Last week I was invited to Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, New Jersey. I am a huge fan and supporter of my state’s small, independent wineries. I jumped at the chance to tour the vineyards as they were being harvested, get a sneak peak at the crushing process, and enjoy a lunch complete with pairings of Tomasello’s wines.
Tomasello Winery is New Jersey’s 2010 Winery of the Year. In case you aren’t familiar with New Jersey wines (and if you’re not from the region, you probably aren’t because of our archaic shipping laws) we have over 40 wineries in the state. That number is added to yearly. Grapes are the number one agricultural product being grown in the state right now. Our wineries are helping to preserve farmland and bring a continued sense of agricultural pride to the state.
New Jersey is having what Charlie Tomasello, one of the two brothers that now run the 75-year-old family winery, described as “kind of a Napa year.” Because of the very dry weather and the extreme August heat, the quality of the fruit lends itself to what should be a very good year. Of course, he added, the proof will come two to five years from now as the wines from this year’s vintage become available.
The grapes in the Outer Coastal Plain region, an official American Viticultural Area that covers over 2.25 million acres in Southeastern New Jersey, are ready to harvest about 10-14 days earlier than usual this year. That has many New Jersey wineries racing to bring in the harvest. No one seems to be complaining, though. Winery owners are happy to be having the problem that California often has – the rush to get the grapes off the vine before it’s too late.
While the quality of this season’s crop is being compared to a typical Napa crop, the wines that New Jersey produces have recently been compared to those from Bordeaux. You read that correctly. Bordeaux.
Charlie Tomasello’s brother Jack explained to us that the soil in the Outer Coastal Plain is similar to that of Bourdeaux region in France. The latitude and longitude of the two regions are not that far off. While Bordeaux has a few extra warm days than New Jersey, the growing conditions are very similar.
While a lot of this specific information is new to me, it doesn’t surprise me. A few years ago, when I started paying attention to New Jersey wines, I told my friends that it looked like New Jersey was getting very good at what I call “mutts.” In more official wine terms, they would be called “blends” or “Bordeaux-style wines” because two or more grapes are blended together to create bold, strong reds. Tomasello’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 percent Cabernet Franc, and 5 percent Petit Verdot, is an excellent example of the blends that New Jersey is becoming known for.
If you are close by, I invite you to visit an individual winery like Tomasello or to attend one of the New Jersey State Wine Grower Association’s Wine Festivals where you can sample many of the state’s wines in one place. The next festival is The Grand Harvest Wine Festival on October 2 and 3 in Stanhope.
If you aren’t close to New Jersey, I encourage you to find out what is going on with the small, independent wineries in your region. Winery Bound can help you find wineries that are local to you. You may not even know they’re there.