Posted by: tomciocco | July 4, 2011


The fourth smallest state, the most densely populated, and to many, the most diverse state in the nation, especially when size is considered…and my home state! NEW JERSEY! Though the “What exit?” and “Joisy” comments have diminished somewhat, the Garden State is still the butt of some ribbing, some deserved, but most, frankly not. In my experience the people who trash New Jersey the worst are the ones who also know the least about it…

So take winemaking as an example. Once the snickering subsides, the often audience-shocking points can be made that New Jersey has 40 wineries and counting, and that  – believe it or not – New Jersey is the 5th largest wine producing state in the nation (in order, CA, WA, OR, NY, NJ,…), and that as early as 1767 New Jersey vintners were being recognized (in this case by the British Crown) for their efforts. Welch’s, whose founder was a teetotal temperence dentist, and an implacable enemy of the demon alcohol, was nonetheless, once upon a time, the proprietor of thousands of  acres of vines in South Jersey, and for the first thirty years of its existence, made a town called Vineland, NJ the headquarters of his burgeoning grapey empire.

So the vitcultural history is here, and the future (with 40+ producers) is bright. Unfortunately too much of what has come between these landmarks has often lacked ambition and inspiration. But as the market, and general as well as local viticultural knowledge grows, wineries like Unionville Vineyards begin to thrive. Unionville’s California-trained winemaker Cameron Stark, has emphasized the cultivation of vitis vinifera vines, but he hasn’t turned his back on “traditional” hybrid varieties like Chambourcin, which brings us to this wine.

This somewhat unusually conceived  blend of mostly Chambourcin with small percentages of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir (all grown at Unionville), is one wine in a more basic line of wines, but you’d never know it from how it drinks, nor would you guess that the wine was so hybrid-grape heavy. It’s a very good sign for wine in the third state…

Though I made this dinner and wrote this on July 3rd, it will post on the 4th, so I went for a Jersey Fourth menu of smooth corn and yellow squash chowder with citrus, and then yogurt marinated and then (home made) barbecue sauce-slathered and grilled chicken breasts with spinach and scallion mashed potatoes.

Unionville Vineyards “Revoltionary” Red  New Jersey 2009

Just barely opaque, slightly cloudy purple/garnet color. The nose is redolent with earthy spice notes, tomato leaf, roasted chestnuts, black raspberry and cherry skin fruit aromas, and an ever so slightly florally aromatic twist on top. The body is medium weight with lively, tart, and juicy cranberry, raspberry, and plum leather fruit flavors, finely raspy tannins and a good overall balance and cohesion. A very expressive balance of elegance and rusticity.




  1. Life is full of surprises. Who would have thunk it? I never did, and I went to high school in the Garden State. How could I have missed that?

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