When it comes to wine production in the United States, the Western states often receive most of the attention, and with good reason. With world-renowned wineries in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, the West Coast has developed a robust wine culture that is hard to beat. However, New Jersey stands out as a small, yet fertile state with exceptional wineries that produce award-winning wines.
The following are two of the best wineries to visit in the Garden State.
Willow Creek Farm and Winery
Located on Cape May Island, Willow Creek Farm and Winery is the largest winery on the island. The Cape May area stands out as one of the best regions in New Jersey to grow grapes, as it benefits from a unique microclimate characterized by warm days and cool nights. Similar to the Bordeaux region in France, the Outer Coastal Plain of New Jersey lends itself to excellent grape growing and fruitful harvests.
Willow Creek Farm and Winery grows 13 varietals, including Pinot Noir, which is commonly made in France’s Burgundy region. The winery ages its Pinot Noir in oak barrels for 24 months, with the final barrels undergoing six more months of aging in stainless steel with oak staves. The result is a dry, French-style wine. The winery’s red wine selection also includes the 2016 Merlot, which ferments over French oak staves and ages for 18 months.
Willow Creek Farm and Winery’s white wines include a 2016 Malvasia Bianca, which is a varietal traditionally made in the Mediterranean region, the Spanish Canary Islands, and the Portuguese island of Madeira. The winery also sells a 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, which is from France’s Bordeaux region. This particular vintage features a garden herb aroma and can age further for a year before consumption.
The winery opens on a daily basis for tastings and tours, and visitors can try these and other wines with a diverse menu of tapas to accompany them. The tapas menu includes Jersey Salad, which consists of fresh arugula, preserved Jersey peaches, walnuts, and goat cheese, topped with homemade raspberry vinaigrette. The menu also includes Whiskey Cheddar Grilled Cheese and Bisque. Prepared on toasted rye bread, this dish features whiskey cheddar cheese and is accompanied by homemade bisque.
The restaurant’s main dishes include Southern smoked beef brisket and Carne de Porco, both of which are made with homemade honey mango barbecue sauce. Also featuring cheeses to accompany its wines, Willow Creek Farm and Winery offers Truffle Tremor Goat Cheese from California, Drunken Goat Cheese from Spain, Noord Gouda Cheese from the Netherlands, and Old Quebec Cheddar Cheese from Canada, among others.
Cape May Winery and Vineyard
For over two decades, Cape May Winery and Vineyard has been producing wine in south New Jersey. Its four vineyards encompass more than 70 acres of vines and 11 grape varietals.
Furthermore, the Beverage Tasting Institute conferred silver medals to several Cape May Winery and Vineyard wines in the 2018 New Jersey winery ratings. Silver medal winners included the 2016 Cabernet Franc and the 2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, which is the winery’s signature white wine and features pear and citrus flavors.
Cape May Winery and Vineyard also produces a number of wines under the Isaac Smith label, including the 2011 Isaac Smith Vintage Port, which received the Best Fortified Wine award at the 2018 New Jersey Wine Competition. The label also includes the 2014 Isaac Smith White Port, which has candied pear flavors and tropical fruit aromas.
Cape May Winery and Vineyards features several tasting rooms, as well as a winery tap room, which has a rotating selection of eight wines on tap. The winery also serves a wide variety of tapas, ranging from lobster sliders and yellowfin tuna poke tacos to Mediterranean octopus and French brie cheese with blackberry jam. Guests can accompany their wines with a variety of cheeses and meats, such as Manchego cheese, Serrano ham, and cured pork sausage.
Cape May Winery and Vineyards offers tours of its grounds and facilities, including a special tour called Vines to Wines. The tour begins in the vineyard and is led by a guide who teaches visitors about vine anatomy and the terroir specific to Cape May County. Visitors then proceed to the production facility to learn about each step of the winery’s production process. Finally, guests have an opportunity to enter the Port Cellar, where the tour concludes with a taste of port wine drawn directly from the barrel.
These two wineries offer just a glimpse of New Jersey’s rich wine country, especially in the Cape May area. Before visiting, you should conduct some research about this unique area, which stands out on the East Coast for its conduciveness to excellent grape harvests. You may find that the Garden State becomes one of your favorite destinations to sample outstanding wines.