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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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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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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.

Rating

5 Wine Glass (Out of 5)

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So, I’ve been putting my review of Laurita Winery off for a while. We visited this winery with our friends from Michigan during the Spring. This is one of our stops along our local wine tour. It’s about 40 minutes away from our home and within 15 minutes from Silver Decoy and Cream Ridge wineries. Laurita was our last stop on this wine trail.

The Atmosphere

At the entrance to Laurita Winery, there’s an old truck with a bed filled with about a dozen wine barrels marking the point where you turn in. You ascend a long driveway to a beautiful rustic building. If someone was having a wedding at a winery, this is the place I would picture. There’s even a long, sloping, inviting walkway into the facility. Upon entering the building, there are counters to your left with edible goodies including cheeses, crackers, and sandwiches. Continue straight through that room into a larger welcoming room with a cavernous ceiling and all of their wines distributed throughout the room on wine racks. Other fun wine items are also displayed throughout this room. On you’re right are large windows overlooking the vineyard. On the other side of the windows are picnic tables and seating where you can relax and sip some wine while overlooking the sprawling landscape.  Straight ahead is wine tasting bar.

The Wines

Zwiegelt – This red wine had an interesting spiciness and a hint of cinnamon. It was nice light and on the dryer side. Not too sweet or too dry.

Windswept White – Had a slight hint of strawberry and lemon and a subtle sweetness.

Beachcomber Blush – This is a light blush wine that’s not too sweet and shows a slight characteristic of berry and cherry flavors.

Relaxing Red – This red is on the lighter side and tastes like a semi-sweet blush.

Tailgate Red – I  preferred this one to the other wines. The scent and flavors of strawberry, cherry, and raspberry present a delightful fruity wine.

Chocolate Therapy & Strawberry Wine – When you get to Laurita’s dessert wines, this is the best part of their selection. These tastings are served in shot glasses and they recommend trying them together for a decadent treat. It certainly was delicious and surprising. Instead of a typical wine feel, these dessert wines were creamy and reminiscent of strawberry and chocolate milk, but with an kick. I was most impressed with these and found myself preferring the strawberry wine. I ended up bringing this wine to a family party and it was a big hit. Mostly because everyone was curious and wanted to try it. By the end of the night, the bottle was empty.

Laurita Winery is an aesthetically pleasing vineyard, but for me it falls short on the flavor and quality of their wines. Red wine drinkers may prefer this facility, however, I feel that white wine drinkers may be disappointed. They do create a nice experience when you’re there and often feature musical entertainment. Just don’t expect much from their wines.

Rating

2 Wine Glasses (Out of 5)

 

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Each fall, or once we’re bit by the fall bug in September, we plan a day of Apple activities. It’s usually when Delicious Orchards has their Apple Fest. We experienced our apple day this past Saturday.

We started at Battleview Orchards. Here, we parked in the lot outside the store. There’s a line where you can wait outside for fresh amazing donuts. I highly recommend this. Since Tom got me a pumpkin donut from Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, instead I went inside and purchased and devoured a fresh apple turnover, right out of the oven. We explored the store for some fun fall treats to get ourselves in the spirit of fall festivities. They also have a cider bar inside. It wasn’t my kind of bar so I skipped it. (more…)

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[Update: Silver Decoy has since changed their name to Working Dog Winery]

Have I told you that we love Silver Decoy Winery? Tom and I discussed what to do on his birthday and he wanted to go to Silver Decoy. We’ve been here on my birthday too and the day before Christmas Eve. It’s become our special occasion place. Actually, the first time we went here was on Valentine’s Day a few years ago. I like going here on our own special occasions rather than holidays and events, because we like things a little quieter. They do handle big events really well and I’m glad that they have special events because that way more people become familiar with this wonderful place. (more…)

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Our new winery excursion of a couple weekends ago concluded with Hopewell Valley Vineyards. I’m glad we chose to end the day this way. This was a good winery to spend some down time. (more…)

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