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Archive for October, 2014

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Tom and I had a great time at the 2nd Autumn Wine Festival at Jakes Branch Park in Beachwood, NJ. We had never been to this wine festival before or this park. It was a beautiful day, a perfect opportunity to sip wine in the great outdoors of NJ. The crowd was decent, not too busy. If we didn’t just step right up to the tasting tables at the wine tents, we may have had to wait just a couple minutes to slip in.

The park was really easy to get to, right off the Parkway on Double Trouble road. As soon as we pulled in, we found convenient parking! That’s a relief. People were parked right along the pathway by the entrance. From there, it was a short walk to the actual event. We saw people walking towards the festival from farther directions in the park, but it didn’t look like an inconvenience to them.

The entrance to the wine festival was at the tip of the park by the flagpoles. The winery booths and artisans were set up across from each other to the right of the entrance. Food trucks were beyond the winery displays along the pavement that was just behind the grassy section. At the end of the winery tents, a band was performing. There was an open section of land before a pond, where people were sitting out on blankets and chairs enjoying wine and the tunes.

Enough about what you can expect at this event. Here’s our wine highlights from the Autumn Wine Festival:

Coda Rossa Winery was the first winery we tried at the festival. We haven’t been to this location yet, but we look forward to visiting.

  • Meritage – We started their wine list backwards, but we may have started with their best wine! Meritage was really nice. I’ve noticed that the reds I enjoy most tend to be blends. This wine was blended with Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. It tasted slightly smoky, had a hint of spice, and a light fruity quality.

DiMatteo Vineyards – I have to give a special shout out to Anthony! He was awesome! If you go to this winery, look out for Anthony. He was so on it. He maintained conversation with us, while serving other attendees the wines they requested. We started bonding with Anthony when he noticed Tom’s Detroit Tigers hat and started talking about teams and places in the Detroit metro area. He was a real pleasure and I look forward to seeing him again.

Now for DiMatteo wines!

  • Chambourcin – DiMatteo’s Chambourcin was interesting. It seemed to start off sweet and finished dry, which gave it a dynamic quality. It also had a dark tone to it. It was a surprising and pleasant experience.
  • Sangria – Their Sangria tasted unique. Some sangrias put forward other tropical fruit flavors, but their Sangria presented a taste similar to iced tea. It was like a grape iced tea in a way.
  • Pasquale Red – DiMatteo’s Pasquale Red seemed like a heavier version of the sangria. It’s obviously a sweeter red then. The flavor reminded me of Twizzlers.
  • Apple – They served a nice, warm, apple wine. It wasn’t too sweet or tart. It was a yummy Fall treat, so I bought some to serve on Halloween – not to trick-or-treaters! It’s my treat! When I bought the bottle, it came with a sack of spices. When I heat it up, I’m supposed to add the spice bag. I’ll be enjoying this on Friday night!

Plagido’s Winery was another awesome experience. I was surprised. The sommelier at this tent gave us a full tasting experience that I would expect at the winery. Usually other wine event servers just give you a splash of whatever wine you ask for and maybe comment on the grape or flavors provided. I told this gentleman we didn’t know where to start. He asked what we liked. I said I like sweet and Tom likes dry. He gave us the perfect wines for our tastes. I really wanted to buy a ton of bottles from them, but my budget restricted me. I’m looking forward to going to this winery, so I can stock up on their wines.

  • Sangria – Plagido’s Sangria is a pre-made pouch with a strong pineapple flavor. The pineapple gave it a sweet, summery character.
  • Concetta Casalinga – This wine is their #1 seller. Seems odd to say, but it tasted really grapey, more so than other wines. It reminded me of a Concord wine. I also got a hint of cherry.
  • Homestead – Homestead was like a different type of Concord wine. Unlike the other Concords I’ve tasted, this was less sweet and tasted like it had higher alcohol content.
  • 5.8 Earthquake – This may have been the first wine I had that was made of Fredonia grapes. It was another sweet wine. The Fredonia grape gave it a unique quality.
  • Empire Port – Tom really liked their port, probably because it’s aged in oak and a red blend.

Valenzano Winery offers a good variety of wines. They sell one of my favorites, Shamong Red. They also have a number of fun fruity wines.

  • Blackberry Syrah – Their Blackberry Syrah was interesting. It tasted like blush, but less tart. It was light and had a hint of alcohol, which other sweet wines don’t have.

Wagonhouse Winery also has a fun selection of wines with unique seasonal flavors.

  • Autumn Goddess – In this wine I really get spices of pumpkin and apple. They really catch the essence of Fall in a glass. I also love their Shore Thing for Summer, which is a mango peach wine that tastes like sunshine.

I can’t leave out Tomasello Winery – I’m so familiar with their wines. I don’t want to leave them out since I know them so well. For Fall, I would recommend their Autumn Leaf, Spiced Apple, Broomstick Brew, and Almonique. They’re all delicious wines.

I’d also like to let you know about Carolyn’s Crystal Creations. As we browsed the artisans, we were mezmorized by the beauty of her items. Each piece was made of Swarovski crystal. The first one that caught my eye was a turtle necklace. I love turtles. Then, I couldn’t believe the beauty of a horse head piece. I asked if they had bird items too since I’m a bird nerd. She said she can make them. We also went on to have a wonderful conversation. Carolyn was such a plesant person and so nice to talk to. You can find her items here and contact her for custom creations.

Thanks for reading!

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Every Summer my family vacations in Wildwood, which is just a couple exits away from Cape May. During this annual trip, I usually urge my parents to try the Cape May wineries. They really enjoy resting on the beach all day while on vacation – I can’t blame them – so they usually decline my suggestions. However, knowing that I wanted them to check out the Cape May vineyards, they planned a special weekend with us to visit these wineries. So a couple weekends ago, I was finally able to go with them. This particular weekend celebration was a birthday present from them and an anniversary gift for Tom and me. This past week, Tom and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.

Our weekend in Cape May was nice, but it was a little busier than I expected. I didn’t realize September is wedding month in Cape May. If you are planning on going to Cape May, keep in mind that some places may be closed or closing early to cater to private events. That’s what we encountered when we tried visiting a couple other places. When we arrived at Cape May Winery it looked like something was going on there. I thought they were having a special event on the back patio, but it may have just been a musician performing outside and a big crowd. All the times we’ve been to Cape May Winery, we’ve never seen it that busy! Luckily, we were able to grab a spot at the tasting bar on the upstairs deck. Which was a first for me. I don’t think I’ve tasted on their deck before. We were also able to find seats on their balcony to sit and enjoy a glass of wine.

I have to admit, I was less impressed with their wines this time around than I have been in the past. I enjoyed them better during previous visits, but it was still a nice experience. Here’s what we tried.

2013 Cape May Riesling – This wine was a dryer Riesling that tasted less sweet than others of this kind. In their Riesling, I tasted hints of honeysuckle and citrus. Dad and I ended up having a glass of this when we relaxed on the deck.

Lighthouse White – The Lighthouse White was a crisp wine with flavors of honey and apple.

Lighthouse Riesling – I was somewhat disappointed in this wine. I remembered it more favorably. This version had a tart and citrus quality. I found it to be a little sour and it left a vinegar-like taste in my mouth. It did have a lovely smell with fruit accents.

Lighthouse Red – The Lighthouse Red is a blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Chambourcin. I tend to enjoy red blends. This was nice. I tasted a bit of spice and cherry. However, I felt like I enjoyed it more in the past.

Lighthouse Blush – This wine is like a white zinfandel with a hint of cherry. It’s the fruitier wine of the Lighthouse line. Mom liked this one best. Like me, her taste leans sweeter.

Isaac Smith Apple – If you like apple flavors, this is your wine! Isaac Smith Apple is a nice fall treat. As you sip this wine, it’s like your biting into a Granny Smith and getting wine instead of juice from the apple. The apple flavor is right on point. It’s a really nice treat. But it is sweet like a treat or like candy. The smell reminded me of the apple flavored Jolly Rancher. I appreciate the taste of this wine, but for some reason, apple juice, apple cider, and other appley drinks turn my stomach a little. The flavor was so good I wanted more, but for my tummy, I held back. Mom ended up getting a glass of this one.

Wines vary year to year and some times or some days my tastes change. Although this tasting experience was different for me, I still love the experience and feel of Cape May Winery. It’s a great blend of beach and country. I love sitting on the distressed wood deck, that is reminiscent of driftwood, while overlooking the vines as I watch hawks circle above the trees and smell the salt sea air. Cape May Winery continues to improve the facility and expand. On this visit, I noticed what looked like a newer building in the back. Cape May Winery is definitely a must visit.

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