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New Jersey Wines on the Rise

New Jersey Wines on the Rise

By George Staikos, The Educated Grape

June 20, 2016

High quality wines with great character and a sense of place were being showcased on Saturday, June 20 at The Winemakers Co-Op event at Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes, NJ. Without a doubt, the best overall showing of New Jersey wines I have tasted. The Winemakers Co-Op is a movement that has been established among 4 of New Jersey’s top wine producers, Beneduce Vineyards, Heritage Vineyards, Unionville Vineyards and Working Dog Winery promoting dry wines made from New Jersey grown vitus vinifera grape varietals. In addition, a goal is for the wines to express terroir, an old world term used to describe the effect of soil, climate, slope and microclimate on wines. It was in full display. Prior to the walk around tasting which featured each winery’s full portfolio, the winemakers of each winery participated in a panel discussion and tasting highlighting the uniqueness of each of their vineyards and what grape varietals each specializes. Two wines were featured from each winery. The cooler, more northerly site of Beneduce Vineyards featured a lovely 2013 Blue2 Blaufrankisch. A silky, elegant red with intense blue fruit notes and spice. Winemaker Mike Beneduce explained how his soil and climate is almost identical to Austria thus bringing out the best from the grape. Cameron Stark, winemaker of Unionville Vineyards, poured his 2013 Pheasant Hill Vineyard Syrah. A beautiful, cool climate Syrah co fermented with 10% Viognier and 1% Grenache was nicely balanced and expressive. Mark Carduner, winemaker from Working Dog Winery from Mercer County, showed a Bordeaux blend, 2013 Retriever, made from 55% Cabernet Franc, 25 Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. While savory on the nose, the palate exhibited nice dark fruit and earthiness framed with French oak. The southerly most producer, Heritage, with its warm climate in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA, poured their 2013 Cabernet Franc made by winemaker, Sean Comninos. The most densely layered wine with mature tannin, it was impressive and had depth of fruit not typically found in Cabernet Franc. Other wines that at the event that were memorable included:

2015 Beneduce ‘Rows End’ Dry Rose
2014 Beneduce Dry Riesling
2012 Unionville Vineyards Pheasant Hill Chardonnay
2013 Unionville Vineyards Mountain Road Chardonnay
2013 Heritage Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
2014 Working Dog Merlot

I have been a part of several New Jersey wine tasting panels over the last 15 years and this lineup of wines was by far the most impressive. I look forward to seeing the Winemakers Co-Op continue to raise the bar in making dry table wines from New Jersey.


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