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New Jersey Wines: Challenge Your Assumptions

paltom1 Tomasello Winery's Palmaris is now featured on the wine list of The Capital Grille, while Renault Winery's 2011 Chardonnay (unoaked) challenges your assumptions about the traditionally buttery wine.

New Jersey's Outer Coastal Plain has the same geological composition as the infamous wine region of Bordeaux, France, without the snobby undertones. And wine critics are starting to notice. Want to get in early on what promises to become the Napa explosion of the East Coast? Start drinking Jersey wines. And there's no better way to begin than by sampling some of the Outer Coastal Plain's finest at a Jersey wine festival.

Renault Winery, NJ's oldest vineyard still in operation, hosts two annual festivals that aren't to be missed: The Winter Chill and The Summer Chill. Opening their Tuscan villa hotel, ballroom, and French chateau-inspired tasting room/museum, Renault plays host to 12 of the Outer Coastal Plain's finest wineries. After gearing up with hand-crafted wineglass holders (and picking up some unique wineglass charms) from AHG Creative, my husband and I set off to do some serious sampling.

Amalthea Cellars, best known for their vinifera wines, offered a well balanced Vidal Blanc with a light mouthfeel carrying tones of melon, honey and a crisp green apple finish. Their L'uva Rosa carried the slight oak flavoring of a vinifera red without the heaviness, making this a great choice for a dry rose.

For those interested in labrusca/vinifera blends (a.k.a. American/European grape hybrids) Bellview Winery was not to be missed. Their Jersey Devil White carried all the body of the cayuga grape with the floral essence of the traminette, making for an excellent dry white table wine. Jersey Devil Red is a blend of 6 vinifera grapes that creates a truly unique and flavorful chianti style wine perfect for an Italian BYOB. Like White Zin? Try Under the Arbor for a refreshing summer blush.

Renault Winery changed our opinions of chardonnay with its 2011 Chardonnay unoaked. Steel-tank fermentation allowed the slight buttery quality traditional to the grape to linger throughout a rich mouthfeel and full bodied experience. Instead of wrestling with oak, we were invited to linger in the perfect balance of tannin and fruit.