And while those vineyards may be close to home, their wine is up to French standards, according to the results of the recent Judgment of Princeton. That judgment, which occurred on June 18 at Princeton University, was initiated by George M. Taber, the Time Magazine reporter who wrote the book, “Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine.” (He also later co-founded NJ Biz magazine.) That event announced that the upstart California wine industry was a powerful competitor to the old world incumbent.
The Princeton gathering, organized by the American Association of Wine Economists, resulted in an equally unlikely conclusion. One that put New Jersey wines on a whole new shelf.
As with the Paris wine event, Princeton’s was a structured blind taste involving nine French and American wine connoisseurs. Mark Censits, owner of CoolVines wine shop on Spring Street in Princeton, was enlisted to select the New Jersey wines for the tasting.
Writing for the New Yorker (now controversial journalist) Jonah Lehrer reported on the results. “In an even more surprising turn of events, another American wine region has performed far better than expected in a blind tasting against the finest French chateaus. Ready for the punch line? The wines were from New Jersey.”
Lehrer wrote that while the Princeton judgment did not result in a total victory for the New Jersey wine industry, “but, in terms of the reassurance for those with valuable wine collections, it might as well have.”
Even though the French wines came out slightly ahead, New York University economist Karl Storchmann they might not have the next time. “A statistical evaluation of the tasting, conducted by Princeton Professor Richard Quandt, further shows that the rank order of the wines was mostly insignificant. That is, if the wine judges repeated the tasting, the results would most likely be different. From a statistically viewpoint, most wines were undistinguishable. Only the best white and the lowest ranked red were significantly different from the others wines,” he wrote.
Storchmann added that the “French judges preferred NJ red wines over the counterparts from Bordeaux. After disclosing the wines’ identity the French judges were surprised but did not complain. In contrast, several tasters from the U.S. did not want their wine ratings to be published.”
It was as if the American judges were asking, “How could wine from New Jersey be that good?”
That question can be answered –– and lots of wine-related fun can be had –– this Labor Day weekend when New Jersey wineries will be offering tastings, tours, and days and nights of music. And besides letting tasters judge the Judgment of Princeton for themselves, the events may also satisfy that yearning for vineyard visiting.
At the Ringoes-based Unionville Vineyards –– which in the Princeton judgment ranked second for white wine with its Unionville Chardonnay 2010 –– fee based wine tastings will available throughout the weekend and holiday from noon to 5 p.m. Complimentary winery tours are also available Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 2:30 p.m.
Silver Decoy Winery in East Windsor likewise will have tasting, but only on Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. This winery landed a judgment rank of four in white wines with its “Black Feather” Chardonnay and eight in red with its Silver Decoy Cabernet Franc 2008.
Old York Cellars, also in Ringoes, will present the classic rock group Rock on Wood as a feature of the winery’s regular Wine and Music Under the Stars offering on Friday, August 31, from 6 to 9 p.m. The winery is open noon to 5 p.m. all weekend, including Labor Day. Another attraction is the vineyard’s gallery, currently featuring art work by winemaker turned artist Nicolo Sturiano, who exhibits under the name H. Hargrove.
At the Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Pennington, music will be served at the regular 6 to 9 p.m. Music and Merlot series. On Friday, August 31, the Hopewell Valley Vineyards Jazz Ensemble is on the bill, while on Saturday Bob Tomlinson plays the Blues. As part of the winery’s Jazzy Sundays, the Jeff Fadden trio will be on hand from 2 to 5 p.m. on September 2.
Laurita Winery in New Egypt is open for visits from noon to 9 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, the acoustic duo 15 Keys will perform from 1 to 5 p.m. The winery’s “Summer Grille” is set from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Laurita will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on Labor Day.
Alba Vineyard and Winery in Milford will provide its regular complimentary Music Under the Arbor events this weekend. On Saturday, 1:30 to 5 p.m., the Eric Mintel Quartet will play instrumental contemporary jazz. On Sunday, the Valley Metro Jazz Group will present jazz, pop, rock, and blues from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wine tastings at $10 per person run 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday. Weekend winery tours are available every hour between noon and 4 p.m.
For those who want a weekend passport to most of state’s wineries, the Garden State Wine Growers Association is ready to accommodate. The association’s annual Jazz It Up festival is set for Saturday and Sunday, September 1 and 2, at Allaire State Park in Farmingdale, right off Route 195.
Touted by organizers as New Jersey’s largest wine festival, the event will bring together more than two dozen New Jersey wineries, providing the opportunity for eager tasters to sample nearly 300 different, locally produced vintages.
The festival runs noon to 5 p.m. and includes craft and food vendors, self-guided tours of historic Allaire Village, and opportunities to ride the rails of the Pine Creek Railroad, live-steam and diesel trains operated by the NJ Museum of Transportation.
Jazz It Up wouldn’t live up to its name without music, and the festival’s featured performers are New Jersey jazz musician B.D. Lenz on Saturday and the Tizer Trio on Sunday.
Hailed by the Star Ledger as one of the top 20 “up and coming” jazz musicians of New Jersey, guitarist B.D. Lenz leads an original band which has best been described the Times of Trenton as “a spirited mixture of sounds in the contemporary vein, ranging from the sprightly to the hard-wailing.”
Keyboardist, recording artist, and leader of the Tizer Trio, Lao Tizer has been recognized by Jazz Times for his exciting “high-octane playing with long improvisational passages and intricately crafted motifs and counterpoint.” His group Tizer has performed at renowned events alongside artists such as Isaac Hayes, Boney James, Zappa Plays Zappa, Wayne Shorter, George Benson, the Commodores, Robin Thicke, the Rippingtons, Bruce Hornsby, Jethro Tull, and Spyro Gyra.
Tickets for the festival are $25 in cash per person at the gate. Advance discount tickets for $20 can be purchased only at the association website. Anyone under 21 is admitted free.
Admission to the wine fest also includes a souvenir wine glass. Think of it as a memento of a trip to a not so distant land of world class vineyards, but judge for yourself.
Central New Jersey
Vineyards & Wineries
Alba Vineyard and Winery, 269 Route 627, Milford. www.albavineyard.com or 908-995-7800.
Wine Tastings, Mondays through Fridays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. $10.
Winery tours, Saturdays on Sundays on the hour until 4 p.m. Free with tasting.
Music Under the Arbor, Saturday, September 1, 1:30 to 5 p.m. Eric Mintel Quartet.
Music Under the Arbor, Sunday, September 2, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Valley Metro Jazz Group.
Cream Ridge Winery, 145 County Road 539, Allentown. www.creamridgewinery.com or 609-259-9797.
Open daily for tastings except major holidays.
Hopewell Valley Vineyards, 46 Yard Road, Pennington. www.hopewellvalleyvineyards.com or 609-737-4465.
Wine tastings, daily noon to 5 p.m. $6 includes six samples and a souvenir glass.
Music and Merlot, Friday August 31, and Saturday, September 1, 6 to 9 p.m.
Jazzy Sundays, Sunday, September 2, 2 to 5 p.m. Kevin Hildebrandt performs.
Laurita Winery, 85 Archertown Road, New Egypt. 609-758-8000 or www.lauritawinery.com.
Wine tastings, daily except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Open Mondays and Fridays, noon to 5 p.m.; Thursdays and Saturdays, noon to 9 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 7 p.m.
15 Keys, Saturday, September 1, 1 to 5 p.m. Free.
Summer Grill, Sunday, September 2, noon to 4 p.m. See menu online.
Old York Cellars, 80 Old York Road, Ringoes. www.oldyorkcellars.com or 908-284-9463.
Wine tastings, daily noon to 5 p.m. $5 for six wines or $7.50 with souvenir glass; $7.50 for six wines paired with chocolate or $10 with souvenir glass.
Silver Decoy Winery, 610 Windsor-Perrineville Road, East Windsor. www.silverdecoywinery.com or 609-371-6000.
Wine tastings, Fridays, 2 to 6 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil Road, Lawrenceville. www.terhuneorchards.com or 609-924-2310.
Wine tasting, Fridays through Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.
Unionville Vineyards, 9 Rocktown Road, Ringoes. www.unionvillevineyards.com or 908-788-0400.
Wine tastings, daily noon to 5 p.m. Classic tasting, $5 for five wines; extended tasting, $10 for eight wines. Closed Labor Day Monday.
Winery tours, Saturdays and Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Free.