Home Features 10 Local NJ Wines You Must Try This Fall

10 Local NJ Wines You Must Try This Fall

Although not as famous as Napa Valley or the Finger Lakes, New Jersey has a long history of grape-growing and winemaking. The state’s wine industry has been growing in prominence for more than a decade, winning competitions and media attention along the way. In fact, the Outer Coastal Plain (one of New Jersey’s four American Viticultural Areas, or officially recognized wine-growing regions), with its sandy, mineral-rich soil, has been likened to that of Bordeaux. Here’s a look at some of the best wines available this fall that call the Garden State home (in no particular order).


NJ Wines: East Coast WineriesEstate 2012 Syrah

Vineyard: Heritage Vineyards
Price: $25.00
Description: Noted for aromas of dark or black cherry, cocoa powder, licorice and savory herbs, this wine was a silver medalist in the 2015 New Jersey Wine Competition. No surprise there — it was produced by family-owned Heritage Vineyards, which was named Winery of the Year in 2015, 2014 and 2011 by the Garden State Wine Growers Association. Aged 14 months in a blend of French and American oak, this full-bodied, dry syrah delivers flavors of sweet vanilla, dark raspberry, tobacco, white and pink peppercorns.
Ideal pairings: Pork shoulder, smoky mashed potatoes, grilled T-bone steak, Asian-spiced ribs, lamb shwarma
(Photo courtesy Heritage Vineyards)


NJ Wines: chardonnayEstate Reserve 2013 Chardonnay

Vineyard: Heritage Vineyards
Price: $35.00
Description: 2013 was a killer year for New Jersey winemakers, with a warm summer and great precipitation — everything that grapes need to produce their best. This dry chardonnay, winner of four gold medals at the 2015 New Jersey Wine Competition, is an example of what happens when a fine vintage comes together with great winemaking. The natural bright apple-blossom and lemon-led aromas features notes of honeysuckle and almond, and on the palate delivers a smooth roundness tipped with crème brulee and vanilla. The finish is long enough to extend from bite to bite of just about any meal.
Ideal pairings: Grilled chicken breasts, Atlantic salmon, shrimp, roasted asparagus with pomegranate glaze, and soft cow or goat cheeses.
(Photo courtesy Heritage Vineyards)


NJ Wines: Unionville Vineyards 2013 AR CounoiseAmwell Ridge 2013 Counoise

Vineyard: Unionville Vineyards
Price: $23.95
Description: A dry, very pretty red wine with aging potential. The experience of this wine — 98% counoise and 2% syrah — opens with aromas of rose petals and violets, blackberries, blueberries, and bright note of white pepper. On the palate, the dark berries come forward, along with vanilla, sweet spice, and that surrounding white pepper glow. The finish is long and elegant.
Ideal pairings: Roast chicken, duck, hearty vegetable soup, and roasted squash soup
(Photo courtesy Unionville Vineyards)


NJ Wines: Unionville Vineyards 2013 Amwell Ridge ViognierAmwell Ridge 2013 Viognier

Vineyard: Unionville Vineyards
Price: $29.95
Description: Like the Amwell Ridge counoise, this is another entry in Unionville’s Single Vineyard series, and another beautiful Rhone wine with aging potential. This is a dry, quietly intense wine, with a luscious perfume of lemon meringue, kiwi and tart Gravenstein apples. It sings and even dances around the palate with complexity, the restraint of experienced winemaking, and a roundness contributed to in part by 7 months of aging in neutral oak.
Ideal pairings: Thanksgiving dinner, roast chicken, pheasant, and even goose
(Photo courtesy Unionville Vineyards)


NJ Wines: Bellview2013 Viognier

Vineyard: Bellview Winery
Price: $18.00
Description: Another award winning wine from Bellview Winery, which has been run by the Quarella family for nearly 100 years. With pronounced notes of peach and apricot and a lengthy finish, this value wine really illustrates the potential of the Outer Coastal Plain AVA (in Southeastern New Jersey) to rival the Rhone Valley.
Ideal pairings: Butternut squash ravioli, roasted spaghetti squash, grilled chicken or quail with mango or pineapple salsa, fresh halibut or flounder with herbs
(Photo courtesy Bellview Winery)


NJ Wines: Red Wines Alba2012 Alba Estate Chambourcin

Vineyard: Alba Vineyards
Price: $14-16.00
Description: Consistently rated one of the best wineries in New Jersey by New York and New Jersey winegrowers, Alba Vineyards are located in the Warren Hills American Viticultural Area, in the heart of the scenic Musconetcong River Valley. Chambourcin is a relatively late-harvesting grape, typically aged in French oak. The nose on this wine is rich in black fruit (such as dark cherry and black currants), red and purple flowers, as well as sweet baking spices and vanilla. The palate delivers on the promising aromas with overtones of mocha and roasted nuts. The finish is lovely, and it’s drinking superbly in 2015.
Ideal pairings: Grilled steak, beef brisket and lamb chops, stuffed pasta with pesto and Grana Padano
(Photo courtesy Alba Vineyards)


NJ Wines: Palmaris Cabernet Sauvignon bottle white backPalmaris” 2012 Outer Coastal Plain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Vineyard: Tomasello Winery
Price: $35.00
Description: It’s impossible to talk about New Jersey wine without talking about Tomasello Winery, one of the oldest vineyards in the Garden State. The 2012 is only the second release of this unique blend of 75% cabernet sauvignon, 20% petit verdot and 5% cabernet franc, and it’s a definitely a winner. Roses, violets, dark red raspberries and cherries lead the aromas of this wine, all tied together with savory bell pepper, sage and thyme notes characteristic to cabernet sauvignon. Twenty-eight months of aging in French oak add balanced roundness, character, and finesse that carries through to the long finish. This is a big, juicy red wine.
Ideal pairings: Pot roast, hearty pasta with vegetables, roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds, spicy chili, and rich, pumpkin soups and stews
(photo courtesy Tomasello Winery)


NJ Wines: Wicked Courtesy Sharrott WineryWicked

Vineyard: Sharrott Winery
Price: $24.99
Description: A relative newcomer to the big wine game (the first vineyard was planted in 2005), Sharrott has wasted no time producing wines that have won awards on the national and international stages. Made from chambourcin grapes in the style of a ruby port, Wicked is a deliciously sinful dessert wine. Cocoa-dusted deep red roses, black cherries, dates, figs, and brambly fruits lead the aroma and deliver on the palate with mouth-watering sweetness.
Ideal pairings: Blue cheeses, flourless chocolate cake, chocolate cupcakes
(photo courtesy Sharrot Winery)


NJ Wines: Renault Merlot2012 Premium Merlot

Vinyard: Renault Vineyards
Price: $39.99
Description: It’s a small wonder this classic Merlot was named winner of the 2015 Governor’s Cup for “Best NJ-Produced Grape Wine.” It’s lush, velvety and blueish-red in color. On the nose, this wine carries aromas of cherries, ripe plums and juicy blueberries, as well as violets. Oak aging and refined winemaking account for this wine’s smoothness and sweetly spiced flavor notes of vanilla and mocha.
Ideal pairings: Beef or pork tenderloin medallions with a blueberry or huckleberry glaze, pasta Bolognese with fennel and savory roasted chicken or turkey breast
(photo courtesy Renault Vineyards)


NJ Wines: 2012 Riesling“Three Windows White” 2013 Riesling

Vineyard: Beneduce Vineyards
Price: $16.99
Description: There’s a reason Riesling is often called the “king of grapes” by wine nerds the world over. That reason becomes super clear in this bright, crisp, medium-dry Riesling from Mike Beneduce of Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown, NJ. This wine is polished and complex, with hints of yellow and green apple, peach, and just a touch of ginger spiciness, wrapped in a bouquet of lime- and apple-blossom. High in acid, this will age well, and sing with just about any meal.
Ideal pairings: Spicy Thai or Chinese food, fennel and sausage gratin, roast pork or ham


About the author: Michele Thomas is a professionally curious; she likes to learn stuff. A certified sommelier with 15 years of experience writing about food, wine, education, and the arts, she chronicles her wine escapades as the BedStuy Sommelier (@BedStuySomm) on Instagram and Twitter


Top hero image by Val Roy Gerischer. Photo was taken at Bonacorsi Farm in rural Hunterdon County, New Jersey.