By Christie Duffy
To kick of New Jersey Wine Week, the state Department of Agriculture presented local wine growers with a signed proclamation from the governor, followed by a ceremonial grape cutting.
New Jersey Wine Week is timed just right. On the vine are grapes bursting with flavor and sugar. Perfect for fermenting.
“Based on the demand for licenses and the increase in applications, clearly something is happening here. There is an explosion in wine,” said New Jersey Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Michael Halfacre.
Wine Week, which runs from Sept. 19-28, boasts special events starting this weekend like live music at wineries, food trucks and discounts. It’s all meant to promote New Jersey’s burgeoning wine industry. The Garden State is the seventh biggest wine producer in the country.
“We have 50 wineries right now in New Jersey. We have about eight pending. We have over 100 sales rooms. And if you go back five years ago, I think we had 29 or so wineries. So we’ve just about doubled the number of wineries in five years,” Halfacre said.
That doubling in growth could be partly attributed to the laws recently loosening up. New Jersey now allows what the ABC director says is a national first. Local wines are being sold at BYOB restaurants. And now growers can ship wine direct to consumers too.
“When you go away on vacation whether to New Jersey or away from here, I think it’s something people want to have as a memory so I think the shipping side is important. As far as the BYOB laws, that is something that we have taken huge advantage of. We are currently in seven BYOB restaurants around our winery,” said Working Dog Winery owner Mark Carduner.
So what is the king of grapes here in the New Jersey region? Growers tell me that because of similarities in the soil and the climate with the Bordeaux region, it’s the French varietals that are growing best.
“Spot on. We have the same heat units as Bordeaux and also the same rainfall. We are almost a carbon copy of the wine region of France, which is known for its great wine,” Carduner said.
And that’s evidenced by the French varietals growing ripe in great plenty here in central in New Jersey.