Barreling out into the sunshine I left the first vineyard in search of Coda Rossa, in Franklinville, NJ. The trip there was a breeze and before I knew it I had passed the vineyard. With a quick turnaround I pulled into the packed parking lot (which is roughly four spaces) and idled in the grass nearby.
If you're not looking for the vineyard it's easy to miss. It's just past the wagon full of pumpkins and mums- not that that's any sort of help. The only sign marking its existence is on the building set apart from the road. Rumor has it an actual sign was ordered months ago but has been complicated by unexplained delays.
I felt silly locking my car as the winery is in such a peaceful area but I guess you never know these days. Hooligans. Walking into the tasting room I shouldn't have been surprised when seven people filled it up. Four cars maxed capacity of the parking lot, and the tasting room was also cozy.
Phil, a school teacher who is a master at wine on the side, was my tasting host. You have unlimited tastes at Coda Rosa for free. Phil was entertaining as when I tried a wine, so did he. It was so amusing to watch his whole face light up as he enjoyed the flavors. Each wine seemed to be a personal heaven for him.
New Jersey Reds - Grapes from NJ. Both of these had a unique twist to a common NJ flavor and were very impressive.
Cab Franc - Very unique with a flavor that is almost peppery. Phil frequently will just take a bottle of this home, since it goes so well with everything.
Chambourcin - Very tasty with a smell that I could not pinpoint. Phil explained this is cultivated similar to concord grapes and spends 4 months in an oak barrel. The tannin structure of these grapes is very different than others, and through some trial-and-error it was determined 4-months creates the perfect blend.
California Reds - Grapes grown in California
Super Tuscan - A sangiovese (and I asked- can be pronounced Sangiovay-say or Sangio-vays, it goes both ways, but not Sangio-vees. Phil offered to call his sister in Tuscany to get exact clarification, but I declined) and cabernet blend that has a very smoky flavor that reminded me of jerky. Jonaid would have loved it.
Merlot - did not try
Zinfandel - Phil's favorite and he commented as he poured it, "I could just smell this and be happy. Drinking is a bonus." Very full bodied and smooth, definitely a delight.
Syrah - the acidity in this one made me pucker a bit. It just wasn't to my liking.
Barbera / Petite Sirah - A fabulously easy wine going down. Enjoyed every drop. Would be a good choice for Thanksgiving dinner; everyone would enjoy it.
Cabernet - did not try
Nebbiolo - Blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera that is aged 2 years in a barrel. It is very smooth.
At this point in the tasting I asked what the term "tannin" meant. Phil explained this is part of the aging process in red wines in the barrel to offer flavor, acidity, and preservatives to the wine. It is derived from aging with the skin of the grape (I learned that from Cabernet Frank at a winery later in the day) and the barrel. The perfect balance is key and every grape is different; hence the four-month aging of Chambourcin vs. the two year aging of Nebbiolo. The tannins develop differently.
The other tasting host present was Phil's wife. She was attempting to pour a tasting of white with the cork still in. "That's an easy way to save money on drinking," she laughed. "Then you sip it- Mmmm it's so light!"
Phil laughed. "Honey, you beat me to the punch," he said. I wonder if they sit at home reading Grape Expectations to one another (ba-dum-psh).
Chambourcin Rose - did not try, and I am regretting this
Raspberry Rose - did not try
Chardonnay - I took a bottle of this home with me. The grapes in my bottle are from California but the new Chardonnay, just presented last weekend at a festival, is from NJ. The tangy grape flavor shined through the dryness here and was fantastic- I think I'll go pour a glass right now.
Whimsical Wines - I love the remixes of the names here
Bluedonnay - A dryer blend of the blueberry flavor with chardonnay. Frequently the blueberry wines I encounter are far to sweet and I can almost imagine pouring a glass in substitute of my morning orange juice. This was remarkably refreshing as it was dry but had the crisp blueberry flavor.
Chamgria - did not try
Peacho Grigio - This is far more pinot than peach, but it is very tasty. The fruit flavor gives this a unique twist. I loved the fruit-wine mixtures here; the names were clever and the flavors were well defined.
Blue Moon Port - did not try
"Look at you, with the passport! She's going to win the trip to Italy," a fellow patron said, as I got my passport stamped. I laughed, and as I bent down to my purse, my cell phone started ringing. The Monday Night Football theme sounded through the tasting room as I embarassingly muttered apologies. "Yeah the 'Skins have a big game coming up tomorrow," the same patron commented.
I grimaced. "So do the Steelers," I said. The conversation carried on with her asking if I'd visited any other wineries, and me explaining I had actually just been to Swansea, with the amazing Steelers truck outside. Turns out this fellow patron is the tasting room manager at Swansea. Small world.
Despite the small tasting facilities, Coda Rossa has an amazing repertoire of wines. The flavors are to be complimented and the prices are all incredible. Phil is very well versed in wines; not only does he help with the production at Coda Rossa but he also works with the Wine Room of Cherry Hill. His knowledge on wine was extensive and definitely helpful with my questions. If I lived closer I would consider Coda Rossa my personal wine fridge. What a gem!