A Fantastic Night at Renault Winery
Thursday, May 8, 2008
It took me a couple of weeks to even start writing this story, because I know that I needed to be in the right mood, and to have nothing conflicting with my mood in any way (the pressures of life, work, etc.). So, while I am drinking a nice glass of Giesen Riesling, which I have just fallen in love with again, here I go.
I have heard about Renault Winery for years and years; my grandmother used to tell me about a place that made a Blueberry champagne. I also had a girlfriend that lived not too far from there that told me about them/it as well. By the hand of divine fate, or shall we say intervention, I felt the need to attend a dinner there after a totally crappy week that I was having. I was going through stuff with the IRS, had my credit card number stolen (but my bank caught it and I was cool), and my cell phone was damaged and the replacement, of course, did not make it to me when it should have. So, I wound up chucking going to my normal Friday night tasting, and figured that I would just take the drive down to south Jersey and enjoy their event.
While I left a little later than I wanted to, I still got there at the start of cocktail hour. The event itself was the "Mediterranean Seafood Grill Sensation," and it occurred on April 18th, 2008. The drive down was pleasant, and upon nearing the place, I really didnít know what to think. This was my first time at an actual winery, and being on the east coast, one normally has delusions and illusions of wineries looking like the pictures they show you from Napa Valley, or France. As I pulled up to the proper place (I initially went to the wrong side of the street, as did several other people), I noticed the architecture that was there, both modern combined with Old World stylings.
The first part of the evening was the cocktail hour, and I initially grabbed two glasses of wine, and sat with a nice couple from North Jersey. While I had deposited my two glasses on the table, and then got me something to nosh on, when I returned, I asked the husband if he has slipped me a micky. He replied that he had slipped me some Viagra, and it was all fun and laughs from there. While I canít remember his last name, I believe that his first name is Joseph, and I know that heís a paisan. He also hipped me to Shinas Estateís The Guilty and The Innocent.
After a nice conversation, and a couple more glasses, the owner, Joseph Milza, invited the guests to come across the street for the barrel tasting. While headed over there, I stopped to pet a cat that had become a recent outside fixture; someone had dropped her off there earlier that week, or the week before. Upon making it to the facility across the street, I wound up meeting another lovely couple, and then yucking it up with the man that they call the ambassador there, Vinny DeGennarro. He and I hit it right off from the very start. After us bonding over some more lifeís experiences, and talking about our similarities and commonalities, we headed back across the street for the official dinner.
Oh, I must not forget that during this time, I got to sample two different Merlots that they are producing; one was ready to be bottled, and the other was not aged yet. I can say that they have a fine Merlot coming out that will be very much worth picking up a case or two.
Several minutes after returning to the restaurant and hotel side of the winery, we were seated in the ballroom for the dinner. As I had come alone, I was actually seated at a table by myself, but I was fine as long as I had wine! Minutes before the first course came, Kevin McCarty, the Director of Golf, as well as Sales and Marketing, extended the ownerís invitation for me to sit at their table. I heartily accepted the invite, and while I spent the evening seated with Joe and Gerry Milza, and Maryann and Vinny DeGennarro, I mainly spent the evening talking wine and cars with the last tablemate, Marco Bucchi, who is the winemaker.
I can tell you that the company was great, and so were the meals. In fact, the head chef is one of the DeGennarroís sons. I wonít even begin to describe all of the courses to you, because that would just make you salivate, and you should just come out and enjoy what they offer, never expecting something, but waiting to enjoy what they present to you. I will, however, mention the last thing that I had, which was the Trio of Renault Champagne, which was composed of Blueberry brule, peach pink champagne shooter and American stone fruit compote.
After dinner, I made my way to the bar to try their blueberry champagne that I have been hearing about on and off for so many years. Now, at this point, your first question should be as to why itís called champagne, and not sparkling wine. Well, as it turns out, Renault Winery has been in existence for so long, that according to a set of laws passed in 1949, they are the only place outside of the associated regions in France, that can make a wine and call it a champagne, as well as a chablis. But back to the tasting, I can say that I have had a passel of champagnes and sparkling wines in my life so far, with some of the most interesting being a peach champagne, a Marsecco, and Banfiís "Rose Regale." I have also had a blueberry wine, and a blueberry port, loving the former, but no high marks for the latter.
This production, this champagne, is a very nice wine to have, weather before, after, or during dinner, or just for casual drinking. Itís not too sweet, and not too dry, and it caresses the palate like a lover that you had at one point in your life, and will forever miss. But like all things, there is one major problem with it, and thatís the fact that you can only get it at certain places in New Jersey.
Other than that, I can tell you that the trip down there was wonderful, and if you have any type of amity, they make you feel like family, and show you great hospitality and love. Renault Winery is definitely one of those places that I recommend, and I will definitely be making forays down there every few months.
Kudos to everyone down there.