Fall in Love with North Jersey Wineries – Sept 14 & 15

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Could there be chemistry between you and Northern New Jersey wines? Great wine making involves multiple steps – from growing to bottling – and a little bit of chemistry.  Some would say it is as much an art as a science.

To the French, good wines depend upon “terroir”, that is upon the particular locations in which they grow. Each location offers characteristic climate, soil type and topography that contribute to the quality of the grape with which the winemaker starts. That’s no surprise to winery members of Vintage North Jersey. On the north extreme of the state, the rugged hills and rocky terrain in Sussex County hosts three wineries, Cava, Ventimiglia and Westfall. A wide variety of European American Hybrids such as Frontenac, Seyval and Marquette flourish in Sussex County.

Slightly further south in Warren County there are three wineries located within a federally designated American Viticulture Area, Warren Hills AVA.  Here, well drained limestone soils are perfect for growing both French-American hybrids, such as Leon Millot grown at Four Sisters, and French vinifera such as Cabernet Sauvignon grown at both Brook Hollow and Villa Milagro Vineyards.

The “flat” lands of Hunterdon and Mercer Counties provide a sandy loam where fruit tree orchards and vineyards thrive. With slightly warmer weather, Beneduce, Unionville and Old York wineries located here successfully grow both hybrids and vinifera. In addition to growing grapes Terhune Orchards Vineyard & Winery has grown a variety fruits like apples and peaches since 1975. Their wine “Just Peachy” won the Governors Cup gold award in 2013.

North Jersey Wine Maker Making WineBut the story of great wines does not end with terroir. The winemaker must employ both science and art to produce a great wine. Georgene Mortimer of Westfall Winery uses her background in biology, geology and her PhD in Environmental Science to perfect their wines. She adds to this background enology or the science and study of all aspects of winemaking and viticulture the science of production and study of grapes.

Deneah Bledsoe of Cava Winery went from earning a degree in Biology and Chemistry, to earning a certification in viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis. Audrey Cross Gambino, a PhD nutritionist with an enology degree from U.C. Davis, blends her passion for food and favor with her scientific knowledge to make remarkably delicious wines from Villa Milagro Vineyards. Cameron Stark, winemaker at Unionville Vineyards, also formally trained at UC Davis, spent his early career under the tutelage of Napa Valley wine experts perfecting his skills and mastering the art of winemaking along with its science.

At Beneduce Vineyards, Winemaker Michael Beneduce Jr. has a B.S. in Viticulture & Enology from Cornell University while his sister Justen, the property’s Events Director, studied Agricultural Sciences at Rutgers University.

grapes at four sisters wineryBy contrast, several of Vintage North Jersey’s winemakers are truly artisans, having learned their crafts through time-honored traditions and years of experience.  Matty Matarazzo at Four Sisters was one of the state’s first wineries and continues to blaze trails with his delightful fruit and grape wines. Gene Ventimiglia learned winemaking from his grandfather. He made wine for over 30 years before deciding to offer his finely-made wines to customers. His son Anthony has become the main wine maker at Ventimiglia Vineyard.

Sometimes you just seem to fall into the winemaking business by dabbling in the art. Paul Ritter owner at Brook Hollow had a fascination with wine as a hobby wine maker for 25 years. A few grapevines in his front yard has now turned into thousands as he crafts his fine dry wines.

For Terhune it was a matter of adding grape vines to their 200-acre quality fruit and vegetable family farm. This new venture in wine making has resulted in a few award-winning wines.Visit the tasting room located in a historic 150 year old barn and enjoy award winning selection of red, white, and fruit wines.

The decision as to whether it is terroir, science, art, skill or a wonderful blending of all these attributes, is yours. As you travel along the Vintage North Jersey Wine Trail, meeting each winemaker, be sure to ask about their wine making philosophy. And as you do, sip some wine.  You are bound to fall for the wines. Stop by one of our 10 wineries and be assured you will want a second date and a third. Before you know it you will develop a great relationship with our North Jersey Vintages!

This September 14 & 15 visit the Vintage North Jersey wineries on the “Fall For Vintage North Jersey Wine Trail”. For more information on each winery and the area, explore www.vintagenorthjersey.com.

Supported in part by a grant from New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism. VisitNJ.org.

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Author:Deborah Smith, Executive Editor

Deborah Smith is the Founder and Publisher of JerseyBites.com, a collaborative website focused on food news in New Jersey.

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