New Jersey

New Jersey Wine Overview

New Jersey, despite its comparitively small size, has always been one of America’s top 10 wine-producing states. The history of grape growing and wine production in New Jersey stretches back well over 200 years and even Prohibition barely slowed things down. A few of the wineries here are among the oldest and most established along the eastern seaboard. And, New Jersey remains a leader in America’s wine movement.

There’s a good reason why New Jersey is called “The Garden State.” Just outside the large metropolitan areas, the landscape turns decidedly rural, with farms occupying much of the countryside. Agriculture is big business in New Jersey, and farms here are well known for producing bountiful crops of corn, tomatoes and fruits of all kinds.

Grapes are another prolific New Jersey staple crop. One town in central New Jersey, called Vineland, pays homage to row after row of thriving vineyards. It was the original home of the Welch’s Grape Juice company. The state has always been well known for sweeter fruit wines, but the perception — and the reality– is changing as New Jersey vintners continue to turn out world class wines.

Grapes do quite well in New Jersey, primarily due to sandy soil and relatively moderate winters, particularly in the southern portion of the state. The varieties that grow here are a veritable who’s who of grape styles, and vintners take full advantage. Opposite ends of the state are known for opposite spectrum grapes. Riesling grapes are prolific in northern New Jersey, while Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grow well in the south.

Other grapes you’ll find in New Jersey include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot and native American varieties like Concord. One style that’s particularly prolific is the Chambourcin grape, a hardy specimen that tends to tolerate the occasional extremes in the state’s climate.

Today, there are about 40 wineries in New Jersey, with another dozen in the planning stages. The state’s main wine industry organization, the New Jersey Wine Growers Association, aggressively promotes the wine industry here with numerous, popular annual events. While there still seems to be a general public bias that New Jersey wines are sweet, fruit wines rather than traditional European styles — that perception diminishes with each passing year. New Jersey wines consistently garner awards and praise at national wine tasting competitions, as well as favorable press.

New Jersey’s grape growing reputation has been reinforced by the designation of three American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the state. The largest is the Outer Coastal Plain AVA in the southern part of New Jersey. This area gets lots of sunshine, moderate winters and the sandy type of soil grapes love. Another, the Central Delaware Valley AVA, is located partially in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, north of Trenton. The Warren Hills AVA is located in Warren County in the northern part of the state, where white wine grapes tend to thrive. The entire region — including the neighboring states of Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania — is becoming one of America’s best known wine producing regions.

The history of grape growing and wine production in New Jersey stretches back well over 200 years and even Prohibition barely slowed things down. A few of the wineries here are among the oldest and most established along the Eastern seaboard.

New Jersey Wine Trails

The New Jersey Wine Growers Association has developed six wine trails in the state to help acquaint wine travelers and the general public with New Jersey wines. The six trails literally span the state, from northern New Jersey all the way south to Cape May at the state’s extreme southeast corner.

While there aren’t individual websites for the six New Jersey wine trails, you can find a Google map for each trail with distances between wineries at the New Jersey wine site. Here’s a list of the wine trails and the number of wineries (and total driving miles) contained in each:

Atlantic County Wine Trail: 7 wineries, 55 miles

Cape May Wine Trail: 4 wineries, 15 miles

Gloucester Salem Wine Trail: 5 wineries, 50 miles

Shore Wine Trail: 4 wineries, 42 miles

Sussex Wine Trail: 3 wineries, 22 miles

Warren Hunterdon Wine Trail: – 7 wineries, 85 miles

As you can see, several of New Jersey’s wine trails are easily manageable as a day trip. Even the larger trails like Atlantic County and Warren Hunterdon aren’t prohibitive mileage wise, although seven wineries is too much in one day.

The main take away is no matter where you are in New Jersey or where you’re staying, there’s a New Jersey winery and wine trail nearby.

Travelogue: New Jersey’s Cape May Wine Trail

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