New Jersey is a tricky little state. Within an hour or so you can be hiking the mountains or sunning at the beach, walking a major city or driving through farm fields. You can even be driving through a suburb and run into a vineyard.
Tucked in the north Jersey farmlands, the tasting/barrel room of Beneduce Vineyards sits amid 10 Estate acres planted with a variety of grapes including Riesling and Pinot Noir along with some unique to New Jersey like Blaufrankisch and Corot Noir, reflecting the winemaker’s Cornell University background.
For $5 you’re offered a tasting of what’s available at the moment. ($10 includes a cheese platter with your tasting.) The five wines available to us were each impressive in their own right. The 2012 Chardonnay fermented on the lees in 60% new oak carried lively citrus notes too often stifled by winemakers looking to achieve the buttery oak flavor that has become the standard expectation of the varietal. Rather than live up to expectations, the winemakers at Beneduce found a unique balance of oak and fruit that produces a refreshingly lightweight, well structured Chardonnay.
If you, like me, are exhausted with the trendiness of Cab Sav (which, I’m beginning to believe, has unfairly become the go-to alternative to the much-maligned-by-Sideways Merlot) refresh your palate with Beneduce’s Cab Franc. The mother grape of Cab Sav, this Cabernet Franc opens with an essence of tobacco and offers up berries on the finish. Lacking the heaviness typical to a Cab Sav, this full-figured wine has a lighter mouthfeel and warm, rather than tannic nodes. This is a perfect dry red for Thanksgiving dinner.