When people discuss winemaking and the top wine-producing regions in America, places like Napa Valley in California or the Willamette Valley in Oregon readily come to mind. But unknown to most, New Jersey has been gradually climbing its way into the limelight of the American viticulture scene. While the state is better known for its vibrant nightlife because of Atlantic City casinos and its picturesque beachfront, the unassuming state has also become a notable player in the global wine industry. Read on to discover all about winemaking in New Jersey and the best New Jersey wineries to visit when you’re there.
The History of Winemaking in New Jersey
Wine production in the Garden State dates back as far back as the 1700s and started when the British noticed that the quality of the soil was perfect for growing grapes. By the early 1800s, wine cultivation had become a booming industry — so much so that by the end of the century, wine-making was flourishing in the state, and New Jersey became a wine exporter. Much of this rapid growth was due to the fact that Master Vintner Louis Nicholas Renault used his skills to create the first-ever New Jersey champagne. However, this success would come to a temporary halt with the Prohibition of 1920, which made the production and distribution of alcohol illegal. Although Prohibition ended 13 years later, the momentum had been lost, and legislation to repeal laws that had been harmful to the state’s wine industry came at a snail’s pace.
Finally, in 1981, the New Jersey State Winery Act set the ball rolling again, albeit slowly. In 2012, the state finally got much-deserved recognition when its wines came out tops in a blind tasting with some of the most famous French vintage selections. This, and a passion for organic farm products, sparked renewed interest in wines made in the state.
New Jersey Wine Industry at Present
The renewed interest in wines made in the Garden State has turned the tide in New Jersey’s favor, and there’s never been a more exciting time in the state’s industry. Currently, the state has 55 wineries that are internationally recognized for the quality of their wines. Based on recent statistics, New Jersey is in the top 15 wine-producing states in the U.S., with the state churning out close to two million gallons of wine every year.
New Jersey Wineries to Try Out on Your Next Visit
New Jersey wineries are spread across the state and, without exception, offer exquisite wines. Many of these wineries offer tours, tastings, and a variety of wine-themed events. Here is a list of NJ wineries worth giving a try.
1. Working Dog Winery
Located in Robbinsville, Mercer County, Working Dog Winery, formerly known as Silver Decoy, is a unique winery that started planting in 2000 and opened to the public three years later. Its wine selection features innovative offerings from estate-grown grapes. Make sure you try their Chambourcin as well as their rich and decadent Blueberry wine if you’re looking for something with a more fruity taste. You can explore the winery alone or in a group, and no reservations are required. Did you know that dogs are allowed? Then again, it wouldn’t be called the Working Dog Winery if dogs weren’t allowed.
2. Beneduce Vineyards
Lose yourself in the rustic and laid-back charm of Beneduce Vineyards. Nestled in Pittstown, Hunterdon County, Beneduce Vineyards is not just a winery but an experience. The vineyard’s approach to winemaking is a testament to owner Mike Beneduce’s dedication to making quality wines that exceed expectations of what New Jersey wine can be all about. The winery has received several awards, and Mike Beneduce was named the 2022 Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year by the State Board of Agriculture. The winery’s wine selection ranges from classics like Riesling and Chardonnay to more experimental blends like their Chambrusco and award-winning Tuxedo. You can visit the winery to enjoy its weekly tastings or take the family to unwind and enjoy their Sunday picnics.
3. Chestnut Run Farm
Hidden away in the quaint corners of Pilesgrove, this winery uniquely produces only fruit wines from its specially grown exotic Asian pear, Fuji apple, and Japanese plum fruits. The farmland itself is permanently preserved and may not be used for any purposes other than farming. Chestnut Run farm is dedicated to producing hand-crafted fruit wines from its own fruits in small batches, which means that sales at the farm are by appointment only.
4. Ventimiglia Vineyard
This heritage winery uses winemaking practices reminiscent of European vineyards. Situated in Rocky Ridge Farms, Ventimiglia Vineyard opened in 2006 and, since then, has been crafting a range of truly delightful wines. The owner, Gene Ventimiglia, is dedicated to making wine using practices handed down for centuries to his father, who then taught him as a young lad. The winery is open for visits and tastings of their selection of whites and reds.
If you’re a wine lover who’s looking to tour the Garden State and discover some of its finest wines, any of the wine trails on the New Jersey wineries map come recommended. Choose the Two Bridges Wine Trail to explore vineyards in the Outer Coastal Plain American Viticultural Area. If you’re not a wine purist and you’re open to trying other beverages in addition to wine, then the Wine and Ale Trail of South Jersey will be perfect for you. Monmouth is also a great place to start your enological adventure. Try the wine trail that starts in Monmouth County and ends in Ocean County. And if you’re looking to be in the state during the Christmas holidays, then the Holiday trail, which involves building your own gingerbread house and features homemade cookies as you sip your wine, is something you should definitely try.
Wine and Dine While You Play Borgata Online
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