A Wine Geek’s Guide to 14 Top New Jersey Wineries and Choice Wines to Try During Your Winetasting Visits
If you’ve just discovered New Jersey makes wine and are considering venturing out to wineries to try some for yourself and want to know where to begin, you’re in the right place.
I recently spent 5-full days and evenings getting to know New Jersey wines and winemakers across the entire state organized for a small group of wine media by the Garden State Wine Growers Association.
Here’s the wine-nerd skinny on some of New Jersey’s top wineries, the people behind them and recommendations of wines not to be missed during your winery visits.
If you want an overview of New Jersey’s wine industry, start here.
If you’re looking for a thoughtful shortcut to 14 top wineries in a state that currently hosts 64 wineries, keep reading so you can decide which wineries you’re most interested in visiting and getting to know better.
Cape May Winery & Vineyard
When visiting Cape May you’ll want to visit this eponymous-area winery.
Since 2003 Cape May Winery & Vineyard has been owned by Toby Craig.
Toby is an avid recycler and tinkerer, and his signature imprint is echoed throughout the winery from adornments made from reclaimed wood to a chandelier made from grapevine roots.
During the pandemic the winery has remained open and busy with plentiful outdoor seating to accommodate guests.
“Betsy hasn’t had a day off in six months,” notes Toby of his daughter and general manager, Betsy Sole, who oversees the winery’s operations.
Winemaker, Mike Mitchell, and Assistant Winemaker, Jackson Sole, oversee winemaking.
Cape May Winery & Vineyard has 26 acres under vine in four different vineyard sites including at their tasting room location.
All of the winery’s vineyards are dry farmed meaning that the vineyards are not irrigated such that each year’s grape harvest is a reflection of the weather conditions of the vintage.
Cape May Winery & Vineyard seeks to remain on the cusp of quality wine making as the only New Jersey winery currently using a concrete egg fermenter.
Egg-shaped fermenters provide continuous flow during the fermentation process, and Cape May Winery & Vineyard is using its fermenter to enhance minerality in its field blend of chardonnay (78%), sauvignon blanc (16%) and pinot gris (6%).
I got the opportunity to taste a tank sample of the above field blend and experienced the egg-fermenter’s enhancement of the wine’s minerality and texture.
I’ve observed this fermentation technique deliver similar results in cabernet franc from Argentina.
A taste through some of Cape May Winery & Vineyard’s library wines and current releases including a stunning 2012 reserve cabernet franc that was filled with midpalate complexity and a flowery nose proves the winery knows what to do in the cellar.
Wines to check out while you’re visiting include:
- Cape May Winery & Vineyard, Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2019, Cape May Peninsula, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
- Cape May Winery & Vineyard, Cabernet Franc 2017, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
Hawk Haven Vineyard
Hawk Haven Vineyard is a third-generation farm and now vineyard that is currently stewarded by 44-year old, owner and winemaker Todd Wuerker whose family originated from Germany.
Starting with cabernet sauvignon, Hawk Haven Vineyard began planting grapes in 1997 and now grows 16 grape varieties producing 5,500 cases of wine a year of which 85% is sold directly to consumers from the winery.
Hawk Haven Vineyard is 100% focused on vinifera grapes unlike many New Jersey wineries which also produce hybrid grapes.
The winery hosts a half acre of outdoor seating to accommodate guests who visit the winery.
Energetic and clad in a The Drop skateboarder hat and 90s-grunge flannel, you can almost envision Todd finishing a grueling day in the vineyard on his skateboard in a nearby skate park with a beach-friendly, to-go can of Hawk Haven Vineyard’s white, red or rosé wine at the ready.
Todd shared several wines from Hawk Haven Vineyard’s lineup from which you can draw a couple conclusions.
First, Hawk Haven Vineyard has clearly learned how to both cultivate the finicky pinot noir grape and vinify it into something exciting.
Not to be missed is Hawk Haven Vineyard’s estate brut sparkling wine which marries pinot noir (67%) and chardonnay (33%) in a yeast-rich style as a result of three years of lees aging.
Hawk Haven Vineyard’s Pinot Noir Pet-Nat Rosé is also similarly spectacular.
Brimming with strawberry and red cherry, this wine is forever destined to be an early sell out.
Second, Hawk Haven Vineyard knows how to craft food-friendly red wines such as its cabernet franc and “Q” Bordeaux-styled blend.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the winery’s lineup.
Here are some of the wines I recommend:
- Hawk Haven Vineyard, Pinot Noir Pet-Nat Rosé 2020, Cape May Peninsula, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
- Hawk Haven Vineyard, Estate Brut 2017, Cape May Peninsula, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
- Hawk Haven Vineyard, Two Wire Reserve Chardonnay 2019, Cape May Peninsula, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
White Horse Winery
Set amidst 26 acres in Hammonton, New Jersey, White Horse Winery opened in 2013 and is one of New Jersey’s relatively-new wineries.
Producing 1,200 cases in its first year of production, the winery now produces 5,000 cases of wine a year from 55% estate fruit and 83% New Jersey fruit.
The winery focuses on albariño, chardonnay and cabernet franc as its main grape varieties informed in part by research from Rutgers University on grapes most suitable to the area.
White Horse Winery owner and proprietor, Brock J. Vinton II (aka “BJ”), recruited winemaker, Seferino Coztojay, as the winery’s head winemaker.
Originally from Guatemala, Seferino’s interest in wine began in 2005 when he worked as a harvest intern which sparked his interest in wine and eventually led him to becoming the assistant winemaker at Bedell Cellars winery in Long Island, New York before joining White Horse Winery as its head winemaker.
Seferino takes pleasure in White Horse Winery’s unique microclimate which is about 10° warmer on average than nearby areas.
When asked to choose wines from recent vintages of which he is proudest, Seferino cites White Horse Winery’s 2017 rosé and cabernet franc and 2018 albariño and cabernet franc.
BJ & Seferino joined for their first-ever, patio-side dinner at the winery-adjacent White Horse Winery Farmhouse, a six-room, luxury, boutique farmhouse to demonstrate how their wines paired with expertly-paired dishes prepared by Chef David Murray of Denim BYOB.
If you’re looking for a place to make your home while you’re winetasting in the area, this is the absolute best place to headquarter.
Read more about my experience staying at the White Horse Winery Farmhouse.
And try these wines when you visit the winery:
- White Horse Winery, Painted White NV, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 86 Points)
- White Horse Winery, Estate Albariño 2019, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
- White Horse Winery, Cabernet Franc 2018, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
- White Horse Winery, Estate Chardonnay 2019, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
- White Horse Winery, Cabernet Franc 2017, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
Cedar Rose Vineyards
Southern New Jersey’s Cedar Rose Vineyards started as a business plan written in 2012 and eventually opened its doors in 2018.
While the winery has only been operational for two years, Cedar Rose Vineyards produced its first vintage back in 2015.
The winery was founded by millennial owners Steven Becker and Dustin Tarpine who created the winery from an acre-and-half of land that was originally occupied by cedar forest.
The winery’s name comes in part from the original cedar forest and the vineyard’s rose-colored soil.
Cedar Rose Vineyards wines are made from New Jersey grapes grown mostly from its own estate.
The winery produces around 4,000 cases a year and employs indigenous-yeast fermentation in the production of most of its wines.
In addition to caring for their own vineyards, Steven and Dustin install 20 acres of vineyard a year for others in New Jersey who want to grow grapes.
Since the pandemic Cedar Rose Vineyards has begun offering food at its tasting room which has increased traffic and sales of their drier-styled wines.
Cedar Rose Vineyards produces serious wines including the two below:
- Cedar Rose Vineyards, Blaufränkisch 2016, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
- Cedar Rose Vineyards, Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2017, Capelli Vineyards, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
Auburn Road Vineyards
Want to know what happens when two literature majors and ex-attorneys from Philadelphia give up lawyering and city life and decide to plant a vineyard in New Jersey?
Then head to Auburn Road Vineyards and visit with co-owners and married couple, Julianne & Scott Donnini who have been producing wine for 15 years.
“Law drove us to farming,” notes Scott who originally experimented with home winemaking as a hobby until he realized he was terrible at it.
Thankfully Julianne was much better at winemaking.
Julianne is Auburn Road Vineyards’ winemaker in chief managing a production of over 5,500 cases a year from grapes grown across 23 acres of New Jersey farmland.
Art features into the ambience at the vineyard and is also featured prominently on bottle labels.
There are playlists on the back of each bottle label that you can access on Spotify to pair wine-inspired music with the particular wine you are enjoying.
In addition to wine, Auburn Road Vineyards features extensive outdoor seating with fire pits and loads of socially-distanced seating which will remain open all-winter long.
And most importantly for those looking for munchies or a lunchtime winery stop, Auburn Road Vineyards has a woodfire pizza oven run by Ravello Woodfire Pizza that offers delicious wood-fired pizzas with table service.
I ordered the Sweet Meow with prosciutto, truffle oil, mozzarella, honey and balsamic vinegar which lived up to the promise of its component ingredients.
Pizza and wine are an ideal pairing and especially with Auburn Road Vineyard wines which focus extensively on blends.
A particular standout is Auburn Road Vineyards’ petit verdot blend of grapes from 2015, 2016 and 2017 that is available by the bottle and represents the winery’s first petit verdot release inspired in part by Bellview Winery’s petit verdot.
And for good measure, give the winery’s Good Karma red blend a try too.
William Heritage Winery
Farmed for six-generations on family-owned land since 1853, William Heritage Winery is a heavyweight when it comes to New Jersey wine.
The winery produces 15,000 cases a year which makes it one of New Jersey’s largest wine producers.
150 acres of family land previously used for apple and peach orchards now hosts 60 acres of vineyards first planted in 1998.
Because of its sustainable vineyard practices, William Heritage Winery holds a sustainability certification from the State of New Jersey.
One of the winery’s sustainability practices includes growing cover crops between vine rows to help reduce erosion, reduce vine vigor and increase organic matter in the soil.
The Heritage family’s oldest son, Richard Heritage, who heads up sales and marketing notes the winery’s philosophy of “super diligent farming and experimentation” which guides its winemaking.
The winery produces many natural wines including Pet-Nats which are popular in urban centers such as New York, but which are slightly ahead of New Jersey regional tastes.
One area where William Heritage Winery shines brightest is with the quality and complexity of its sparkling wines.
Both the estate vintage brut and blanc de blancs provide prime examples of the heights to which New Jersey wine can reach.
William Heritage Winery offers a solid lineup of wines including a flavorsome pinot gris and cabernet franc.
Be sure to be on the lookout for the wines below:
- William Heritage Winery, Estate Reserve BDX 2017, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
- William Heritage Winery, Estate Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2017, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
- William Heritage Winery, Estate Reserve Vintage Brut 2016, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
Located in Landsville, New Jersey on 20 acres of family farm land purchased in 1914 that now encompasses 150 acres, Bellview Winery originally began as a vegetable farm.
Growing competition in the vegetable market led the farm to make wine as a more lucrative value-added product.
The vegetable farm has transitioned into growing grapes exclusively and had its first vintage in 2000.
Bellview Winery owner, Jim Quarella, notes his family grew grapes for many years prior to their first vintage but only for family consumption.
With 20 years of winemaking under its belt Bellview Winery now produces 10,000 cases of wine a year from 20 grape varieties.
The winery is currently producing its first-vear vintage of wine from the San Marco grape, a Northern-Italian vinifera crossing of Teroldego x Lagrein.
A barrel sample of the developing wine revealed alluring aromatics and a rich midpalate.
If you are visiting during the summer of 2021 or after, be sure to be on the lookout for San Marco.
And in addition to Bellview Winery’s gruner veltliner, try these wines as well:
- Bellview Winery, Estate Grown Viognier 2019, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
- Bellview Winery, Cabernet Franc 2017, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
Tomasello Winery is one of New Jersey’s largest wineries producing a whopping 80,000 cases of wine a year.
Like many other New Jersey wineries, Tomasello began as a farm.
The farm produced raspberries, strawberries, peaches and sweet potatoes starting in 1933.
Shortly after the 1933 repeal of prohibition, Tomasello was one of the first farms in the country to receive a winery license.
In fact, Tomasello Winery is the 68th oldest bonded winery in the U.S.
Third-generation owners and brothers, Charlie Tomasello and Jack Tomasello, are the winery’s current stewards and have developed fourth-generation family stewards who are now in place.
The winery produces over 50 wines from 30 different grape varieties grown on 70 acres of Tomasello-family land.
Unique among its wine list is a sparkling wine made from the ancient Georgian grape, Rkatsiteli.
Here are a few recommendations to try from the winery’s extensive wine list:
- Tomasello Winery, Sparkling Rkatsiteli, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
- Tomasello Winery, Palmaris Reserve Chardonnay 2019, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
- Tomasello Winery, Palmaris Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
Sharrott Winery is one of New Jersey’s loveliest vineyard visits with sweeping vineyard views and plentiful outdoor seating complete with fire pits.
The winery hosts a restaurant with a custom-built pizza oven, though owner Lawrence Sharrott is quick to point out that Sharrott is “a winery with food, and not the other way around.”
You could easily spend a lazy afternoon enjoying a bottle of wine with friends at Sharrott Winery which was meticulously designed to highlight the beauty of the vineyard.
Established in 2008 with sustainability in mind, solar panels provide 30% of the power at the winery which produces 10,000 cases of wine a year.
Sharrott Winery’s Tango red blend is a standout composed of 65% chambourcin and 35% cabernet franc aged for 8 to 20 months in American oak.
The blend has structure due to the cabernet franc which lends complexity.
Sharrott Winery’s ruby-colored 2018 merlot is a New Jersey Governor’s cup winner and is a substantial wine with bite and chewable tannin.
Lastly, chardonnay lovers who like a touch of oak will enjoy the barrel reserve.
- Sharrott Winery, Barrel Reserve Chardonnay 2019, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
When you pull up to Amalthea Cellars you may think you’ve arrived at a quaint French chateau, and that’s not the only nod to the old world you’ll experience during your visit.
Louis Caracciolo, Amalthea Cellars’ owner and winemaker is inspired by the old world.
He purchased farmland for his vineyard in 1972 and planted grape vines in 1976.
The amount of land under vineyard has purposefully never grown since the winery’s founding.
“I have the winery. The winery doesn’t have me,” quips Louis who has never desired to get ahead of his skis when it comes to production expansion.
Louis brings international experience to his winemaking including a past stint as a wine consultant for Chateau Margaux in 1986, but his heart and enthusiasm is in and for New Jersey wine.
Of any New Jersey winery, Amalthea Cellars most authentically channels the old world with respect to the reservedness and subtlety of flavor that often characterizes old-world wine.
It’s often noted that New Jersey and Bordeaux share a similar climate and growing conditions, and it’s here that you experience that comparison at its most earnest.
Amalthea Cellars’ Carmé blend of syrah and grenache is a standout as well as its merlot.
Blends are the winery’s strong suit and should be sampled along with the wines below:
- Amalthea Cellars, Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
- Amalthea Cellars, Legends Edition Europa II 2017, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
There’s a wine-making adage that says red wines are forgiving while white wines reveal all their faults.
This largely-true adage highlights the precision required in making quality white wine.
And with respect to quality, Unionville Vineyards white wines are a New Jersey treasure.
Brightest among Unionville Vineyards’ stars is chardonnay which comes in a range of styles and from vineyard-specific areas.
Characteristic among Unionville Vineyards’ highest-end chardonnays is a reserved, Burgundian quality that combines just-ripened fruit with the lightest touch of oak.
Curiously included in the winery’s white-wine lineup is a 2019 Mistral Blanc composed of 50% viognier, 25% marsanne and 25% roussanne.
Unionville Vineyards is the only New Jersey winery to grow marsanne and roussanne which are co-fermented in its mistral blend.
The mistral blanc is fermented for 9 months in neutral oak and delivers classic Rhône flavors but with a vibrant acidity that is unusual for Rhône whites which tend toward medium to medium-minus acidity.
For a small winery with an annual production of 4,000 cases, Unionville Vineyards wines are a steal from a price-to-quality perspective.
These are the wines I enjoyed the most:
- Unionville Vineyards, Silver Lining Cabernet Franc 2019, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
- Unionville Vineyards, Pheasant Hill Chardonnay 2017, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
- Unionville Vineyards, Pheasant Hill Chardonnay 2012, Pheasant Hill Block 1A, Rows 1-32, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
- Unionville Vineyards, Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Pheasant Hill Block 1A – Rows 1-12, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 94 Points)
Beneduce Vineyards is located on 51 acres of farmland in Pittstown, New Jersey of which 22 acres are planted with grape vines.
Even though the winery makes serious wines, it does so without taking itself too seriously.
Mike Beneduce Jr., Winemaker and Vineyard Manager, explained the winery’s lineup of Pet-Nats with humorous labels that mimic Italian hand gestures.
My favorite wine from Beneduce Vineyards’ sparkling lineup is the Intermezzo gewürztraminer Pet-Nat which presents the aromatic grape in a fun, super-spritzy style.
But most impressive among its lineup of wines is Beneduce Vineyards’ pinot noir.
I’ve tasted pinot noir extensively across Oregon’s Willamette Valley and would be hard pressed to distinguish Beneduce Vineyards pinot noir from Oregon pinot noir based on the quality of the fruit and winemaking.
Another fun wine to try is Beneduce Vineyards’ Chambrusco, a frizzante, Lambrusco-styled wine made from chambourcin — the only sparkling chambourcin produced in New Jersey.
Chambrusco is an ideal pairing with pizza and presents the hybrid grape in its most flattering format.
Lastly, try Beneduce Vineyards’ 2019 gewürztraminer still wine which is varietally correct and filled with bright acidity without the oiliness one often encounters in gewürztraminer.
And be sure to check out some of the wines below:
- Beneduce Vineyards, Blue 2 Blaufränkisch 2017, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 88 Points)
- Beneduce Vineyards, Chambrusco 2019, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
- Beneduce Vineyards, Chardonnay 2019, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 91 Points)
- Beneduce Vineyards, Intermezzo 2019, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
- Beneduce Vineyards, Centerfold Pinot Noir 2017, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 92 Points)
- Beneduce Vineyard, Centerfold Pinot Noir 2016, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 93 Points)
Mount Salem Vineyards
Mount Salem Vineyards is the definition of a boutique winery producing just 1,500 cases a year from grape vines it has farmed for 16 years.
Inspired by winery owner Peter Leitner’s Austrian heritage, the winery focuses on producing Austrian grape varieties.
The winery was the first in New Jersey to plant blaufränkisch, zweigelt and St. Laurent, and is one of only two wineries in the state that produces zweigelt.
An Austrian flag flies at the winery along with a Hungarian flag in recognition of Peter’s wife’s Hungarian heritage.
Because of its limited production, Mount Salem Vineyards is only open for visits one day a week on Saturdays or by appointment.
Most of the wines are allocated to the wine’s mailing list composed primarily of in-state subscribers and customers between Philadelphia and New York City for whom the winery hosts monthly wine dinners.
While Mount Salem Vineyards’ mailing-list customers are loyal, Peter does worry about customer churn which is why he opens for tastings on a limited basis noting, “They [customers] die, retire, give up drinking, move out of state, or all of the four.”
Mount Salem Vineyards harvests all of its grapes by hand and uses indigenous yeast for its fermentations.
All of the winery’s white wines are barrel fermented and sur-lie aged, and all of its reds are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Mount Salem Vineyards’ cabernet franc rosé is impressive along with its zweigelt which would please a zweigelt lover in your life.
If you get an opportunity to visit Mount Salem Vineyards be sure to give their blaufränkisch and cabernet franc a try.
Alba Vineyard sits atop 93 acres of rolling hills in Warren County, New Jersey.
To winegrower Nick Sharko’s knowledge Alba Vineyard is the only New Jersey winery whose vineyard is set on limestone soil.
Some of the finest wines in the world from Champagne, Burgundy and the Loire are grown on limestone soil.
Limestone is prized for its water-retention properties that are ideal for vine-root health.
Nick, age 32, and his younger brother Tom, age 30, both run and manage the family wine business.
Nick is the vineyard and wine guy, and Tom is the business guy and winery’s resident builder and wood worker.
“We always wish we had a third sibling,” laments Nick referencing the vast amount of work required of running a winery.
Alba Vineyard produces 9,000 cases of wine a year and is committed to low-crop yields in order to preserve wine quality.
Nick and Tom shared some of their wines including reserve chardonnays from two vintages.
The 2016 chardonnay has more oak and fulsome fruit than the 2018, and both are worth trying.
Alba Vineyard’s pinot noir and cabernet franc are also impressive.
On weekends at the winery you can enjoy wood-fired pizzas which are a perfect compliment to the must-try wines below:
- Alba Vineyard, Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2018, Warren Hills, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 90 Points)
- Alba Vineyard, Estate Pinot Noir 2018, Warren Hills, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 93 Points)
- Alba Vineyard, Estate Reserve Heritage Cabernet Franc 2016, New Jersey (Wine Casual, 93 Points)
New Jersey wine has a lot to offer.
I’m especially excited about the future of cabernet franc and pinot noir in the state.
If you’re a newbie to New Jersey wine, this guide to 14 top New Jersey wineries provides you with a solid introduction to wineries you can now confidently visit and check out for yourself.
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