Fruit Wine Fandango!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This weekend, I attended the 2009 Jersey Fresh Wine and Food Festival which was one week after the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival which I also attended part of.  There were some twenty five New Jersey wineries there, but what was most interesting was that they all seemed to feature fruit wines; well, at least seventeen of them.

Fruit wine is an interesting class of wine, because it can be easily made with readily available fruits, and in some cases, flowers.  New Jersey is ripe with blueberry, strawberry, peaches, nectarines, apples and a number of other delicious fruits.  Truth be told, I have loved Alba Vineyard's Blueberry wine for several years now.  However, fruit wine never evokes thoughts of wine sophistry like classic varietals such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.  And I never really considered New Jersey wineries as serious wine producers, having sampled the fruit from places like Chaddsford and Penns Woods out of Pennsylvania.

But wine is wine, and like all things, you might find something by a producer that you'll fall in love with.

While at the festival, I was introduced to several varietals that I never heard of before (Traminette, Ives, Lemberger, Fredonia, Metis, Villard, Madison), saw a couple of varietals that I have just started seeing as of late (Viognier, Filomena, Chambourcin, Vignoles) and even found some new wonderful fruit wines (Nectarine by Cedarvale Winery and Chestnut Run Farm's offerings made from Asian Pear).

And there was a nice bevy of dessert wines there: Sauterne and American Port from Renault Winert; Porto Bianco and Porto Rosse by Hopewell Valley Vineyard; and Heritage by Heritage Vineyards.

While I did not find many wines that made me want to prefer these releases versus similar releases from producers on the west coast or in foreign countries with more years and expertise in winemaking, I was adequately surprised by the offerings of Amalthea Cellars in Atco.  They have a line of wines called Europa in which each year's release is given a Roman numeral.  Of all of the wines there, I would say that it is my favorite.

The only sore point that I saw with many of the offerings was price, and that is something that is on the minds of the average wine consumer, but is not the fault of the winery.  It's the old concept of supply and demand, the lowering of costs over a larger production volume, and the difference in exchange rates and cost of living between first world countries and third world countries.  Sure, you can always get great [and better] wines from other countries, as well as from other parts of the country, but by supporting local wines, you are supporting local people.  And these people feed back into the economy; your economy.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and when you get mad because you call customer support and get some person in India claiming that their name is Steve, simply because some ‘suit' wanted to save money one year… well, there's a prime example.  The more that we support these folks, the more that they can turn out quality product, and when more of us support them, the overall costs will go down.  But that's another rant.

As I had more work to do, I only stayed for about two hours, but I made lots of contacts with many of the winery owners, and intend to visit them along with chef buddies of mine.  You'll hear more in detail about some of these wineries over the next year, and I can't wait to get out there and sit and chat with the winemakers and their staffs pretty soon.

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Our Mission: The Black Winer strives to expose African Americans [and others] to wines, without the flair, stuffiness, and airs of elitism and snobbery that you get from sommeliers and high level wine enthusiasts. We believe in finding something that you like the taste of, outside of the basic brands that you have been force-fed over the years through a combination of ethnically targeted advertising, and what people in your family have historically been drinking.

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