Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Natali Vineyards

"No Wine Snobs Allowed," read the sign as Jonaid and I walked in the door of Natali Vineyards. The small tasting room of Natali was easily filled by just the two of us. We walked up to the bar and were greeted by Mr. Natali, the middle school American History teacher.

Natali is not pronounced like the girl's name but instead like "Nay-tally".  It is the last name of the original initiator of the winery idea, our host's brother. The winery was begun in 2000 as a project during a semi-retirement phase. "If you want to make a large fortune a small fortune," Mr. Natali said, "open a winery."

For $5 you can try four wines. By far these tastes were the most generous pours out of all of the wineries yet.

Cabernet Sauvignon - sold out
Cedar Hammock - A personal favorite that Jonaid and I ended up getting a glass of. It is a blend of the merlot and cab that was extremely tasty.
Meadow's Edge - Jonaid's favorite. To me this had a bit of kick. Mr. Natali explained this, the Cab Sauv, and the Blueberry are some of the best sellers the winery has.
Merlot - very buttery. Jonaid said this was "interesting", but not in a good way.
Shiraz - sold out
Dolcetto - sold out; Mr. Natali's fave
Nebbiolo - Well done with a lot of flavor. This is the second time I've seen a Nebbiolo in NJ. I quite enjoy them.

A huge theme of the day was the "sold out" sign on all of the wines we wanted to try. "We just can't keep bottles in here," Mr. Natali explained. It's not surprising; the winery hosts huge events, 1200 people last weekend, so I'm impressed they had any wine left at all. These events are held outdoors year round with the theme, "Rain or shine we will be rockin the vineyard & drinking the wine". Pretty impressive turnout regardless of the cold!

Court House Blush - a bit spritzer-esque, light and tasty.

Pinot Grigio - did not try
Chardonnay - Aged in stainless steel. My assessment of this is quite unfair as I tried this after the Sauvignon Blanc, which had many flavors. After that, this was dull.
Sauvignon Blanc - A noticeable pear/citric flavor here that is very crisp. Likely a favorite of beachgoers in the summer.
Goshen White - sold out
Viogner - sold out; Mr. Natali's fave.

"What's up with the pirate?" I asked.
"Just a donation from one of the contributors," Mr. Natali replied.

Dessert & Fruit Wines
Moscato Sweet - did not try
Beach Plum - "This tastes like a sweet tart," I explained to Jonaid. "A grape sweet tart." He sipped it and agreed. It is quite tangy but impressive.
Blueberry, Peach, Strawberry, Plum, Banana (sold out, 15.9% ABV!!!), Cherry - Did not try

All grapes are grown and processed on site.

Jonaid and I split a glass of cedar hammock and headed out into the blistery cold. My three layers weren't quite enough so I attempted to don a liquor jacket. Don't let the blue sky fool you; it was windy and frigid.

We toured the grapes for a bit,

Relaxed by the bocce,

and headed back inside. As we sat down, the door on the side of the tasting room opened. Behind it I saw barrels lined up. "Can we check those out?" I asked. We were welcomed into the cellar room, where the entryway was adorned with wine medals.

Heading inward, the actual wine guru Mr. Natali and another gentlemen surprised us by pulling off the lid of one of the buckets, revealing a mound of cranberries currently en route to becoming a wine. To further my excitement, they skimmed some of the juice out and poured it into a glass for us to taste. At this point it still felt like cranberry juice, but it was very cool to try it out.

After giving that a shot, they offered us a sip of the port that is to come out this week. This wine tasted like brown sugar; I enjoyed it a lot and I'm not a port girl at all. The brandy taste is not overpowering. Very well done.

Very impressed with the hospitality, Jonaid and I headed out. We got our passport stamped and learned that it costs $500 a year for a winery to be part of the NJ Wine Growers Association. "A hefty fee," I remarked. Mr. Natali agreed but said it does bring in a lot of traffic to the winery.

Natali was a great experience in hospitality for us. As we wandered outside, Mr. Natali offered for us to ask any questions to anyone we encounter. Being offered to try their wines in progress was a great treat and a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season of drinking. I'll close this post with Natali's cork wreath (and we'll forego the noted alcohol abuse I spotted...). Happy holidays!

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