Wine Industry in New Jersey Gets Better With Age

By Lauren Wanko

Wine tasting is not a bad way to spend the afternoon. Cherry Hill resident Joe Barstys is a proud New Jersey wine lover.

“We’re usually thinking of California, New Zealand, Germany, but surprisingly within a half hour of my house I can find such quality wine,” said Barstys.

“We’re really seeing a renaissance,” said Larry Sharrott. “There’s all sorts of things going on with our industry,” .

There’s a wine waterfall of sorts at Sharrott Winery in Winslow Township as the fermented grapes are piped through the press. Eventually this will be poured into barrels and then bottled as their 2015 Merlot.

“We made huge strides in the last 10 years. The industry has more than doubled. There’s a lot of people in the industry now with a lot of knowledge, so we’re growing better grapes, making better wines,” Sharrott said.

The Garden State Wine Growers Association indicates there were just 15 wineries in the year 2000. Today there are more than 50. New Jersey Wine and Vineyards generated $231 million in economic impact in 2011. That including $20 million in wine related tourism expenditures. An estimated 100,000 people visited New Jersey wineries that year. Still the association insists these numbers have grown since then, and job growth within the industry has increased for 30 consecutive months. Owner Sharrott, a former software developer, now tastes his cabernet franc grapes.

“We actually have the perfect climate for growing a lot of the Bordeaux varieties. We fall almost identical to Bordeaux. Everything you can grow in Bordeaux actually grows very well here,” he said.

For New Jersey’s winemakers 2015 is shaping up to be a banner year.

“2015 is probably going to go down as one of the best season’s we’ve ever seen in New Jersey,” Sharrott said.

Sharrott attributes this to the warm spring and consistent temperatures throughout the summer, along with little rainfall.

“I always joke with my wife that if my lawn is dead, I’m happy because we’re going to have great grapes,” he said.

Still Sharrott credits more than Mother Nature for a booming business. A 2012 law allows New Jersey wineries producing a maximum of 250,000 gallons of wine a year to directly ship up to 12 cases of wine to customers over the age of 21, both in and out of the state. Since then Sharrott’s Wine Club business has doubled, and the winemaker’s grateful his brand is more visible to potential customers.

“We’re allowed to open a lot more outlets throughout the state. We now have 15 outlets we can open. They allow us to extend our licenses and open a tasting room in other places, other then the winery,” Sharrott said.

While wine enthusiasts keep tasting, Sharrott’s got a lot more work ahead. He’ll be picking grapes until mid-October