Mother’s Day Wine Tasting Tour

For the first time since we started this blog in April 2008, we have a guest blogger. I had recently posted about the Wine Trail event for Mother’s Day. Well, we can’t get to every event – but throught the power of twitter I met someone who was touring a number of wineries that day. Please enjoy Bill Wilhelm’s review of the day’s events. – John

The Garden State Wine Grower’s Association holds numerous events through the year to promote the state’s almost 30 wineries. One event is the Mother’s Day Wine Trail, and since Mom loves wine (me too) we headed out for our Second Annual Mother’s Day Wine Tasting. We went to four wineries in the area close to my house, since I was cooking dinner for 12 people that night.

The crew (minus me) at Renault to start the day

Our first stop on our tour was one of the oldest wineries in New Jersey. Renault Winery in Egg Harbor offered a free tasting or a paid tour + tasting. We opted for just the tasting and enjoyed a fair selection of their wines. They offer most major varietals: three sparkling wines, a port, and a sherry. Unfortunately, Renault is more of a wine-themed resort than winery. Quite disappointing for a winery which, prior to Prohibition, provided the champagne for Presidential Inaugurations. Almost all of their wines are non-vintage, but a few stand above the rest: the Reserve Chardonnay, Blueberry Champagne and hand made Louis Renault Champagne usually find their way into my wine racks. Nevertheless Renault is a good place for dinner, weekend getaway, or place to propose marriage (Hi Wifey).

Plagido’s reds

Next we drove to Hammonton to try Plagido’s Winery. Formerly a wine grape farmer who sold their grapes to wineries, Plagido’s started selling their wines about three years ago. The tasting was $5 for six tastings including a tasting glass which you get to keep. I prefer dry wines, and Plagido’s makes a large selection of sweeter wines, topped off with a sangria I didn’t sample. Of their dry wines, they seem to focus on Cabernet Franc, which grows well in Jersey, offering three; a regular, made in steel barrels, an oaked, made in oak barrels, and a reserve, aged longer in oak barrels (brought one home). Surprisingly they also offer a white wine made from franc grapes, Franc Bianco. Between straw and pink in color, the Bianco is dry, nothing like a white zinfandel or white merlot, and definately worth a try.

Not far from Plagido’s is Sharrott Winery. Only in their second year, we came back to Sharrott to see how their wines are progrssing since vines tend to make better grapes as they age and Sharrott’s vines are only about 3-5 years old. Again, their tasting was $5 for six and a take home glass. Definitely better than last year, their best wine was the Cab Franc as well, and we bought a Cab Franc Rose. I love eating grilled homemade hamburgers while drinking a nice dry rose during the summer, and am looking forward to Sharrott’s Franc Rose in a few weeks.

Amalthea’s whites

If you are a wine lover, and haven’t been to Amalthea Farm Winery, cancel your plans for next weekend and go there. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to Amalthea. Without a doubt, the best winery of the four and arguably better than many California wineries. On Mother’s Day they offered two tastings, a free tasting of 17 (yes seventeen!!) current wines, and for $10 special tasting of ten more wines which included a selection their wines which placed very well in a Judgement of Paris re-compete. The winemaker at Amalthea learned to make wine in France and recently opened a vineyard in California from which the grapes are sent back here to be pressed and bottled alongside his Jersey grapes. Needless to say tasting 17 wines takes a while, but it gives you a chance to build a rapport with the server, and ours told us a lot about each wine, such as how old the vines are, how many months the wine was aged in the barrel, whether the barrel was french or american oak, and even what food to pair with the wine. Also Lou, the apprentice wine-maker would come in and provide more info, like the percentages of the blends of grapes in the wine. Very educational and good wine too. Wines of note include the Reserve Chardonnay from 23 year old vines, the Green Dragon made from Napa grapes, and the Europa II (a Cabernet Sauvignon blend modeled after Chateau Latour). The special tasting included some older vintages of their wines, including a 20 year old Cabernet Sauvignon, and two tastings right out of the barrel, well worth it.

Mom loved the wine tasting tour, and we assuredly will go again next year.

Bill Wilhelm is a South Jersey native and wine lover who is also fond of cooking, bicycling, and photography. Bill can be found on the web at his tech and cooking blog lightfare.blogspot.com, on twitter @bilhelm96, and photography at http://www.vividelegance.com/.

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4 thoughts on “Mother’s Day Wine Tasting Tour

  1. You should have visited Valenzano Winery. On Mothers Day Weekend they had an awesome outdoor concert in their courtyard which probably the most visually stunning farm in South Jersey. I was never a big fan of NJ wines (I guess because I never really got out to taste them) but Valenzano Winery had a delicious Cabernet/Merlot blend for $10.00. I brought home a few of these and 6 bottles of their Old Indian Mills Blend which is their reserve blend of Merlot and Chambourcin – only $15.00! IMHO, Valenzano Wines are the best buys for quality wine in NJ.

  2. Bill’s comments reveal that there a number of quality wineries in South Jersey that definitely merit consideration. Thanks for the excellent review!

  3. @ Chef E: Yes, a fun group. We sample drinks far too often.@ Marcus: We went to Valenzano last year. I bought a Chambourcin and Old Indian Mills too.@ Anonymous: Definitely some quality wineries, and the wines tend to be priced less than comparable wines not from NJ

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