Archive for the ‘North Jersey’ Category

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Have you tried wine tasting at home? If not, you should! With Virtual Vines, Old York Cellars has connected me to an online network of NJ wine afficionados, an expert wine maker, friendly and knowledgeable sommeliers, and progressive concepts through online wine tasting. Just recently, Tom and I tune in to Old York Cellars Virtual Vines through a Livestream link. We received our wines in the mail beforehand, which is some of the best mail you can get! I rushed from work in NY to home in NJ, hoping there was no traffic, to make it home in time to tune in. Tom kindly and supportively prepared for the at home wine tasting. Bottles were opened and pictures were taken before I arrived! Tom even had time to take his #wineselfie. I picked up Chinese on the way home from my bus stop. Our laptop was set up and I grabbed my tablet, so I can watch and tweet with other attendees (I don’t yet own a smartphone – I’m holding out.) It’s great to be able to connect with other NJ wine drinkers and see what their thoughts are on the wines and how they paired it.

During this tasting session, Old York cellars also had an event at their winery. We got to hear Scott Gares, the winemaker, talk about the wines with Laurin Dorman, the Old York Cellars Sommelier, while a crowd at the winery tasted wines paired with seasonal dishes cooked on premise. The Chef from 55 Main even joined the stream to chat a bit. The virtual attendees got to try Old York Cellars Riesling and Malbec. This Virtual Vines was intended to highlight wines that paired well with turkey. I’m a little late on sharing this information with you. Tom and I headed out to West Virginia to visit family for Thanksgiving and before the trip I didn’t have much time to type this up. Sorry for the delay. Although Thanksgiving is now behind us, these wines may pair well with what you’re eating for Christmas, especially if you’re serving up turkey.

Riesling – This is a dry riesling, with apply, clean, crisp features. It’s is an appropriate option for a Fall, Thanksgiving wine. Since it’s dry, this riesling is not sweet or tart. It reminded me more of a Chardonnay. Lauren described it as having stonefruit flavors. I haven’t had a stonefruit before, but those words seem to capture the taste of the wine. I actually wasn’t crazy about this one at first. However, when we returned from our Thanksgiving trip, I had some of the riesling left in the fridge. It seemed more appealing to my taste buds after letting it sit.

Malbec – The Malbec is gone. Good wines don’t last long in my possession. This was a beautiful, complex wine that presented multiple qualities. At first, on the nose, I could smell blackberries and then, I got a smokiness, which made an interesting combination. The taste fit the scent. The Malbec was slightly spicy with a fruity taste. I also thought the wine had a thick texture to it, like plushness.

@Foodwinechickie said, “2013 Malbec by @OldYorkCellars – juicy fruit, medium body, velvety texture #virtualvines.” I’d have to agree.

I’d also like to recommend that you consider Old York Cellars for Christmas gifts. Their reds are some of the best and pair excellently with chocolates. This Malbec with chocolate would be a great gift for an adventurous wine drinker. They offer a combination of wine and chocolate gift options. If you are buying a gift for someone who likes sweets or fruit flavors, definitely consider getting their Blackberry wine. Also, they make customizable labels and their What Exit Wines make great gifts for Jersey lovers.

Some of Old York Cellars gift options include wine glasses, wine opener, t-shirts, chocolate tin, wine soap, chocolate and wine gift set, and varieties of gift boxes. Find items for purchase here, call them at 908-284-9463, or email narendra@oldyorkcellars.com for orders.

If you’d like to attend the next Old York Cellars Virtual Vines, check their back at their website for their upcoming  January event.


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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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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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As you are well aware, it’s been a pretty cold and snowy winter. Tom, Kristen, and I headed out one Saturday to visit some wineries as it started to snow. At first it looked like flurries. Then, before we knew it the ground was covered in snow and cars ahead of us were sliding around the road. That particular day we had planned to do our nearest wine trail and one of my favorites, which normally includes the Tomasello Winery tasting room at Wemrock Orchards, Cream Ridge Winery, and Working Dog Winery. We got to our first stop Tomasello just as the roads were getting bad. I bought a couple bottles and we headed back home. This hasn’t been a favorable winter for excursions.

Old York Cellars offers Virtual Vines, an online tasting session. This is perfect for the winter weather conditions we’ve been having. Rather than toughing it in the snow or subjecting yourself to freezing temperatures, you can have a winery experience in your home! I love it. They’re the only winery that I know of who does this. It’s a unique experience. For each Virtual Vines, for a fee advertised on their website, they will ship you 2 full-sized bottles of wine and delicious chocolates, along with suggestions for food pairings. I appreciate that we have the opportunity to really zero in on the qualities of these 2 wines rather than do a full tasting. All you have to do is log into a website where they broadcast a live tasting session and drink your wine!

For the last Virtual Vines, I invited, my sister, Kristen, and our friend, Irene to join Tom and me. We sat around the kitchen table and set up the laptop on the far end. On the opposite end, was a platter of cheeses, crackers, meats, and glasses and bottles of wine. We sampled and completely drank 2 bottles of wine, which were Vidal Blanc and Syrah.

Vidal Blanc – Each of us thought the Vidal Blanc was clean, refreshing, light, and crisp. Scott Gares, the wine maker, and Laura, the Virtual Vines host, discussed how this wine emits qualities of tropical fruits like lemon and pineapple. We didn’t taste the pineapple, but we did get light fruit flavors. Irene said it reminded her of pear and that it was, “really good.” Kristen expressed that considering she likes reds, it’s really good. Not sweet and not dry. I noticed the Vidal Blanc to have a little bite when swallowing, but in a good way. According to the hosts, their Vidal Blanc is completely dry with no residual sugar.

Syrah – As for the Syrah, we each had a different experience. Irene said, the Syrah tasted peppery and that it was a light, spicy wine. During the live steam, through social media, I asked what made the wine seem peppery and they explained that it’s created by the grapes and yeast. Kristen described the Syrah as tasting like a red version of the white. It was a little difficult for her to sip because she felt a burn on the way down. My experience was different than both Kristen’s and Irene’s. I didn’t get the peppery quality and I didn’t feel a burn. I thought the Syrah felt warm and cozy. It had a light feel. It also seemed less bitter than other reds. I really enjoyed the Syrah and did some damage on the bottle. Their 2012 Syrah won a bronze medal in a San Francisco wine competition (out of 5,800 entries). The hosts described this wine as being an old world style vintage with fruit and spice, soft without being light. They said it’s food friendly and versatile. I would have to agree.

During the tasting, we also paired the wines with chocolates from Laurie’s Chocolates in Doylestown, PA. The Syrah and the chocolates blended well together. We tried two different types of chocolates, Madagascar Single Origin and Hawaiian Single Origin Milk Chocolate with Macadamia and Sea Salt. I couldn’t get enough of the Macadamia and Salt chocolate. I LOVE the combination of flavors and they were delicious!

If you would like to attend the next Old York Cellars Virtual Vines, call them to sign up (908-284-9463), as their website is currently under construction. The next session is March 27th at 7:00. They will feature their Pinot Gris and Cabernet. Old York Cellars also offers a Virtual Vines Club membership.

Although they’re working on their website, you can still access additional information about Old York Cellars Winery and their wine shop at www.oldyorkcellars.com. You can also check my full review of our last visit to Old York Cellars.

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Recently, when Tom and I went on our north west NJ wine trail, we stopped at Alba, Villa Millagro, and Beneduce Vineyards. On this occasion Beneduce was our last stop. Beneduce Vineyards is fairly new. They purchased the vineyard in 2000, but their family has been growing wine in the US since they emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s.

We cut through a residential area to get there, so don’t let that throw you off. The actual vineyard was set back off the road a little bit. After driving up a gravel driveway, you are greeted by an outdoor relaxation area off to the right and just ahead of greenhouses. Further to the right are rows of vines. The actual wine tasting room is just past the outdoor area. The tasting room is large and smells new. Immediately on your right is a tasting bar with large windows behind it that overlook the patio and greenhouses. There were some smaller casks near the back wall and a HUGE wine barrel at the far end of the room. There was also a wood burning stove in the corner, just past their gift shop. We purchased the tasting that included the meat and cheese sampler.

We tried…

Three Windows White – Aged in stainless steel, this Riesling had an enjoyable taste that’s less sweet than typical wines of this style. Tom enjoyed it and he usually prefers dryer whites. I did notice that it had a bit of kick on the finish, which was borderline too much for me.

Chardonnay – The Chardonnay is fermented in oak from different forests. That didn’t seem to have an impact on the flavor for me. It seemed like an average oaky Chardonnay in taste, feel, and smell.

Shotgun Red – This red is a blend. It’s also aged in stainless steel which gives it a fruitier feel than their other wines. It’s more fruit forward than sweet, with hints of strawberry and cherry. This wine is called Shotgun Red because they found shotgun shells when digging for grapes on this property.

Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec – This wine was aged in American Oak and gave off a hint of plum and a mocha aroma.

Centerfold Pinot Noir – Unlike the other red we tried, the Pinot Noir is partially aged in French Oak. I sensed a pomegranate flavor and enjoyed the pleasant smell. The tannins were silky, but it was a little too bitter for me.

This winery is a nice additional stop to the north west NJ wine trail. It may be nicer to stop here during the summer and enjoy their patio area.


2 Wine Glasses (Out of 5)

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On our recent west NJ wine trail, we stopped at Alba Vineyards and then drove farther up the road to Villa Milagro Vineyards. I’d recommend visiting this place for the drive up to the winery – it was an experience in itself. The whole trip was an adventure. Once we got off the highway, the drive was beautiful. Winding country roads, creeks, rivers, and roadside antique shops transported us to a vacation-like atmosphere. When we found Villa Milagro by their sign on the road, we turned in and drove up a steep winding driveway that appears to cut through a farm. On the right of us was a dilapidated stone building with the roof caved in, which gave impressions of what may have happened on this property in the 1800’s. On the left was the remains of a ceramic silo that’s unique to NJ with a sign telling you so. We drove along the road and continued up hill. More signs pointed to wildflowers unique to NJ. I glanced to the left and noticed we were directly next to and above the Delaware River. I didn’t realize how close we were. It was a spectacular view. I noticed run down train cars beneath the cliff we were driving along and an expansive view of precipices and trees up river. The road hooked to our right and there was the Villa Milagro building ahead of us.

The tasting room looked like a converted garage. White fabric was draped around the walls of the room with grape lights hanging from the top providing a soft glow. A dining table was set up in the middle of the room with 2 extremely friendly women seated on the other side to assist tasters. There was an aged dog lying on the floor, worn out from the excitement of visitors and relaxing in the comfort of the warmth and friendliness in the room.

Compared to Alba, you would have to change your expectations of this vineyard. Vila Milagro is a smaller operation that enjoys the craft of wine making and maybe less of the business side. The kind people you meet here make it worth the stop. They had a smaller selection. We sampled 4 wines. Here’s what we had.

Gracias – Gracias was a light and dry wine that didn’t provoke any thoughts of specific flavors or fruits. For someone who doesn’t like sweet wines, reds, or strong flavors, this might be a good option.

Rosita – Rosita was characteristic of a typical blush wine. What made it different, was that it was sweet with a slight kick.

Incendio – Incendio may be a preferred wine for red drinkers. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and is heavier than their other wines. The Cab Franc flavor was more prominent in this wine. 

Casi Dulce  They must save the best for last as this was our favorite wine of their’s. Casi Dulce, pronounced in a Spanish manner rather than Italian like I initially thought, is a very unique wine. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like it. Casi Dulce is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and others. I think they also said white wine, but my notes don’t mention that. It has the richness of red, but the easiness of white. I can taste the oaky quality, Cab grapes, and the heavier flavor, but meanwhile I get the lightness of white wine. It’s almost sweet, but rests in the middle between bitter, tart, and sweet. It’s a very pleasant wine.

Villa Milagro is different than other vineyards and smaller, but if you appreciate good people and nice experiences, than you will enjoy your time here.

Wine Glasses 2 (out of 4)

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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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