You go to the farmers markets every weekend and carefully select the freshest, most vibrant local produce available to you. You love going to pick apples and seeing the animals at the local orchard. You can’t imagine life without farmstead cheeses made with fresh milk from locally grass-fed cows.
So why… when it comes to wine, do we gravitate towards grapes grown elsewhere?
That question was front and center at the Spring Portfolio wine tasting held at Beneduce Vineyards last month.
Beneduce Vineyards (Pittstown), Unionville Vineyards (Ringoes), Working Dog Winery (East Windsor) and Heritage Vineyards (Mullica Hill) united under the Winemakers Co-Op to further the fine-wine movement in New Jersey. At this special spring event, there was one winemaker representing each winery to “talk terroir” and answer a series of questions related to the soil and microclimates of our diverse state.
Only when you bring four winemakers from practically every corner of the state do you truly get a picture of what wine making in New Jersey looks like. With the different elevations and varying climates and soils, each vineyard produces a different wine varietal suited to its unique situation.
Knowing and understanding the diverse land and how the vines take to the growing climate takes years to master. And the winemakers present at this event are up to the challenge. As New Jersey viticulture comes out of its infancy, these wineries are finally starting to find their groove.
Just think: How long did it take California to come into its own as a region known for its wine? Now renowned for their quality and superior wine, it was only a generation ago that California wines were not seen as peers to their French counterparts. Then came the famous “Judgment of Paris.”
George M. Taber, the only journalist at the Judgment of Paris, was present at the event to give insight into the day when California had its moment that changed its reputation forever. Writing for TIME magazine at the time, Mr. Taber was the only person in the room that had access to the list of wines being tasted.
One anecdote Mr. Taber shared was particularly amusing: When a judge lovingly murmured, “ah, back to France!” after tasting a wine he believed to be French. Mr. Taber knew he was witness to a special moment in history, when in fact, the list of wines told him that the judge had just sipped a wine from California.
Will New Jersey have a similar moment? Maybe… but maybe it doesn’t matter. My biggest takeaway from the event is that these winemakers need one thing to continue pushing forward: for you to “raise local to your lips,” as John Cifelli, Director of the Wine-Makers Co-op, says. So get out there and try these and other amazing New Jersey wineries! There are plenty of events going on this spring and summer for you to go forth and discover. And when you do find a type you like, go to your sommelier, wine shop owner, restaurant manager, and tell them NJ wines are ready for their judgment.