Are Award-winning Wines From NJ Any Good? How They Measure Up
Sitting in front of a fire pit with some friends drinking a glass of wine is the perfect way to spend a chilly fall evening in New Jersey.
You’ll be happy to know that New Jersey’s wine crop looks exquisite this year.
New Jersey’s wine crop
The state’s wine harvest is going on right now and for some wineries, the harvest season started in August. The fruit being harvested now will be used to make wines that will be released in the future, said Devon Perry, executive director of the Garden State Wine Growers Association.
She said wineries, vineyard owners, and managers have been hard at work managing weather variabilities.
Camden County is highlighted
“But we have one vineyard, as an example, that actually Camden County has facilitated, that has its crop yield up 15% this year, so good news across the board for the Garden State,” Perry said.
She said as far as she knows, Camden County is the only county in the state that grows and harvests commercial wine grapes on county property. Perry said the Garden State Wine Growers Association is hopeful that they will see other counties adopt this because it’s a great way to keep the “garden” in the Garden State.
The County Commissioners and folks in the sustainable division of the county kicked off a celebration of the harvest at Camden County Vineyard, just a few weeks before New Jersey Wine Week.
The four other wineries from Camden County were also in attendance which included Amalthea, Sharrott, White Horse, and the soon-to-be Saddlehill Winery in Voorhees, the newest Camden County winery opening this spring with a tasting room and growing their own grapes, she said.
All of these wineries were taking note and taking interest in the Chambourcin grapes, one of the state’s signature grapes and the only grape that is being grown at The Camden County Vineyard, Perry said. The Camden County Vineyard hopes to provide their harvested Chambourcin grapes to these other four wineries for their varietals, she explained.
Awards and recognition
With more than 60 wineries in New Jersey, there have been over 100 awards won in both international and national wine-tasting competitions, like the well-known San Francisco International Chronicle Competition.
Also, over the summer, the association held the 10th anniversary of the Judgment Of Princeton International Wine Summit. During that summit, there was a double-blind tasting of international wines among members of the industry, members of the press, and public officials who wanted to celebrate. “There was not one person in the room who could distinguish between the New Jersey wines and those bottles of wine from different countries that have been very well regarded historically,” Perry said.
She added that this was fantastic for New Jersey that our wines were indistinguishable from international wines that cost hundreds of dollars per bottle.
“We’re looking at a really good year for New Jersey wine, we’re continuing to see the celebrations, and the award-winning wines are getting more attention which is terrific and well deserved by our farmers,” Perry said.
New Jersey wine climate
Perry explained that the state has a similar climate to the Outer Coastal Plain American viticultural area which is the wine region between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. The state also has a similar climate to the Bordeaux region in France. So, the Bordeaux blend is a red blend, which grows very well here.
New Jersey’s sparkling white, our Blanc de Blanc, has won awards at some wineries. That beautiful, sparkling white is exquisite with a nice finish, Perry said.
Also, the Coeur d’Est blend in the Outer Coastal Plain also rivals the Bordeaux blends in France.
What makes New Jersey’s wines so unique?
New Jersey is surrounded by fresh and salt water. There are 136 miles of beach in the Garden State. “So, what happens with our four American viticultural areas, up north you have Warren Hills so the soil and the climate are very different from all the way down south in the Cape May Peninsula, which has more sand quality to the soil, as you can imagine," Perry said.
New Jersey’s soil allows for the grapes to have personality and the variability of the weather also plays a role in the flavored profile of the wines produced in the state, she said.
While the wines in New Jersey are award-winning, the experiences are so memorable, and that’s another reason why Jersey wines are so unique.
“You can pop in your car, you don’t have to fly anywhere, you drive to a cluster of wineries that are under an hour away from one another, some are under 20 minutes,” Perry said.
NJ Wine Week
New Jersey Wine Week will run from November 13 to 19, 2023. This is a great week to celebrate wine in New Jersey, keeping in mind that we are farmers first! Perry said the state grows at minimum, three acres per winery of vines across the state to keep the “garden” in the Garden State.
During NJ Wine Week, Perry encourages residents to plan a day trip to a local winery, discover hidden gems, purchase local wines, and bring a bottle to one of New Jersey’s many BYOB restaurants, and raise a glass to Jersey wines.
There are a variety of special events planned throughout the state during this week. Visit the Garden State Wine Growers website for a list of all the winery events near you.
In a nutshell
In 2023, just a year shy of the 10th anniversary of the Judgment of Princeton, Perry said New Jersey absolutely belongs at the table with those international and national wines, whether it’s California, France, or Italy.
In fact, Italy is importing New Jersey wines now, so that should speak for itself, Perry said.
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Gallery Credit: Dennis Malloy