Exploring the Terroir of New Jersey's Wine Regions

From its northern tip in Sussex County to its southern tip in Cape May, the Garden State of New Jersey is home to a plethora of wineries that produce quality wines. With four officially designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and more than 50 wineries, New Jersey's wine region is worth exploring. Influenced by the maritime climate created by the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, more than 20 wineries and commercial vineyards in New Jersey can be found in this relatively flat AVA. The Outer Coast Plain AVA is known for its high production yields for all crops and is the center of New Jersey's blueberry, cranberry and tomato production.

Most of the state has a humid mesothermic climate, and southern New Jersey has sandy soils and a maritime climate affected by the Atlantic Ocean, with longer growing seasons and more sun exposure than in the north. The terroir of New Jersey's wine regions is an important factor to consider when tasting wines from this area. Just as professional wine tasters do in their approach to rating a wine, you can do a sensory analysis of the dirt to understand how soil and sun, water and wind, altitude and angle interact to influence the crop cycle. Given New Jersey's topography, you could be 3000 miles away, east or west, in vineyards that have produced the world's best wines.

It's easy to think about it simply because all the clues, both natural and man-made, lead you to the conclusion that you're in a top-quality wine country. The thing is, you're here in New Jersey. The Garden State has been farmland since colonial times, with abundant pastures and green areas, farms and dairies. In 1985, the state legislature mandated the creation of the New Jersey Wine Industry Advisory Council, which serves to advise the state Secretary of Agriculture on the production and promotion of the state's wine industry. There are now more than 50 wineries and that number continues to increase every year, as does the quality of New Jersey wine. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has expressed concern that the wines made here are less and less dependent on grapes grown in the state and that business models are focused on obtaining grapes or juices for winemaking from other states.

However, unbeknownst to many, the East Coast is teeming with wine regions that go unnoticed, including the state of New Jersey. Beginning in 1981, the state legislature relaxed Prohibition-era restrictions and drafted new laws to facilitate industry growth and provide new opportunities for licensing wineries. New Jersey laws and regulations relating to agricultural wineries require a farm to cultivate a minimum of 3 acres of vineyards. With Steve acting as vineyard manager and Audrey as winemaker extolling the merits of manual harvesting as a tremendous job but one that pays off, it's easy to see why New Jersey wines are becoming increasingly popular. As an advocate for wines from the Mid-Atlantic region, Audrey co-hosts a talk about East Coast wines on the Clubhouse app on Sunday nights at 7 p.m.

It's an accurate description of northwestern New Jersey, where the wine route stretches through Warren, Sussex and Hunterdon counties to become real and rewarding. I haven't yet heard of any winery in New Jersey that grows or produces Amur (something I loved about Dr.), but with California producing 89.5% of the country's total production, it's no surprise. New Jersey's wine region is worth trying out if you're looking for quality wines from an area with a unique terroir. With its abundant pastures and green areas, farms and dairies, it's easy to see why this Garden State has become an increasingly popular destination for wine lovers.