2010 Jersey Fresh Food and Wine Festival

Jersey Offers Up Fresh and Local Best!

Did you know New Jersey is the fifth largest producer of wines in the country? If you did not know this, then maybe you also did not know they produce more than just local grown fruit, make wine with it, and own the title The Garden State.

I found out at a recent food and wine festival down in south Jersey there are people who live here and really did not know about all the wineries, nor that there is an Outer Coastal Plains region producing wines similar to California and French in style. Do they care? Yes of course, about eighty percent of the people I spoke with on Saturday were excited to hear about all the wineries and what they were producing (thanks to my big mouth!).

I decided not to just make it about ‘tasting’ what good wines Jersey had to offer, but ask twenty couples and as many singles how they felt about Jersey wine. What did they like to drink on a regular basis. Were they wine lovers or connoisseurs, and was making the trip to south Jersey’s ‘Jersey Fresh Food and Wine Festival worth the drive and twenty dollars. My personal opinion on the food options- it was limited to three booths for the ‘Food’ part of festival. I opted for the crab cake sliders (tasty), no bread, and the prime rib on brioche (over cooked, but good) after standing in the line of the Gyros booth and inhaling smoke for almost twenty minutes, I scooted over to the ‘no line or wait’ of the upscale eatery.

Regina and Aaron, a couple who sat at my table during the Jersey Fresh Food and Wine Festival told me they had no idea Jersey even made wines until they saw an advertisement for this event. Several other couples as well as singles sat down at the table under one of two large tents with tables and chairs the festival provides as relief from the hot summer sun; it gave me a chance to ask them what they thought about Jersey wines, and wine choices period.

Regina told me on a scale of one to ten, ten being a connoisseur, they are a six when it comes to wine knowledge. They love wine she shared, and usually stay away from sweet wine. Jersey has been synonymous to ‘ blueberry, peach, and other fruity sweet’ and some pretty far out there names and flavors bottled in the state, but many are discovering it offers more sophisticated wines. Wines that can even be aged five to fifteen years, and served with upscale food if given a chance.

Alex & Gregg enjoying the festival!

Alex Gryta and Gregg Gecale moved from Buffalo, NY to Jersey only a few years ago for work, and have come to love south Jersey wines. Both were really excited about the festival. They both felt their level of wine knowledge was a six, and growing. This was a great opportunity for them to see what Jersey has to offer, Alex told me. As a couple they enjoy taking home something a little pricey and saving it for a special occasion. Gregg mentioned a sweet wine he normally would not go for, Chestnut Run Farm- Semi Sweet Asian Pear. He was not the only one I spoke with who steered me in this direction.

Reluctantly I tried it upon their recommendation because I have grown into a more mature palate where wine is concerned, and have to say- it was not sweet nor dry, but had a nice finish. For $11.99 I would buy it, create possibly an Asian marinade for fish, serve it as a dessert wine, or maybe even make something unusual like popsicle’s, or a gelato with basil.

I continued to roam from tent to tent and taste what the winery workers explained were their higher end bottles. I asked others for their opinions in line. Some attendees mentioned their love for higher end wines outside the festival, like Malbec, Merlot, Gewurztraminer, blends, and many other reds, but explained this was a fun social event to challenge their palates. A few gentlemen explained to me how Jersey wineries are producing better grapes down south such as Amalthea, Renault, and others. About how these wineries are making it possible for them to buy better wine locally and support the state’s economy without feeling their only options were all fruity. Robin, a fellow writer I ran into chimed in making a good point by stating Jersey sweet and semi- dry wines need some improvement, but they still have a place in the market and on hot summer days like today. She, and I both feel they are more refreshing than red varietals when the sky screams HOT.

Eight others told me this afternoon they felt the same way- if you based the crowd on their purchases made; it was a pretty close call. People were buying reds, whites, sparkling wines (Renault’s Blueberry Sparkling), and just as many sweet wines from many of the twenty six wineries on the Heritage Winery property this past Saturday, August 14th, 2010.

I came to realize I cannot knock the sweet choices when I can think of so many recipes to use them in, so I will cut many Jersey wineries some slack. Jersey Fresh fruits are the best I have had on my travels- their blueberries rock!

My recommendation to the wine snobs that live in this state- go out and take the ‘Passport Jersey Wine Tour’ for yourself. Visit the southern outer coast plains region and see what some of these wineries are growing, blending, and bottling. The weather will be giving way to cool breezes in about a month, so you can try making a day of it, and do not forget the great eateries all over!  I know first hand how pleasantly surprised at what you will find under the label once only known and more than ‘Sweet’ memories Jersey has just begun to own again.


Chef Elizabeth Stelling  Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!

Food and Wine Writer for local Jersey publications, a working chef, world traveler and blogger…

  1. Great point. By supporting local wines you help them mature and produce better wines for all of us. The more they produce, the more prices come down as well. We saw this happen in Virginia, which has some lovely wines now!

  2. Thanks Doc! Yes, it does help, and they have gotten better in the past seven years. There are a lot of sweet wines here, but if you take the time to visit the southern wineries you will find a lot more to your liking, as in Virginia, you are most definitely right!

    Chef E

  3. people are stupid

  4. hi there hows it going

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