Archive for November, 2013

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Last Sunday, Tom and I ventured on a west NJ wine trail that included Alba, Villa Milagro, and Beneduce Vineyards. Two of these wineries are on the same road, rt. 627 and the other is about 2o minutes away. As we headed west on 627, we arrived at Alba first. The stone structured building is close to the road. There’s a narrow driveway between the building and a patio on the right. On this day, even though it was chilly, there was a band playing outside on the patio. We parked up hill just beyond the building. From up here you can see the vines extend for acres.

Upon entering the winery, you walk into a large room that seems like a tasting room and a shop. The room itself resembles a stone wine cellar. We paid for our tasting in this room where we also received a delicious cheese and cracker platter. Then we were instructed to walk down to the adjacent room where there was a long table parallel to the back wall for our tasting. There was another table across the room from that one as well as a few circular tables dispersed throughout the room. We walked to the the long table at the far wall and were greeted by a kind and knowledgeable sommelier. I’ve heard good things about Alba Winery and based on our experience, I can see why. Alba makes quality wines that wine afficionados can enjoy. Here’s what we tried:

Gewurtztraminer – This Gewurtztraminer isn’t nearly as sweet as others. It was the dryest one I’ve had and that quality emphasized the fruity flavors in the wine. This unique wine gave off flavors reminiscent of rose and spice. The sommelier said it pairs well with sushi. Alba’s Gewurtztraminer won GOLD and Best of Class in the Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition and in the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition.

Mainsail White – Alba’s Mainsail White is made of Vidal Blanc, Cayuga, and Reisling. It’s an easy drinking white that’s dry, fruity, and refreshing.

Riesling – The Riesling was too sweet for Tom, but good for me. It presented flavors of tropical fruits. This was the sweeter option. They also had a dry Riesling, which we didn’t try. Alba’s Riesling also won awards, GOLD in the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition and Silver in the Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition.

Rosa Semi-Sweet Alba’s Rosa was sugary sweet. At first, I really enjoyed it, but I think I have to limit my consumption. I bought a bottle and realized one glass is great, but two becomes too sweet for me. However, this is still a tasty wine with subtle hints of peach and grapefruit.

Old Mill Red Alba’s Old Mill Red is an easy drinking red table wine, that’s light and flows easily. It’s a blend that’s aged in French Oak barrels. This wine won Silver in the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, and New Jersey Wine Competition.

Syrah – Alba’s Syrah was my favorite of their selection. The Syrah grapes are grown in Washington state because they require dryer growing conditions. They are then shipped to and fermented in NJ and aged in French Oak. This wine is a slightly spicy wine with berry flavors.

Blueberry – The Blueberry wine was surprisingly light. It wasn’t as tart and sweet as others. Alba’s Blueberry was pleasantly refreshing. It won Bronze in the New Jersey Wine Competition.

Raspberry – The Raspberry wine was also surprisingly light and mild. The fruity flavor is so rich that it has a jam like quality. This wine won 6 awards, including the New Jersey, Finger Lakes, Pacific Rim, San Diego International, Tasters Guild International, and San Francisco Chronicle Competition.

I recommend checking out this winery, especially in the Spring or Summertime. The facility is lovely and the wines have a rich quality.


4 Wine Glasses (out of 5)


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Silver Decoy has been one of our favorite wineries in NJ. We visit this winery in East Windsor, NJ more than any other vineyard. Recently, because of unforeseen reasons, Silver Decoy Winery had to change their name to Working Dog Winery. You can still enjoy the same awesome wines and the same comforts of the winery, it just has a different sign. Working Dog Winery is a fitting replacement. Often, when we visit, there are friendly dogs roaming around, helping out, or just relaxing with guests. Working Dog Winery also hosts a popular, annual Hair of the Dog 5K that raises funds for homeless, abandoned, and neglected pets. Furry friends are very welcome here.

When family members visit us from out of state, we usually make a trip here. We also delight in taking our local friends and family to Working Dog Winery. This past trip was my parent’s first ever visit to a vineyard! All together, there were about 7 us for this winery visit: my husband, Tom; my sister; our friends, George and Irene; my parents, and me. On this trip it was a cold Fall day. The foliage was at it’s peak. The stove fire was rustling in the back of the tasting room at Working Dog, creating a warm, cozy, welcoming environment. In the tasting room, barrel tables were set up with stools for hanging out in the room. In the adjacent room a baby shower was taking place. (That seems like a great idea, but if I were pregnant that would be rubbing it in my face that I couldn’t drink! Good for the guests though.) We took our places at the tasting bar on the right with glasses and tasting sheets in hand. Russ and Jerry were there to greet us. I stood next to mom and dad so I could see their reactions to each wine. We made our selections and began tasting. Although I already knew what everything tasted like, I thought it would be good to follow along with everyone so we can compare our flavor experiences. Also each vintage brings slight variations and sometimes my tastes vary, so it’s all worth trying again (wink… wink).

Here’s what we tried:

Traminette (2011) – I like Working Dog’s Traminette. It suits my sweeter side. As I sipped this, I really get the hint of apricot and slight spices. It’s a light fruity wine, that’s not all the way sweet, but definitely on the sugary side. It was okay for Mom. Irene thought this was one of her favorites. I have to agree with Irene. It might be my 2nd favorite of their’s.

Pinot Grigio (2011) –  The Pinot Grigio is dryer than the Traminette, a typical level of dryness for a Pinot Grigio. It’s less fruity. Dryer fans might appreciate this one. I must inherit my taste for sweet wines from my mother. This one was less to her liking, mostly because she prefers sweeter wines. Aside from our sweet preference, this is a good Pinot Grigio.

Barrel Chardonnay (2011)  The buttery flavors from oak aging really come alive in this wine. As I sip a glass, the oak fragrance fills my nostrils and adds to the experience. It’s dry, not sweet, and just as a barrel chardonnay should taste. This is one of the best in the state. I asked if this was the winner of the Princeton Competition. Jerry said it is the award winning one, but the actual winner was a different vintage. This was too dry for mom, but it met Dad’s approval. He liked this one.

Sangiovese (2011) – Sangiovese is Kristen’s favorite wine at Silver Decoy and possibly her favorite all together. It’s a milder red, not sugary sweet, but rich in fruity flavor with hints of cherry. This is an easy drinking red.

Mom and I skipped most of the other red selections, since we both have a sweet tooth. Sorry dry fans.

Sunrish Blush – I knew mom was going to like this one and she did. Sunrise Blush is definitely sweeter and vibrant without being tart like some other blush or white zinfandel wines. There was a taste in this wine that I enjoyed, but I couldn’t place. It made it even more enticing and quick to sip.

Ugly Duckling White – This wine is mildly sweet and light. It’s also easy to drink.

Ugly Duckling Red – Everyone we introduce this wine to enjoys it. It’s a very easy drinking wine. It provides a unique flavor combination. I asked Jerry about it and he said its made with barrel aged Cabernet Franc with sugar added. That makes a lot of sense! I always say this wine is a great balance of spices, which it receives from the Cab Franc, and mildly sweet, which it gets from the sugar! It’s best served chilled and great for any occasion.

Raspberry – The Raspberry wine was really fruity in a good way. It really captures the raspberry flavor and robustness. I felt a little pucker in my mouth at the end, but in a good way. It wasn’t overbearing. Mom ended up ordering a glass of this to enjoy on their back patio.

Blueberry – Their Blueberry wine was sweet, tangy and rich. Dad ordered a glass of the Blueberry wine. He said it would be great for dessert. Well, it seemed like my parents were having dessert before dinner!

Don’t let the name change throw you off. Working Dog Winery still serves the brilliant, tasty wines that they’ve been making for years. If you haven’t been here yet, definitely check it out. If you have been here, go again and invite some friends and family.


5 Wine Glass (Out of 5)

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