Beginnings and First Wineries
The Winery of Tour of NJ began with a text message. Some time around our respective graduations, my best friend from high school, Heather, sent me a text message that read, “I want to go to every winery in NJ this summer.” My response was “Cool. Sounds like fun.” Two weeks later, when I had officially returned to Cranford to begin my summer of post-undergraduate unemployment, Heather and I met up for coffee. She reiterated, “I hope you know that I am dead serious about us going to every winery in New Jersey this summer.” With that, our mission – go to the 33 wineries listed in the Garden State Wine Growers Association Passport – started.
We are now 11 wineries into the tour, which means, it is time for me to start blogging about this crazy adventure.
Our first stop (on June 5) was at the three wineries located in Sussex County.
Winery #1 – Cava Winery and Vineyards, Hamburg (www.cavawinery.com)
The very first stop on our winery adventure began in Hamburg, NJ at Cava Winery. We sampled eight wines including the Rosso Rame, a red wine aged in oak for 12 months. I was delightfully surprised by the Zincato, a chardonnay. I typically find chardonnay to taste like band-aids. But at Cava, the Zincato is not aged in oak and has hints of green apple.
The tasting room is only open on weekends and there is a $5 tasting fee.
Winery #2 – Ventimiglia Vineyard, Wantage (www.ventivines.com)
As I write this, I am sipping on a glass of the 2008 Buon Giorno from Ventimiglia.
At Ventimiglia, we had an experience like no other. Thanks to being in the right place at the right time, we were given an impromptu tour of the winemaking room. The owner, Gene, let us taste some wines that have not been bottled yet. (I wish I could remember their names.) After this unique opportunity, we tasted a few wines, including the Chambourcin, the Fratelli Ventimiglia, and the Cabernet Franc. What distinguishes Ventimiglia from the other wineries we have visited is the truly personal connection that exists between the owners and the consumer.
Winery #3 – Westfall Winery, Montague (www.westfallwinery.com)
Before we started this winery tour, Westfall Winery in Montague was the only New Jersey I had previously visited. While there the first time, I tried and fell in love with the Riesling. Unfortunately, this time around the Riesling was not quite ready for purchase so Heather and I will have to make another trip just for this wine.
The more wineries I have gone to, I have found that several New Jersey wineries specialize in sweet wines. Westfall is one of those wineries. Their specialty wines – Spanish Passion, Blueberry, Peach Chardonnay, Cranberry, Apple – are simply great on a cool summer evening.
More pictures from the day: