About the Author

My photo
A Jersey Girl who loves Jersey wine ...and the fermented fruits of the tri-state area.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Jazz It Up Wine Fest @ Allaire: Part 1

I've been going to Allaire State Park for various events since I was a kid, but none of them were ever quite this fun.

The Jazz It Up Wine Festival is the largest festival sponsored by the Garden State Wine Growers Association in the calendar year, boasting the attendance of over two-dozen NJ wineries.   With an estimated 300 wines to choose from, you are guaranteed to find something to suit your palate.  Dry to sweet; Euro-grape to fruit-based, this festival showcases the best New Jersey has to offer.

Aiming for wineries we had yet to visit in-person, my husband and I assayed the list given to us upon entrance.  Planting our camp chairs under a shade tree, we hit the following wineries:

Auburn Road Vineyards

The White Bottle - Chardonnay aged in steel with a distinctive green apple flavor.  Personally, I can't stand Chardonnay; that buttery oakiness that true fans desire is completely absent from this bottle, making it an especially pleasant, fruit-forward wine.

Good Karma - Now, to be honest, you can't go wrong with any dry red in the Auburn list.  If you aren't a super-fan of dry wines, the Good Karma is a pleasant compromise for you, providing the dry flavors of Sangiovese and Merlot, with a lighter feel than the traditional oakiness of red wines. 

Battleship New Jersey Red - A fantastic combination of Merlot and Chambourcin.  Today I learned that I really just don't like Chambourcin.  That being said, this smart combination allowed the richness of the Merlot to balance the sharp dryness of the Chambourcin, making this a great wine for steak or even lighter fare.

Give Peach a Chance - Drink in the scent of real Jersey peaches mixed into this white blend.  You can taste the difference between concentrate and true fruit; this blend gives you the feel of biting into a Jersey peach with a glass of great white wine.  Palatable, picnic-able, true dry wine lovers will skip it but anyone with a flair for fruit will add this to their collection in a heartbeat. 

Amalthea Cellars

Callisto Rouge - this sweet red dessert wine isn't as sweet as it is flavorful with an understated chocolate finish.  Fruit will pair perfectly with this wine - like fondue without the flame.

2009 Cabernet Sauvingnon - Have I mentioned I'm not a dry wine drinker?  Cab Sav is a beautiful way to learn exactly how complex a dry wine can be.  One of the oldest grapes in the world, Cab Sav can be rich and flavorful; it can also be the equivalent of a dry peppercorn.  Amalthea's Cab Sav has a lighter body with a complex flavor, balancing fruit and acid for a flavor-forward finish. 

Four Sisters Winery @ Matarazzo Farms

Cayuga - Normally served as a semi-sweet to sweet wine, this dry version is a surprise to the palate, compared more often to a Pinot Grigio than a sweet white.  While I was interested by the idea of a dry Cayuga (I am a strong adherent to the sweet variety) I felt like the body of the grape was stripped with barely a node to spare.

Traminette - This American version of Gewurztraminer provided a complex dance on the palate, with as many grape flavors as floral finishes.  Gewurz is an easy grape to screw up, possessing the potential to taste more like cheap perfume than good wine.  It doesn't help that the average Jersey drinker (as illustrated at the fest) has never heard of the flowery blend.  Four Sisters not only introduces a complex wine to the Jersey palate, they do it extremely well, with a solid balance of fruit and acid and nodes that tap every tastebud.  Want to grow in your wine knowledge?  Start here!

Filomena - This was our first WOW wine of the day.  A blend including the Delaware grape, this gorgeous, flavor-forward semi-sweet wine dances across your tongue the way legends impress upon your memory.  DRINK THIS WINE.

Cedar Hill Rose - A Delaware and Cayuga blend, this is a great semi-sweet balance guaranteed to please the palate of even the most discriminate of drinkers.  (Except, well, the snobs.  We don't have time for those in Jersey.)

Sadie's Apple - A late-harvest apple wine, this is dryer than you'd expect from most Jersey fruit-based wines.  Almost like apple juice without the sickeningly sweet finish, this would make a great sipping wine for Indian Summer.

Coda Rossa

Raspberry Rose - This blend of Syrah and Raspberry is a surprise for fruit-based wine drinkers.  Dryer than expected, this is a fruit-forward wine with acid tickling the tongue.

Tempesta - An American chianti.  Yes, that's right - American Italian table wine, minus the basket-bottle.  A mix of NJ Sangiovese and Cabernet, this blend starts dark and rich with a fruit-forward finish.

All gorgeous flavors, these wines are guaranteed to make you smile - provided you're seeking a complex, fruit-forward blend with enough acid to tickle your tongue and keep you coming back for more.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rose Bank Winery, Newtown, PA

Hitting a winery or two during a pleasant snowfall is rather beaucolic - as long as a few muddy potholes in the parking lot don't bother you.  And don't let them -- especially when it comes to Rose Bank Winery in Newtown, PA.

Rose Bank possesses the perfect combination of Bucks County charm (settled on land deeded by William Penn to his daughters in the 1700s) and modern winery flair guaranteed to please anyone from the first-time visitor to the wine trail wine-o. 

With over 20 wines to sample ranging from uber-dry to super-sweet, Rose Bank Winery has a flavor for everyone's palate.  Not being a dry fan myself, the most I can say of the Merlot and various Cabernet blends are that they were assuredly dry with a definite oak flavor. 

The Pinot Grigio was one of the least tannic, most clear dry whites I've ever tasted and the Riesling was a barely-sweet and light dry wine that I would definitely have at my table for a variety of meals.  The Vidal Blanc was an extremely pleasant wine that I rated 8/10 on my own personal scale with the comment, "Really nice cold" on my tasting sheet.  Again, with only a hint of sweetness, this semi-dry would be a fantastic choice for your summer dinner fare. 

Being a big fruit wine fan, Rose Bank's Summer Sangria was a special hit with my husband, the grapefruit fanatic, for its powerful citrus blend.  In fact, it is so citrus in nature that Rose Bank deserves special recognition for managing to pour a bit of Florida into every glass.  Offering a diverse selection of 100% fruit-based wines, Rose Bank's Pomegranate has a scent to die for; their Cranberry contains a mouth-puckering tart finish; their rather acidic Blueberry goes down extremely smooth.

The standouts for uniqueness in idea, taste, and finish were:

Red Raspberry - 3/4 sweet, 1/4 tart, this gem is as pleasant to the nose as it is to the palate and as worthy a choice to combine with certain foods as it is to stand alone. 

Cayuga - A gorgeous grape developed in the Finger Lakes region, this white blend is "light, sweet and crisp" ...translating into clear, cold, and full of flavor with a powerful, yet not over-powering finish.  This is the wine that becomes your best friend on a hot summer day out or a cold winter afternoon in - pair it with a light meal and let the flavors draw you in.

Blackberry - Amazingly potent, this wine is both sweet and dry with a light finish.  Unlike some blackberry wines that can be almost syrup-like, Rose Bank's Blackberry manages to offer itself as a careful dinner pairing as well as a stand-alone aperitif or dessert offering after a heavy meal.

Raspberry Secret - Like chocolate?  Like chocolate-covered fruit?  This is what Wonka would produce if he had a distillery.  Drink in rich, sweet raspberries and savor the chocolate flavor dancing along your palate after you swallow.  Amazing.  Forget cake.  Forget cookies.  This is your ultimate dessert wine.

Acai - Yes, the power-berry is now a wine.  My tasting card reads: "Wow, so different!" It's true.  Flavorful - not sweet, not tart ...simply drink and be satisfied.

Tastings come at a minimal fee, but the price is reimbursed with a minimum purchase of $30, an easy thing to accomplish at Rose Bank.  Available for weddings, life-cycle events, and religious occasions, Rose Bank is an excellent choice for that special day out and a definite place to obtain the must-haves for your own wine cellar.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

tip your hat to the Pink Lady

Renault is New Jersey's oldest winery, established in 1864 by Frenchman Louis Nicholas Renault.  Thanks to Renault's French pedigree, Renault Winery is the only winery outside of the Champagne region of France with the ability to call its champagne by its rightful name.  Located in Egg Harbor City, Renault is a hidden treasure that offers wine lovers an escape from the Garden State's daily grind, with a hotel, two restaurants, and a golf course on its vineyard grounds.

A personal favorite is Renault's Pink Lady, a sweet rose that--when well chilled--blends perfectly with any meal.  A flapper-esque woman donning a wide-brimmed hat graces the label of the semi-sweet pink concoction, evoking a lifetime of memories made floating through antique shops filled with vintage furs and couture fashions. 

Drink in the bold, light scent and you're reminded of an era when women showed up to evening events powdered, perfumed and dressed to the nines.  The taste - sweet, but not sugary.  She is a woman who knows what she wants and--even better--knows how to get it.  The precious pink dwells on your palate reminding you that prohibition wasn't merely an era: It was a lifestyle.  At first bold to the point of near tart, she decides to settle into the unsurety of the Forgotten Era, resting like roses left by Hemingway on the doorstep of a beloved who long ago moved on to another.  Finally swallowed, Pink Lady lingers on the tongue like sweet memories of days gone by. 

Fear not! Pink Lady is far from liquid ennui.  It is a pleasant jolt to the senses - a reminder that terrior is as much history as geography and that the history, once uncorked, becomes a part of the drinker's own autobiography in the making.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wine Library, Read: Bottles Only

Today I decided to browse the wine section at my local library.  Skipping over the straight up wine guides, I aimed towards books that promised more of a narrative that a "Do's and Don'ts of Wine Tasting".  The problem, as I soon found out, was that even the books promising stories of wine guides traveling through exotic European locales eventually turned into opinionated accounts of what wines were and weren't acceptable.  Only, in these instances, the ratings were based on accounts of quirky proletariat vintners who bucked the system versus the wines that rated 90+ points on the wine world's Top Ten Palates. 

It was as if these authors spent a good 200 pages saying, "Yeah, screw you, Robert Parker -- who cares if these guys make wine that tastes like raisins, they're not sellouts, so their wine is superior on principal!  HA!"  Okay, so these little working class wineries were so much better that you chose to commercialize on their stories by publishing a book ripping on the commercialization of the wine industry. 

Hey, wait a sec: Where'd that pleasant little narrative through the rolling hills of France go?

It isn't as if I'm seeking out the Eat, Pray, Love of wine writing, but when it comes to wine, I'm not looking to be told what to think or how to do it right.  Tips and hints are always welcome and anecdotes are forever enjoyable, but please, spare me the diatribe that wanders into foot-stomping territory.  The only foot-stomping that should happen in the wine world is the kind that takes place in bins full of grapes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Westfall Winery is Apple-icious...and then some

Westfall Winery became one of my favorite places when I first traveled to the area a few years ago.  Nestled in the hills of northwestern New Jersey, Westfall Farm is a beaucolic gem with a rich history dating back to the colonial era.  Lumber, produce, dairy and horses each acted as the mainstay of the farm at one time or another until 2000 when wine was introduced to the grounds.

While I will happily taste anything, fruit wines are my personal fave.  Westfall's Apple Cinnamon Wine is no exception.  While I've tasted several great apple wines (Valenzano comes readily to mind) Westfall's 100% apple blend makes a unique mark on the palate with its cinnamon flavor.  A mouth-watering perfume escapes the minute you pull the cork and lingers on the tongue for a sweet and tangy finish. 

When chilled, the apple essence fleshes out on your tongue as if you just took a bite from your fresh pick-your-own stash.  Served warm, the flavor ushers in the memory of that first autumnal chill in the air as the wine becomes a nectar with sweet and tart nodes.  No matter how you serve it, Westfall's Apple Cinnamon brings back fond memories of blissful autumn days spend breathing in fresh, crisp air and jumping on piles of colorful leaves.

Plan on bringing a picnic with you when you visit Westfall.  There is a wide variety of award-winning wines from the standard merlots and pinots to the Country Wines that highlight the fruit flavors of the region.  Reasonably priced, Westfall Winery is the highlight of the Sussex Wine Trail.

And, if you're lucky, they'll have some of their Chocolate Orange Port -- not listed on their website, but an amazingly dark and powerful dessert find when I visited in the late summer of 2010.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

let them ...drink wine

T-minus two hours-ish until Downton Abbey graces the screens of PBS viewers across the nation once more and here I sit, sipping a gorgeous Blackberry Wine from Buckingham Valley Vineyards. 

It seemed only appropriate to pull something sweet and dark for the occasion.  Apparently the series that homages the dusk of the British Empire has inspired a call for more than one sweet after dinner drink.  According to WinesfromSpain.com the airing of Downton Abbey has inspired a 15% increase in sherry sales across London.  Ironically, the spike in sherry sales has also been impacted by the opening of bars devoted to the sweet stuff.  With names like "Capote y Toros" the bars are influenced by those of a similar nature in Andalucia, Spain, the birthplace of the sweet stuff.  Not quite as popular in Jersey, Renault Winery is the only one I know of that has a sherry in their list. 

The wine of Downton, however, is most likely claret - "a now uncommon dark rose" that once was the most common wine exported from the Bordeaux region of France.  Originally a spiced red wine, claret eventually became an unspiced, dry dark red Bordeaux associated with the British upper class.  Today, French wine makers are looking to re-fashion claret as a light, sweet, fruity wine akin to its Plantagenet roots.  When it comes to Jersey, Tomasello Winery offers an American Claret, a semi-dry red table wine. 

During the Downton era, wine was a commodity of the rich.  Today, thanks to the prevalence of local wineries and the renaissance of the American wine-making industry (which has struggled to make a comeback since the repeal of Prohibition) wine is becoming as popular at middle class dinner tables as it once was in the great halls of now-defunct castles.  Perhaps, therein lies one of the greatest appeals of Downton Abbey is the understanding that we, too, can live like royalty - at a fraction of the price.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

wine is for drinking..and writing

I'm a writer who likes wine.

Don't worry - I'm not going to torture you about tannins.  I'm a writer, not a critic.  And observing and reporting has never tasted so good.

Jersey wines are my mainstay.  Just now as I typed that I imagined some reader gasping in shock and clicking off this blog, nose in the air.  But, the fact is, wine is becoming as prevalant a passion among suburbanites as it is among sommeliers.  The age of wine snobbery is over and the era of the local winery is here - especially in Jersey, where small wineries can now ship their product directly to consumers.

This blog will feature the wines I love drinking, the wineries I love visiting, and the characters and culture I run into along the way.

So, grab a glass and come along for the ride.