It is time to uncork the truth about New Jersey as the breeder of something much greater than MTV stars.
“An apple a day keeps the doctors away” is an age-old proverb detailing the simplest avenue to health. This “apple,” however, is swiftly being replaced by wine.
Yes, you read that correctly, wine (aka the snobbiest of the alcohols).
Rumored by my great-aunt, a self-proclaimed wine aficionado, “a glass of wine a day keeps the doctors away” — or in her particular case, more like five glasses. However, this rumor has breached into scientific reality.
Ph. D Audrey Cross wrote in her article “A Glass a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!” (2012), on the Garden State Wine Growers Association Web page, “The apparent protection stems from wine’s ability to increase high-density lipoproteins (called HDL-cholesterol or ‘good’ cholesterol) and to inhibit platelet aggregation. This decreases narrowing of the arteries and clots that clog them. In addition, phytoestrogen resvertrol, a phenolic compound found in grape skins, acts as an antioxidant to prevent damage to heart and vascular tissues. … In fact, [wine] is more effective than bismuth salicylate — the active ingredient in Pepto Bismo — in eradicating food-borne bacteria.”
Basically what her scientific jargon is trying to say is wine is good for you. What Cross suggests is that Americans adopt the “glass-a-day” regime that many European nations have.
A “glass-a-day,” research claims, can lead to fewer strokes and heart attacks, despite high cholesterol diets.
Now, this doesn’t mean chug a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon as you help yourself to the dollar menu, but it does mean you now have a free pass to drink 1-3 glasses of wine a day.
Therefore, to appease your refreshed outlook on everyday drinking, I will be visiting the wineries of southern New Jersey in hopes to discover the most hospitable vineyards, tastiest wines, and lavish events.
And who knew that southern New Jersey had such a plethora of wineries? Due to New Jersey’s caricatured appearance in MTV reality shows such as Jersey Shore as a place for young adults to get “wastey pants,” the wine culture of this Garden State has been unfairly overlooked. It is time to uncork the truth about New Jersey as the breeder of something much greater than MTV stars — an expanding wine culture that is being compared to the quality of vignerons in Napa Valley and even France. And while wine tasting events may be an excuse for some to get shnockered, they encompass more than what is expected in a typical booze-filled weekend. Events at vineyards include live music, wine tasting, craft booths for adults and children alike, open areas for family picnics, food for purchase, multi-course meals for events, and the wineries are open to everyone at any age, even the family dog is welcome.
For those with a more insatiable appetite, wine trail weekends are also a big hit as GSWGA wineries allow the public to participate in fun-filled weekend and day trips to tour around their vineyards, savor their select wines, and enjoy the beautiful country surrounding.
To get the most out of your wine tasting experience of these award-winning New Jersey wineries, the GSWGA offers a “passport program” where visitors can have their official wino passport stamped at each winery, declaring your superb wine-drinkership and enophilic dedication. Since New Jersey has over 30 GSWGA wineries in all, completing this passport may appear daunting. Once completed and mailed back to GSWGA, however, you will be entered in drawings for prizes — including a Grand Prize trip for two — and if completed before Memorial Day you will receive a set of crystal wine glasses. Encouragement enough for those looking for more than a “health” excuse to drink.
While the brilliance of New Jersey wines may only be gaining media attention now — just recently obtaining legal rights for distribution — the wine culture of New Jersey has been around for almost 150 years. Renault, not only one of the oldest wineries in the state, but of America, was established in 1864 by Master Vintner Louis Nicholas Renault who worked in the renowned champagne house of the Duke of Montebello in Rheims, France. But how did a French vintner find himself in southern New Jersey’s Egg Harbor? During the 1800s a parasitic aphid almost destroyed the French wine industry, leading Renault to flee to California, where he found the parasite once again. Almost drained of hope, he heard a rumor about a “miracle grape” that could naturally fight such pests and other diseases that ransack wineries. Therefore, he found himself in Egg Harbor, just outside of Atlantic City, which had a similar growing environment to that of France, growing and harvesting this “miracle grape.”
And so, Renault Winery was established, introducing his first New Jersey Champagne in 1870, and though it has gone through many owners since — currently owned by Joseph P. Milza — it still embodies an authentic, historic and elegant ambience that continues to bring in tourists from all over the world.
Renault even remained open during Prohibition under a government permit, selling only for religious and medicinal purposes, making it the oldest continuously running winery in the country.
The creation of the Renault Wine Tonic was a product of this and was sold with a warning label cautioning consumers to not chill the tonic, as doing so would turn the tonic into wine. I’m sure many took heed.
Renault is just one example of the pervading force the wine culture of New Jersey has and always will be. Luxury wines are often thought to come from California or France, and while those vineyards do sell top wines, New Jersey wines are hard to tell apart in taste and quality. One thing that sets aside New Jersey wines from their competition is price. While you could pay $340 or more for a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon or $650 for a French Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, why not purchase a Heritage Estate Bordeaux at $28, which came in third after two $650 bottles of French wine in the 2012 Judgment of Princeton?
So, support the region’s wine culture and sign up for a GSWGA passport. Visit southern New Jersey’s wineries with me — from the historic Renault Winery to the more recently established Natali Vineyard — to track my favorite beverage’s origins, from vine to bottle.
Cape May Wine Trail
Natali Vineyards, Cape May Courthouse
Open daily for tasting. 10-7pm. natalivineyards.com.
Hawk Haven Vineyards, Rio Grande
Tasting rooms open daily. 11-7pm. hawkhavenvineyard.com.
Cape May Winery & Vineyard, Cape May
Open for tasting Sun-Thurs., noon-6pm. Fri., Sat., noon-7pm. capemaywinery.com.
Atlantic County Wine Trail
Amalthea Cellars, Atco
Cape May Winery and Vineyard takes the art of wine making, sprinkles in stretching views of 22 acres of grapes, subtracts the pompous atmosphere associated with the wine culture, and adds a smile, all equaling a great first stop on a typical tour of southern New Jersey wineries.
“The way we have the wines lined up on the machine, if you like one kind of wine, chances are you’re going to like something on either side of it.”
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