OUTER COASTAL PLAIN – THE WINES OF SOUTH JERSEY
An AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a specific, designated wine growing area within a state. In New Jersey there are three such designated areas, Warren Hills, Central Delaware Valley and the Outer Coastal Plain. South Jersey is home to the vast Outer Coastal Plain (2.25 MILLION acres) which is ten times the size of the other two areas combined. The OCP includes an area that stretches from just northeast of Trenton to Cape May, NJ and includes approximately 34 current wineries. As I mentioned several times on this blog, I am not a particular fan of New Jersey wines but I am willing to put in more time and tasting allowing for the (unlikely) possibility that I am actually missing the boat on some good local wines.
There are 2 primary reasons why I don’t feel attachments to the local wines. First, many of the wineries seem to have a compulsion to add some sort of fruit to the wines. Call me an irrational wine snob but, to me, wine is made from grapes, not grapes PLUS blueberries, or grapes PLUS peaches. Even if these fruit wines tasted good (and I realize many folks think they do), I would still not consider them to be wines. Maybe they should fall into an entirely different category of beverages which we could call “Frines”. This alone disqualifies many of the locally produced bottles from any consideration as serious wines. The second reason for my less than favorable view is that many New Jersey wine makers buy grapes from California and then blend those grapes with some from their own vineyards. This may, or may not, make their wines taste better but, in my opinion, it disqualifies them as New Jersey wines. Additionally, if the current marketing campaign wants to sing the praises of NJ wines and constantly remind all of us that “Jersey soil and our climate is reminiscent of that of Bordeaux”, bringing in grapes from out of state seems to shoot major holes in that theory.
What type of grapes are we producing in the vineyards of the Outer Coastal Plain? It seems among the reds there is a great deal of cabernet and merlot, some syrah, cab franc and a grape that seems to grow particularly well in this region, chambourcin. On the white side there is plenty of chardonnay, some sauvignon blanc, vidal blanc, pinot grigio and some riesling. Of all of these, I am intrigued by the chambourcin. In the next few weeks I intend to properly sample wines made from this grape.
The Glassboro Vintage South Jersey Wine Festival is being held the weekend of May 19th and 20th. Thirteen South Jersey wineries will be taking part and there will be opportunities to taste and purchase wines on the spot. The event takes place from Noon until 5:00 PM each day and tickets are available at the site for $25.00 or, in advance, at the website for $19.00. I intend to visit the festival on Sunday and sample a minimum of 40 different wines from among the participating wineries. I will report on what I liked and what I didn’t like shortly after the festival. It’s a great chance to enjoy both the weather and the wines so come on out and take part. Your admission even includes a souvenir festival wine glass.