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.
Having spent a few weeks in the Finger Lakes, I’ve tasted my fair share of American Riesling. This German grape that favors cold climates doesn’t generally pop up much in New Jersey. Thankfully, the folks at Beneduce are breaking new ground in the Jersey wine world by introducing one of the most refreshingly brilliant Rieslings in the state. Three Windows White is everything a Riesling should be – crisp, bright, with just a touch of sweetness. It is so aromatic that you feel you’re drinking it in with one whiff, most likely thanks to the 5% Traminette topping it off. What an amazing take on two fabulous German varietals; this is where that Cornell (read: Finger Lakes) background shines through.
In the mood for a challenge to your dry red tastebuds? The 60/40 Cab Sav/Malbec blend is guaranteed to please and mystify. A full bodied Cab Sav is given superstructure with a Malbec spine creating a superhero of dry red wines. Dark and smokey with rich fruit and balanced tannin, let this one age in your own personal Bat Cave. But, if you just can’t resist drinking this luscious potion, the winemakers “won’t hold it against you.”
Chambourcin, a French-American hybrid, is the basis for Shotgun Red, a pleasantly chilled slightly sweeter (but not sweet) red wine. Chambourcin, usually abused into something dry and rather lame, is given a spark with the introduction of Corot Noir and Noiret, Cornell hybrids featuring the Steuben grape (a fruit-forward North American varietal). A summer drinking wine, Shotgun Red has berry nodes with a slightly smokey finish on the back end. From a vineyard nestled in horse country, Shotgun Red is a refreshing after-ride choice on a gorgeous sunny day.
Operated by fourth generation farmers, Beneduce Vineyards planted in 2008 and started selling in 2012. Already struggling to meet word-of-mouth demand (there is no formal advertising and they have yet to appear at one of the many wine festivals throughout the state) another 3 acres of vines are being planted this year. Their latest event, a bring your own picnic with live music titled “Group Therapy” brought 300 people to the vineyard on a gorgeous Saturday night. Hidden among the houses and farms of north Jersey, Beneduce Vineyards is the next big thing in Jersey wine.