishment. We all entered the building as strangers but in a few short hours found ourselves saying goodbye to new friends. There are few things in this world that can create a bond among strangers like wine and food, and The WineMakers Cellar gets it. On our way out the door, we were presented with our two bottles for the road and exited the building with full bellies and smiling faces. After attending this event, I do believe that for a Blue Collar Foodie wine may be an option all thanks to the fine folks at The WineMakers Cellar.
Mike Arp a/k/a The Blue Collar Foodie was born and raised in Northern New Jersey and has spent most of his adult life on a relentless quest to uncover eateries that deliver white collar fare at blue collar prices. This never ending journey, combined with his passion for writing gave birth to his current food blog, The Blue Collar Foodie, which is published on both WordPress.com and The Fair Lawn Patch. This blog chronicles him and his wife Zoe’s excursions to eccentric, unconventional, and of course affordable restaurants throughout the great state of New Jersey and beyond. If you are the type of person that would rather rock a Nirvana T-shirt and jeans while eating your filet mignon then you most likely will enjoy what The Blue Collar Foodie has to say. Follow him on Twitter @Fairlawnfoodie or Like him on Facebook to keep up to date with his current gastronomic gallivanting.