This summer, Alexandra invites us to visit award-winning wineries in our beautiful garden state

by Alexandra Kay Fogarty

When I talk to some of my wine connoisseur friends from other countries, they are almost always surprised that New Jersey has vineyards throughout the entire state. Even though New Jersey may not be as well-known as other wine-producing regions, it has a long history of grape growing dating back to the mid-19th century. Our climate and soil (such as sandy loam and gravelly clay) allow us to grow these grapes beautifully!

Willow Creek Winery {168 Stevens St, West Cape May; 609.770.8782}

If you are in Cape May this summer and are looking to tour a winery, think about visiting Willow Creek Winery! They are newer and have a lot of amenities within their own grounds. You can actually sleep at the vineyards in rental cottages they offer, making this the perfect slumber party for girlfriends or a romantic night out! It’s always fun to do something different, and I think sleeping surrounded by grape vines is on my bucket list for the summer of 2023. Treat yourself to something sweet and order the signature Dole Whip Sangria Float! I absolutely love when restaurants and wineries get creative with their drink menu. If you’re not into mixed drinks and want to stick with just wine itself, I recommend the Bacchus Red. It’s an oaky wine that has notes of cherry pits, and spices. Willowcreekwinerycapemay.com

Renault Winery {72 Bremen Ave, Egg Harbor City; 609.798.7058}

Established in 1864 by Louis Nicholas Renault, a French immigrant, who noticed New Jersey’s ability to grow amazing grapes. Renault Winery is one of the oldest continuously operating wineries in the US. This must-visit vineyard is located in Egg Harbor City. It is a picture-perfect vineyard, and there’s also an elegant and chic hotel on its property overlooking the grounds. Amenities such as golfing, spa, restaurants, and year-round events make this a spot for the entire family. Renault Winery produces both red and white wines, but they also have an ‘American champagne’! The Seyval Blanc grapes give vibrantly rich notes of pears, lemon zest, and apple tart. Explore the hotel with a glass in your hand and feel fabulous. Remember, the tighter the glass, the better the bubbles! Renaultwinery.com

Bluecork Winery and Vineyard {1093 Blue Bell Rd, Williamstown; 856.885.2545}

Bluecork Winery was started in 2012 by the Casola family. While this is a relatively new winery compared to Renault Winery or other wineries in the state, Bluecork stands out for how they make their wine! Their unique wine-making process allows the winemakers to have a more controlled fermentation process that has helped the winery begin its distinct taste and style. Bluecork Winery has an abundance of things to do besides just tasting wines! They have vineyard tours, fire pits, events, live music, and even tastings on a tractor that takes you through 11 acres. When you go, I recommend trying their 2020 Cabernet Franc Rosé. One sip of this rosé and you will be sent to a strawberry field heaven. Your tastebuds will experience refreshing sweet lime, and grapefruit. They also have a frosé that you can enjoy while you bask in the summer sun! If you prefer reds even in the summertime, try their Petit Verdot. It has expressive notes of black dark berries such as blueberries and blackberries, tied in with notes of black licorice to make it very velvety and expressive. Bluecorkwine.com

Laurita Winery {19 Archertown Rd #1902, New Egypt; 609.752.0303}

What was a former dairy farm, Laurita Winery is an iconic winery that is more central and therefore easily accessible to those that live in North Jersey. Founded in 2008, Randy and Ray Shea transformed this 250-acre farm into a highly acclaimed location for wine lovers. Laurita has an amazing atmosphere, festivals, informative tours and events for the entire family. You can have a picnic, take a charcuterie class, go hiking, and try out some goat yoga in the vineyard. I recommend ordering their sparkling wine, a crowd favorite! Indulge in their Merlot, it has notes of cherry cola, a slight hint of tobacco, and vanilla bean. It won a silver medal at The Garden State Wine Growers Association Competition. From award-winning wines, to all the activities they offer, Laurita Winery is a staple for summer fun. lauritawinery.com