Several years ago we made a trip down the east coast, stopping along the way to visit local wineries. As you might expect this is a frequent pastime of ours and this time we came home with a treasure trove of really nice wines. Among some of our favorites were wines from a quaint winery in New Jersey called Valenzano Winery (http://www.valenzanowine.com/). Valenzano Winery takes pride in producing affordable, high-quality wines, using all local produce, which demonstrates the true potential of New Jersey’s burgeoning wine industry.
During our visit we got to meet Tony and Mark Valenzano, who along with father Tony Sr., are the engine behind this eastern wine making dynamo. At the time of our original visit (2005) we brought back a selection of vinifera and non-vinifera wines, a few of which we put in our recent Wines of North America tasting. The wines showed really well, despite being several years old, which for me validated what I had thought at the time of purchase: these were well-made, age-worthy wines. I sent a note to Tony and Mark to let them know how well their wines were doing and the next thing I knew, we were the happy benefactors of a few of their latest wines.
A small group of Musings stalwarts came together to blind taste the wines – here are my tasting notes, as well as impressions from the group.
2010 Cabernet/Merlot Outer Coastal Plain ($9.99/bottle)
Composition: 40% Cabernet Franc; 40% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon
Bright, fruity nose with black cherry, blueberry and vanilla hints. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin – good balance. Dark fruit core with tobacco leaf, tar and cocoa notes. Long finish, smooth and layered with a hint of tart cherry. Drinking well now – should hold for another 2 to 3 years.
This wine was a favorite of the group – most agreed that it was the most easy drinking, pleasant wines of the grouping.
2010 Merlot Outer Coastal Plain ($14.99/bottle)
Tight nose with menthol, eucalyptus and black cherry hints – very pretty. Medium-bodied with moderate acid and firm, dry tannins – well balanced. Dark fruit core with blackberry, tar, tobacco and cedar notes. Long finish – tight – drinking well – should improve with another 3 to 5 years in the bottle. Quite Bordeaux-like – excellent.
This wine was another favorite of the group – folks felt this wine needed time to open.
2007 Old Indian Mills Blend ($16.99/bottle)
Perfumed nose with cherry, floral and spicy hints – lovely and enticing. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and dry tannins – good balance. Sour cherry palate with tart, leathery notes. Moderate length with cedar, raspberry and tea flavors on the aftertaste. Drinking well – will likely not improve further – lacks a bit of fruit.
Least favorite of the group – most felt the wine was a little tired and lacked fruit and the vibrancy of the first two wines.
Jersey Devil Port-Styled Wine ($15.99/bottle)
Fruity, peppery nose with black currants and balsam hints – a bit medicinal. Full-bodied with moderate acidity and supple tannins – good balance. Black cherry with a candied sweetness on the palate – burnt orange rind hints. Moderate length with a smooth, luxurious finish. Drinking well and may improve with more time in the bottle. Remarkably well put together fortified wine.
Either loved or hated, depending on one’s personal style preference.
Overall, the high quality and modest price point of these wines makes them quite attractive and appealing. A perfect example of great wine making outside of the west coast!