Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Valenzano Winery

Saturday afternoon Jonaid and I strolled into Valenzano Winery in Shamong, NJ. It was mostly by accident that we found it but it is the first hit on the 2010 NJ Wineries Passport. Taking the "scenic path" (alright- the cheap, toll free path- which turned out far better than the Parkway. 206 is such a a beautiful tour of NJ! And so many farm markets along the way, we couldn't pass them by without getting some corn and tomatoes) down route 206 toward Atlantic City led us right by the vineyards. It was a perfect day for a drive as there wasn't a cloud in the sky and we had nowhere to be. 90 degrees and sunny; can't beat it.

Shortly into our journey we came across the winery. "Grand Opening!" the sign read, attracting us into their new facility (they have two others and are well established in NJ). We agreed to stop by on our way back.

The winery itself is beautiful. It's tucked in the center of Jersey Fresh farms and has acres of grapes growing around it. Despite 206 being so close it feels very private.

We went inside and were both excited and surprised to find tastings are complimentary. Nineteen wines were on their list and you were free to pick and choose as many as you'd like. I love that freedom; I seem to have anxiety when I'm down to the last choice and I can't decide if I want the chambourcin or the reisling.

Jonaid's tastes almost solely include reds. I prefer reds on most occasions but do find whites that I enjoy. Both of us shy away from the sweet wines. With the chardonnay being sold out they only had one other dry white, so our tasting was pretty heavily weighted toward the blood red side.

The nineteen wines and the comments:

Dry Reds
Cabernet/Merlot - our first taste. I was very surprised at the flavor definition despite being a combination of four wines (cab, merlot, chambourcin, cab franc). Very aromatic; I debated buying a glass of this vs. the reserve (the reserve won).
Merlot - I was most disappointed in the Merlot. It was buttery, very smooth, but not memorable. It almost felt that this was a last minute decision by the wine artists and did not get the time it deserved.
Cab/merlot reserve - I got a glass of this at the end of it all. So much flavor here and I was immediately craving a steak dinner. Very aromatic; I wanted it in a candle.
Old Indian Mills Blend - Jonaid got a glass. To me, this was the harshest of the reds, albeit still very smooth. A combination of chambourcin and merlot, it would give my dad rosy cheeks while he's grilling dinner in January. Warms you down to the cockles, whatever those are.

Dry Whites
Vidal Blanc - With this I imagine my mother reading a book on the deck in July. Very refreshing but still maintaining flavor.
Chardonnay sold out

Specialty Wines Alla Y'all sweet wine lovers! This section is for you. I won't repeat myself- all of these (and the fruit wines) are sweeter than I like.
Shamong Red - did not try
Shamong White - The niagara grapes. These aren't grown on site but are purchased from a variety of locations, many upstate New York (information supplied by our host). It's like a summer day in Niagra Falls: a bit of a rush but still refreshing.
Pinelands Blush - Made with the concord grape. Although this kind of wine is not typically to my taste I must admit I enjoyed this more than I typically do for concord wines. Very grape-juicy but with a bit of spunk to it.
Labrusca - did not try
White Cabernet - a fabulous replacement to white zin, and at $8.99 a bottle you can't find one this tasty for the price. Bring one to the next family reunion.
Shamong Reserve - did not try
Jersey Devil Port - A wine enriched with brandy. Did not try; ports and I rarely end well.

Fruit Wines Typically I'm not a fan of fruit wines. Pennsylvania wineries make these in mass quantities and it's one reason I don't enjoy PA wineries as much. I can never finish a whole glass.
Cranberry Wine - Made from New Jersey cranberries! Fabulous if you're prone to UTIs but still want a buzz on (feeling sick, but social). Just kidding: this was juicy but with a kick. I can see this as a good wine for picnics.
White Cranberry Wine - Preferred this over the red cranberry. To me this had a less strong cranberry taste but was a bit sweeter; Jonaid enjoyed this.
Blueberry Wine - Surprisingly I loved this; Jonaid did not. Our host suggested it over ice cream and I agree completely. It would probably be good as a milkshake (that brings all the boys to the yard?)
Apple Cider Wine Sold Out, which I was interested in trying because of the PA winery that does it so well
R, W, &B Sangria did not try, but I regret missing out on this one.
Cranpagne did not try

I'm embarrassed to admit that halfway through writing the wines here I got up and opened a bottle of red. It's a Tuesday! A glass won't hurt me (thanks Dad for the bottle of 2005 Murrieta's Well Meritage); and I'll still get a workout in. My calendar reminded me I want to train for the AFB Mud Run... Didn't make it last year, not in enough shape this year, maybe next year! Back on topic, a few pictures from the venue:

I love the fireplace substituted with a wine fridge.

Tasting room.

Final review: The venue itself is in a great location, the staff is friendly and the prices for the wines are very reasonable. The only downfall is no outdoor seating (although we were told it is coming). I also have to give kudos to the employee that encouraged me to pick up the passport and try the NJ tour again- she started all of this nonsense! Plus Shamong is fun to say (both before and after three glasses of wine). Shamong. ShaMONG. SHAmong. SHamONG. SHAmong.


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