We finally made it to the New Jersey Spring Wine Festival @ The Short Hills Hilton, presented by NY Wine Events. This group hosts a series of NY metro area wine events, with a spring and a fall festival taking place annually at this location.
This was very different than the other wine festivals I’ve been to throughout the state. It featured 150 domestic and international wines selected and provided by Wine Library. Usually, the other festivals we attend feature NJ wineries exclusively and are a lower cost to attend, which means higher volume crowds. Tickets for this event are priced higher, but you get lighter crowds, a different atmosphere – indoor rather than outdoor, and a more intimate setting.
The New Jersey Spring Wine Festival was held in a banquet hall type setting, complete with chandelier and an acclaimed jazz band. Food was stationed in the center and featured delicious pasta. I had to go back for seconds of the penne in cream sauce, with peas and mystery meat (pan fried pepporoni or soppresseta). It was so tasty. Cheese and cracker tables were displayed at both ends of the pasta station. The wines and vendors were placed around the perimeter of the room.
We sampled a lot of wines at each station. A couple impressed me and some others were okay, but that’s because of what my taste favors. You could have a different flavor experience depending on your preference.
My highlights were:
- Massanois Imports – Cascina Gilli Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco 2014
This was the first wine I tried. It was perfect for my taste preference of sweet reds. Gilli is a sparkling, effervescent Spumante made with the Malvasia di Castelnuovo grapes. I tend to prefer Spumante, which seems softer compared to champagne, which is harsher for me. Gilli is lightly sweet with berry fruit notes and it presents a light purple-redish color. I would purchase this from a local store.
- Vinska Klet Quercus Chardonnay
I usually prefer oak aged Chardonnays, but this steel Chardonnay captivated my taste buds. The steel aging emphasized the notes of apple, melon, peach and pineapple. I enjoyed this version better than their laid down (aged) wine. The sommelier said that my choice was the more economical of the two.
- Claremont Distillery – Jersey Devil Moonshine
This Jersey based distillery was sampling their blueberry potato vodka served with a blueberry lemonade. I was too afraid to try their other beverages because mixing and me don’t get along. But their moonshine seemed to be crowd pleasers. Claremont’s Jersey Devil Moonshine came in 3 flavors, SINamon, Original, Apple Pie. The overall presentation is great. This would make great birthday or Christmas gifts.
- Balic Winery @ Personally Yours Gift Baskets
This was a shining moment in the evening for me as they were the only vendor serving NJ wines. The shop, Personally Yours Gift Baskets based in Clark, was sampling the Balic wines they sell. I don’t think we’ve tasted Balic wines from Mays Landing yet, so this was a new experience for us. I also had no idea there was a wine tasting room in Clark. Clark is the halfway point between us and my parents’ house. So when we visit them, we’ll have to stop in on the way home. My favorite wines of theirs were the Holiday (Spice), Mango, and Blueberry.
- Barefoot Wine & Bubbly Spritzers
If you like to drink and happen to link wine, this should be your summer go to beverage. Beach or BBQ, look for these little 4 packs at the liquor store. They will be a party pleaser. Guests will be impressed that it’s something new and different and easily accessible. They’re the right size to throw into a cooler. The taste is perfect for summer activities, lightly sweet, effervescent, chilled and refreshing. Both flavors are good, but I have a feeling more people will enjoy the red.The white spritzer is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Riesling. It yields flavors of peach, lemon, lime and apple. The red spritzer is a blend of Moscato, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. It presents flavors of raspberry, orange, and berries with a spice on the finish.
- Salsa Di Parma
An adorable couple was serving Italian salsa spread on crackers. This dip or spread is comprised of asiago cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs. It can be served on bread, pizza, crackers, chips, chicken or for dipping vegetables. This was a pleasant surprise.
Tom’s highlights were:
- The cheese
- More cheese!
Seriously, at one point I was tasting wine and Tom slipped away to the cheese table next to us. Keystone Farms imported cheese from Wisconsin and had every flavor cheese you can think of, including buffalo wing jack and bacon cheese.
As I was sipping wine, Tom said, “I came for the cheese.” I replied, “Well, I came for the wine!” Glad this event had something for the both of us.
Photocred: Tom Rowe