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My 30th birthday was a few weeks ago. For the occasion, my husband, Tom, planned a fun day of wine drinking at our favorite local wineries. We stopped first at Cream Ridge Winery and then at Working Dog Winery. We had 3 cars of people with us. Somehow we all got split up along the way, but we happened to get there at the same time! When we arrived at Cream Ridge and parked in their lot, we noticed people outside walking along the vines. I hadn’t really thought of doing that here, but I want to mention it, so you know it’s something you can do. I also noticed that they expanded their outdoor patio area, which is great. The one thing I thought Cream Ridge Winery was missing was more of a hang out spot. We usually go here just for a tasting. It’s nice to see that they increased their outdoor seating area so you can spend more time visiting. However, on this particular day, the weather was gray and there was a lingering threat of rain, so we wouldn’t be able to sit outside for long.

As we approached the door and passed through the front patio seating area, there was a band getting ready to play. To the left on the front lawn, there was a small food trailer, like a truck, set up to offer visitors some meat treats, like hot dogs and such. As we entered the wine tasting room, the bar was filled with visitors. We waited just a little bit for some space to clear. We were a somewhat big group, so 3 of us stood at the counter and the rest hung behind. We reviewed the wine lists together and leaned in to get our samples. We all had different tastes. Here are some of the wines I tried during this visit.

Riesling – The Riesling was juicy with a lemony flavor. It was somewhat sweet and packed a little punch on the end. The tasting notes say that their Riesling is a good match for spicy food.

Eastern White – The tasting list said the Eastern White is “back by popular demand.” Personally, I can see why. It’s made from Niagara grapes and that gives it a Welch’s white grape juice quality. It was slightly tangy, but definitely sweet. My tastes lean to the sweeter side, so i liked it. It was a little too sweet for some of the others that were with us.

Cabernet Franc – I found the Cabernet Franc to be interesting. It had a roasted characteristic and it gave off a flavor of black cherry with a hint of licorice.

Summer Sangria – The Summer Sangria had a perfume-like aroma and the taste reminded me of cherry. This wine was more on the sweeter side. It’s made with concord, my favorite grape, and Niagara.

Strawberry – Tom sat out this tasting since he was our DD. But I saved the strawberry wine sample for him, since he loves strawberries. He thought it was good. He said it tasted like strawberry, but with a punch. Cream Ridge Winery’s Strawberry wine was a silver medal winner.

Almondberry – I knew I liked this wine, but it was even better than I remembered. It may have been a different year than the ones I tried before. Almondberry is made with raspberry, Niagara grapes, and touched with an almond accent.

Frozen Sangria – The Frozen Sangria was really intriguing. The freezer pouches were pre-made with the winery’s branding. When you purchase this wine, they pour the bottle into the pouch for you. You take it home and freeze it. This sangria is made with the Eastern White wine. Since, I liked the Eastern White and sangria in general, of course, I enjoyed this one too!

It was really difficult deciding which wine I wanted to buy. I wanted the Frozen Sangria, Summer Sangria, Eastern White, and Almondberry. I ended up getting the Almondberry. If you’re thinking about checking Cream Ridge Winery out, I’d recommend it for the experience and their specialty wines. Their wines lean towards the fruitier or sweeter side. However, they do have options for those who enjoy more traditional or dryer wines. As I’ve mentioned before, the staff is very friendly. The winery itself is cute. They have a nice shop and they put on fun events throughout the year.

This past weekend was their 23rd Bluegrass & Pig Roast Harvest Festival. If you missed it this year, mark it on you calendar for next year. On September 27, Cream Ridge Winery is hosting their 2nd Annual “Finish Wine” Bicycle Rally. Visit their website here for more details.

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My birthday was this past weekend and in the lead up to the occasion some friends and family asked what I wanted. There’s not much that I can think of other than wine and clothes. I replied with my favorite NJ wines, which are easy to rattle off! However, with a friend visiting from out of state and family located all over NJ, I realized that it may not be easy for them to get these wines. Other than NJ wines, I don’t know of too many others to suggest. As far as white wines go, I enjoy Kendall Jackson with sushi. I also like Bogle and Toasted Head Chardonnay. One of my usual go to’s is a German Sweet Red made from Dornfelder grapes. I think it’s called, Weingut Fritz Windisch Heimersheimer Rotenfels Dornfelder – there’s no way I can say that, but I know what the bottle looks like. I realized I really need to try more wines to diversify my palate and so I know what to look for in the stores when they don’t have my preferred Jersey wines.

With this revelation, I decided to add a new feature to NJ Wine with Me called Wines of the World. Once a month, I will try a completely new wine that I’ve never had before and let you know what I think it tastes like. Hopefully, my thoughts can help you determine if these wines are worth a try. If you try it or tried it, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

For the first installment of Wines of the World, I tried 2 white wines by Brancott Estate in New Zealand. They are both of their Flight Song line. The first is Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc 2013. The fragrance reminded me of a Riesling, which tends to remind me of iced tea. I found the wine to be effervescent in a way. It was somewhat tingly, which gave it a refreshing quality. It seemed like it had more acidity. The Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc taste reminded me of lemon and grapefruit, which would explain the iced tea smell. The finish was slightly sour. While I experienced some fruit flavors, this was not a sweet wine. It leaned to the dryer side. I can imagine sipping this wine at a backyard party on a deck while watching fireflies bob above the grass.

The next wine was Flight Song Pinot Grigio. I liked the flavors of the Sauvignon Blanc, however, I preferred their Pinot Grigio. It went down real easy because it didn’t have the sharpness that some other Pinot Grigios have. I didn’t get as many flavors from this wine, just a touch of lemon. It didn’t have the aftertaste or tingle that I experienced in the Sauvignon Blanc. I can see myself finishing a bottle of this. If you notice in the pictures, there’s a little bit less in the Pinot Grigio bottle.

An interesting note about these wines, they are made with grapes that were harvested earlier in the Summer when natural sugar levels are lower. This enables the wine to have less calories and sugar, but remain flavorful.

After trying these, I’ll have to try some other New Zealand wines to see if the features of these wines were unique to the location or just to this vineyard. If you would like to buy these for yourself, they are for sale @ WineChaeteau.com, which is a NJ based wine retailer.

What should I try next? Any suggestions? Let me know in the comments if you try these.

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Just recently, Tom and I took part in another Old York Cellars Virtual Vines wine tasting. To attend a Virtual Vines wine tasting, you just have to sign up ahead of time to receive your wines in advance. Then, on the day of, login to Livestream to attend the live tasting session. For this Virtual Vines, we logged in at our kitchen table, where we set up our laptop and tasted the wines. I have to add that I was running late on my way home because of traffic and Tom prepared everything. I’m so lucky to have such a good husband! Appetizers were made, wines were opened, glasses poored, he took pictures, and logged into the Livestream. He also coined the term “wine selfie” – all before I came home. Check out the slideshow to see Tom’s “wine selfie.”

For this particular home wine tasting, we tried their What Exit line of wines. We sampled What Exit White, What Exit Red, and What Exit Blush. I tweeted as much as I could about our tasting experience, because each tweet generated $1 towards the Hometown Heroes organization. Hometown Heroes helps people in crisis. They also honor real heroes in the community like Old York Cellars, who is helping those in need through their fundraising efforts. Hometown Heroes, as well as the What Exit Wines line, began after Superstorm Sandy hit. Proceeds from the sales of What Exit Wines benefit recovery efforts.

What Exit White - We started with the What Exit White. It wasn’t long before it was gone! I tweeted, “We may have already finished the @WhatExitWines White. It’s that good.” This white is 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Seyval Blanc. This was a light, crisp, and easy drinking white wine. We got hints of honey with a finish of apricot.

What Exit Blush – What Exit Blush is similar to What Exit White in that they both have 90% Chenin Blanc. Except that the remaining 10% in the Blush is Cabernet Sauvignon. The What Exit Blush is a dryer blush, not sweet or fruity like others.

What Exit Red – Old York Cellars makes some of my favorite red wines. As I said in other articles, my taste tends to lean sweet or to white wines. I am usually surprised by how much I enjoy Old York Cellars reds. What Exit Red is another one. This wine is made of 80% Merlot, 10% Barbera, and 10% Landot Noir. I loved the bouquet. I smelled fragrances of fruit and oak. This red was warm and bold. It seemed to provide heat, but it didn’t make me hot. It’s mild for reds, which may be why I like it. I got a black cherry flavor from this one.

I loved the labels on these bottles. If you love all things Jersey, you would like them too. The What Exits wines are good, but it’s also worth buying just to have this awesome label! The labels are customizable too. You can include your exit, town, or a personal message. What Exit Wines would make great, unique, and special gifts.

If you’d like to see Old York Cellars for yourself and welcome the Fall harvest, check out their upcoming Fall Harvest Festival on September 27th and 28th. They’ll have hayrides, vineyard tours, and they’ll share information about the harvest. The next Virtual Vines is taking place on September 25th. Check their website for event details.

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The Lakewood BlueClaws Jersey Shore Wine Festival is one of my favorite wine events to attend. There’s something comfortable about this experience. The stadium provides ample parking making it easy to get in and get out. The event takes place on the front lawn, which is much bigger than you would think. The layout has a square shape with 2 aisles. The outer perimeter is lined with 12 wineries and the middle section is comprised of vendors and crafts, most of which are wine themed. It’s never over crowded, which allows you to attend with friends and family and sample wines at the tables together.

This particular day, it was a beautiful outside, a perfect wine tasting day. Tom, my husband, and I attended with our friend Dan. Thankfully, they let me lead the way and select whatever I wanted to try. It was a little too warm outside to drink reds, so forgive me for not including more. I tried many wines and here are some of the highlights from the event.

The Wines

Four Sisters Winery - Perhaps this is cheating. One of the wines I was most looking forward to was Beaver Creek Red from Four Sisters Winery. This is one of my favorite wines in NJ, or in the US for matter. I didn’t buy it last year and I regretted and missed it. So, before sampling it, I already knew I wanted to buy it. Their tent was one of our first stops. We tried this right away and it was still as delicious as I remember it. It’s a perfect concord grape wine. Beaver Creek Red is sweet and refreshing. It’s good for a nice Summer day, but honestly, I’d drink it any time of year. It’s one of their best sellers.

Four Sisters Winery also provided samples of Niagara. It’s a somewhat sweeter white. You can almost tell it’s sweeter by the color, which was more of a golden yellow. I also enjoyed their Papa’s Red and Holiday Seasoned. Papa’s Red is a slightly sweet chianti wine. The Holiday Seasoned is the Papa’s Red with spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg added.

Cream Ridge Winery - Cream Ridge Winery highlighted their Summer wines at this festival. Their Pinot Mojito seemed to be a big hit. I’m not into the mint flavor, but if you like mojitos, you should try this! We almost bought it just for the bottle. It’s not a typical wine bottle. Instead it resembled more of a beachy Patron bottle. It was a shorter barrel, indicating that you are in for a different experience. Their Kiwine is another special treat with it’s hints of kiwi and lime. It’s not overwhelmingly fruity like some from other wineries. Cream Ridge Winery does fruit wines really well. While there’s hints of fruit, it still captures the essence of the wine. Of their summery offerings, their Sangria was my favorite. It had an effervescent quality. It was the best Sangria we tried at the festival. It was unique with concord, niagara, and citrus flavors.

Bellview Winery - My favorite from Bellview Winery was the Fiesta wine. I’m lucky enough that they carry this one at the local liquor store, so I can buy it whenever I want. I’m a sucker for sweet reds and this one often hits the spot. It’s a combination of cranberry and red grape wine. It’s a party in a bottle.

Valenzano Winery – I skipped one of my favorites at Valenzano, the Shamong Red. It’s a sweet red wine made from concord grapes. The Shamong Red and their Red, White, and Blueberry Sangria, which is another delicious wine, are both sold at our local liquor stores. The highlight at the Valenzano tent was the Berry White Cranberry. Many NJ wineries have a red cranberry wine, but their white cranberry is the only one I’ve tried. It was a tasty, unique treat. Again, a little bit on the sweeter side, but you probably could have guessed that. White Cranberry is less bitter and tart than red cranberry and it presents more of a citrus quality.

Wagonhouse Winery – Wagonhouse Winery featured many unique flavor combinations. This seems to be their specialty. They were out of Fallen Quaker, which they said was one of their most popular. Autumn Goddess is another one of their hot wines, which would be a wonderful Fall treat, along with their Ornery Apple. The wine I enjoyed most from them this time around was the Shore Thing wine. I like it so much that I bought a bottle and I’ve thoroughly savored a glass of it already. The sommelier said it’s a combination of peach, honey, and almond. Somehow it captures the essence of Summer.

Monroeville Vineyard & Winery – This may have been my first time sampling wines from Monroeville Winery. We haven’t been there yet and this was their first time at this festival. I enjoyed their selections including their Apple wine blended with their Cranberry wine, which they mixed for us. Their Monroeville Red, a sweet, red, concord wine was my favorite of their wines and one of my preferred wines of the day. I made sure to grab a bottle before we left.

Tomasello Winery – We’ve tried Tomasello wines many times before. There’s a tasting room in Monmouth county that’s near where we live. If you go there, say hi to Anne! One of my Tomasello favorites is their Almondique. In the Fall, I also love their Witch’s Brew. I’ll be adding a few more favorites to the list, their fruit Moscatos. They have a Blueberry, Cranberry, and Raspberry Moscato. The Cranberry was a little bit tart, which is characteristic of cranberry. The Blueberry was delectable, smooth, not too fruity or sweet. Of the Tomasello wines we tried this day, Blueberry Moscato was the best. The Raspberry is also tasty and it really captures the raspberry quality (my mom loves this one.) However, Tom and I preferred the Blueberry. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get this one at nearby stores.

4JG’s Orchards & Vineyards – If you enjoy history in addition to wine, you may really appreciate the Monmouth Blush. It’s a lively, dry rose made with cabernet franc and vidal blanc. They leave the skins on for a couple days to give it the blush shade. I was captivated by the bottle. I love local history and trail blazing women, so I couldn’t help but ask about the label picturing a battle scene with a female figure positioned prominently in the center. I was informed that 4JG’s is actually on Monmouth Battleground and the woman represents Molly Pitcher. This winery is not open every weekend, so certain events and festivals are the only time you can capture their wines. When discussing this with their sommeliers, we discovered that they also provide grapes to many of the other NJ wineries. You can learn a lot from 4JG’s!

I highly recommend attending this wine festival when it comes around annually in June. If you attend other festivals, be sure to try offerings from these wineries!

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Last week, I tuned into Old York Cellars latest edition of Virtual Vines, which highlighted their Blackberry and Stagecoach Red, as well as Laurie’s (amazing) Chocolates from Bucks County, PA. I really enjoy these Virtual Vine tastings. It provides an opportunity to really indulge in the qualities of the wines and fully savor the flavors. My appreciation for Old York Cellars grows more and more during each Virtual Vines session. I love how they interact with the audience and answer all questions. I feel like I’m getting to know the staff and in a way their getting to know me through our Tweets and chats during Virtual Vines. I’ve been to Old York Cellars in the past and I’m really looking forward to getting there again. In the meantime, I enjoy experiencing Old York Cellars through Virtual Vines.

Stagecoach Red – The Stage Coach Red is 50% Malbec 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. The sommelier said this wine pairs well with veggie burgers as well as other foods. Coincidentally, this was exactly what Tom and I were eating! We didn’t have time for much else when I walked in the door late because my bus hit traffic heading home! I have to say, they did go well together. Tom said he thought it would also pair well with Italian food. Stage Coach Red is a lighter style red with less tannins that makes it easier to drink. It’s fruit at the front, plum in the middle, and peppery on the end. It captures different characteristics and qualities while you sip. If you’re not typically a red wine fan, you may enjoy the dynamic qualities of the Stagecoach Red. We served this wine chilled, as we prefer to drink our reds at a cooler temperature. I asked them if this was okay and they said, it’s fine in warmer months, but they would suggest only chilling it for about 10 minutes. Another interesting note, Stagecoach Red was named so because Old York Cellars Rd, obviously what the winery was named after, used to be a stagecoach road, one of the oldest that went from Philly to New York.

Blackberry – I have a sweet tooth, but Tom doesn’t, yet we both loved this wine! I knew at first sip that I could easily finish the whole bottle! Tom said it tasted naturally sweet and just like blackberry. He added that it would be great with cheesecake. Yum! I agree. It’s semi-sweet, not tart like other fruity dessert wines, and refreshing. The Blackberry is a nice dessert wine that’s accommodating for people with different tastes. Chocolate pairs amazingly with Blackberry. It becomes a dessert in itself that’s creamy, fruity, and smooth.  Someone asked a good question and we got a good answer. The question was, “What’s the serving size for dessert wines?” The answer, “Whatever you like.” My response, “Good!”

Some suggestions from Laurie about pairing chocolates with wines were put something in dark chocolate, like almonds to make it more palatable, salt in chocolate softens wines, and wine should be sweeter than the chocolate.

If you’re free, make sure you visit Old York Cellars Winery on May 3rd and 4th. They’re hosting a Spring Festival and Laurie’s Chocolates will be there! The Festival will feature food, music, wines, ours, hayrides, crafts, and fun stuff!

The next Virtual Vines is May 29th. Check back here to purchase your tasting kit.

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Between the cold weather, Tom getting the flu, and busy weekends, we have not been able to get to wineries outside of our area. We often travel to the Central Jersey wine trail when we can, which includes Cream Ridge Winery and Working Dog Winery. We did slip in a couple trips to these vineyards recently, but we haven’t had enough time to make it to the wineries in South Jersey. These might require a weekend trip since there are so many around Gloucester, Atlantic, and Salem counties. In the meantime, until we have the time, money, and favorable weather to get to the South Jersey locations, I’m glad there are online wine retailers that sell NJ wines! They can ship some of my favorite wines or NJ brands right to me. In some cases, it would take an hour or 2 for us to travel to one of these wineries. Of course, I love visiting the vineyards and when we stop there I try to stock up on the wines I enjoy. But on occasion it’s easier to have it shipped to us and do an in home tasting.

I recently received Tomasello’s Pomegranate Champagne, Chambourcin, and Sparking Pinot Noir, as well as Alba’s Riesling from WineChateau.com. When the box arrived it felt like Christmas! I might just order wine more often.

Tomasello’s Sparkling Pomegranate - This is a fun, unique champagne. Being pomegranate it was on the sweeter side, which I can appreciate. Of course, there was a lot of fizz at first, but it settled down for a delightfully refreshing, effervescent, fruity champagne. I think I’ll bring one of these to a family Easter party as a way to celebrate the occasion. The flavors will be fitting for the event too, bright, fruity, and fun.

Tomasello’s Chambourcin – This smooth, light wine had a smoky and peppery quality to it. It reminded me of black cherry without the sweetness. Tomasello’s Chambourcin is a true red wine.

Alba Riesling – It’s gone! I drank it all and enjoyed every sip of it. It was an appropriate amount of sweet. It was reminiscent of apple flavors, but not tart. Alba’s Riesling is good, fruity, and citrusy. These qualities made me yearn for summer and warm weather. This Riesling is nice – satisfying for fans of sweeter wines.

Tomasello’s Sparkling Pinot Noir – I have to admit I was not crazy about this champagne. It struck me as a weird combination. It was very effervescent. For some reason it seemed hard for me to get past the fizz. When I did, I really noticed the Pinot Noir quality on the finish. Since I’m more of a white or sweet wine drinker, this one didn’t appeal to me. But since Tomasello has so many great wines and I really enjoyed the Pomegranate Champagne, I didn’t think much of it.

I love supporting NJ entrepreneurs and businesses. Wine Chateau is a NJ based online wine store, with 2 physical locations. You can go there right now and order the wines I talk about. Not only is it a NJ business, but the founder also went to a NJ college, NJIT. He one upped me on that, because I went to NYIT. Anyway, WineChateau.com has about 53 NJ wines for you to pick from.

I can’t wait to get to the actual Tomasello winery. I’ve had so many good wines from them. But in the meantime, I’ll get my fix from their small shops when I can get there and WineChateau.com. I suggest ordering some wines for Easter or Spring celebrations. I often bring NJ wines to parties and they’re a great conversation piece. Guests learn about NJ’s agriculture and burgeoning wine business and we get to chat about one of my favorite topics, wine. Next, I may order Tomasello’s Sweet Cakes Sweet Concord and their Red Raspberry Moscato. How about you? What will you order? View this link and search by US region to see what NJ wines WineChauteau.com carries.

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Tom and I kept trying to make it out to Cream Ridge Winery this winter. I follow them on Facebook and as soon as I saw that they released their Winter Spice wine I knew I had to try it. Things got busy before Christmas and we couldn’t make it out there before the holiday. Then, winter storms prevented us from making it there every time we attempted to visit. This past weekend, NJ wineries were participating in the Wine Growers Association event, Wine & Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend. Spending our time at our favorite local wineries is just what Tom and I wanted to do for Valentine’s weekend. We planned to go Saturday and then nature dropped another couple of inches of snow on the 10 or so that we have already, so we waited one more day. On Sunday, the roads were clear and nature looked lovely. There are beautiful houses in this area and expansive farm land that looked charming under fresh fallen snow.

Each time we go to Cream Ridge Winery I like it more and more. There’s an inviting warmth here that’s palpable. It’s an added component that not every winery provides. The friendly atmosphere suits the cozy environment displayed within. As we approached the tasting room, snow enveloped the building and topped the wine barrels that sit outside. As we entered the wine room, they were noticeably busier than a normal weekend day. For special events, they draw patrons into their barrel room where they’ve placed additional tasting bars for the occasion. This opened up the main tasting room that we walked into. Conveniently, there were 2 spaces available for us right at the end of the bar. We were quickly greeted by the sommelier and we were excited to try what was new. It seems that there’s always something new and exciting at Cream Ridge as they continue to introduce original wine flavors. I skipped most of the regular wines and spent more time tasting their new, fun options.

Blue Mooney – I really enjoyed Cream Ridge’s Blue Mooney wine. It’s another unique flavor that surprised me. Blue Mooney is a combination of Chambourcin and blueberry. As I brought the glass to my nose, I got a delightful blast of the blueberry aroma. If this was in a candle, I would buy it! The fragrance was so nice that I kept sniffing it! The wine was just as delicious as it smelled. The Chambourcin gives the wine characteristics of red. It mixes well with the sweetness of blueberry. Blue Mooney was real light, smooth, and slightly tart. It wasn’t as sweet as dessert wines, but sweeter than reds typically are. I bought a bottle of this one!

99 Rows - 99 Rows features a Fredonia Grape and celebrates Cream Ridge’s 99 rows of vineyard. I found it to be a mild wine with a mix of sweetness.

Spring Tide Sangria - Spring Tide Sangria is a mixture of concord, plum, and citrus flavors. This wine tasted sweet and mild. I got a hint of the concord accent. Being a big fan of concord grapes, I would have preferred it to be a heavier on the concord. But that’s just me. Spring Tide Sangria had a nice refreshing quality. This seems like it would be a good party wine that would present a variety of flavors while not being overpowering.

Plum - The Plum wine tasted like a white wine that was light on the fruit side. On the finish, I felt a slight kick on the way down.

Almondberry - I find the Almondberry wine to be very enjoyable and apparently so do many others. I heard a sommelier say that this is one of their most popular wines. This wine combines raspberry and Niagara grapes and showcases an almond accent. It’s an interesting and delightful mix. I wouldn’t mind if it went even heavier on the almond flavor.

Winter Spice - Winter Spice was the one we really came to try! We were glad that there was still some Winter Spice left. This wine reminds me of one of my favorite wines. So of course, I had to get 2 bottles, especially when I saw that their supply was limited. Winter spice can be served warm or chilled. It’s a fruity tasting, blush wine spiced with nutmeg, clove, and allspice. When heated the flavors really come alive and become more fragrant. I like spiced wines served both ways. I appreciate that this one is called ‘Winter’, so I’m not limited to drinking it just around the holidays.

If anyone I know likes sweet or fruity wines, I always recommend Cream Ridge. They have a special touch when it comes to sweet wines and original concoctions. And they’re just so nice that you’re almost guaranteed a pleasant experience. I hope you enjoy their wines as much as I do. For more on Cream Ridge, check out my article on our past visit.

www.creamridgewinery.com

Rating

4 Wine Glasses (Out of 5)

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