(August 11) When thinking of the best wine regions in the U.S., hotspots like Napa and Sonoma often come to mind. However, unbeknownst to many, the East Coast is teeming with under-the-radar wine regions — including the state of New Jersey. While best known for its beaches, the Garden State boasts a surprisingly great wine scene that, in recent years, has boomed drastically. “I often tell people that if you haven’t had a bottle of NJ wines in 10-15 years, you won’t recognize it,” says Jeffrey Vasser, executive director of New Jersey’s Division of Travel & Tourism. This makes sense, given that, in 2006, Southern New Jersey was awarded its own American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation. Today, the Outer Coastal Plain AVA covers over two million acres, and, according to Visit South Jersey, it’s one of the largest AVAs in the country.
Interestingly enough, explains Matthew Cassidy of Salem Oak Vineyards, the terroir of New Jersey “mirrors that of Bordeaux, France, and the Delaware River mirrors the Bordeaux River, with similar climate effects.” With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that the state is home to some great vineyards. Additionally, the wine scene here is anything but stuffy, says Dustin Tarpine of Cedar Rose Vineyards. “In my view, the beauty of New Jersey’s wine scene lies in its casual simplicity. Our tasting rooms are marked by a lack of pretension and an emphasis on genuine, friendly interactions.” Fortunately, you can find all this and more — including an abundance of unique varietals — at the best New Jersey wineries.