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.
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.
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.