The Soil, The Vine, The Grape

Problems Encountered by Early New Jersey Wine Growers

Wine is not a new phenomenon for New Jersey. In fact there was a fascination with grape growing since the colonial times. In 1765 Edward Antill planted eight hundred vines of Vitis vinifera, or the European grape. William Alexander similarly planted 2100 vines. The Royal Society of England awarded both a prize for making wine reminiscent of the wine drank in England. Because advances in technology hadn’t reached the point of combating the American insect, Phylloxera, that attacked  the European grape roots, early New Jersey wine growers chose to grow American/French hybrids and Vitis labrusca, an American grape that didn’t succumb to the insect. The east coast is one of the few places you can taste such wines and they are still grown today. Casey Economides manager at Amalthea Cellars in Atco says hybrids “are what sets us apart from other regions in the country because we are able to grow these French-American hybrids, for example Traminette, which is seen throughout South Jersey and the Finger Lakes.” Even so, Amalthea Cellars does focus on European grapes. Sean Comninos, winemaker at Heritage Winery explains that, “from a classical perspective serious wines would be made from the great European varieties. The major publications certainly shy away from French/American hybrid grapes and anything native to the Americas unless it’s some novelty dessert wine.” In order to be known for serious wines you have to grow the European grapes.

Wine drinkers a hundred years ago were no different and still considered European grapes as the only serious wine, but since the American insect Phylloxera destroyed the plant at its roots, European grapes weren’t grown in the U.S. Then in the early 1900s a technique was developed to graft the European grape vine onto American grape roots thereby protecting it from Phylloxera. It was then that New Jersey wineries, including the Renault Winery, established in 1864, began to pick up steam. An influx of Italian immigrants revived the wine industry in New Jersey.

Prohibition and Its Effects

One of them, John D’Agostino, purchased the Renault Winery in 1913, only to witness the passage of the 18th amendment and Prohibition seven years later. If you visit Renault Winery and go on the tour, a most animated and entertaining tour guide will tell you all about Mr. D’Agostino’s ties with Enoch “Nucky” Johnson and the various schemes that were used to sell their wine– from labeling it medicinal tonic to claiming it as sacramental wine. By the time Prohibition ended in 1933 grape cultivation was cut in half and most wineries were in dire straits. Although wine has been a part of New Jersey since the colonial times, the industry is still in its infancy largely because of Prohibition. When California was making great strides with wine in the 1970s, New Jersey still adhered to Prohibition laws– like the law that stated there could only be one winery per one million inhabitants. That didn’t change until the 1980s with the passage of the Farm Winery Act. Any farmer with three acres of grapes could now apply for a license and produce 50,000 gallons of wine annually.

New Growth for South Jersey Wine

Lynn Richmond of the Department of Agriculture says that wine continues to be a growing part of the state economy and is an up and coming industry. In 2002 there were 551 acres of grapes grown in New Jersey and in 2007 that rose to 1,043. Dr. Gary Pavlis, associate professor with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, past president of the American Wine Society and chairman of the annual New Jersey Wine Competition, says the trend is economical.  “Farmers want to continue farming but cannot do so growing more traditional crops such as corn and apples.  There is no money in these and the situation arises, find a cash crop or sell the farm.”

New Jersey legislature has come full circle and recently passed measures to aid wineries. According to Zach Hosseini of the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), “wineries have been allowed to open up to 15 wine outlets since spring of 2012. These outlets are partnerships with unlicensed establishments, which allow licensed wineries to sell their wines at what are typically BYOB restaurants.” Only one winery may sell their wine in one restaurant. Everyone from Toby Craig, owner of Cape May Winery, to Casey Economides, manager of Amalthea Cellars, agree that such a system is important for exposure. “We have our wines in six to eight outlets including Mildred’s Strathmere Restaurant. It is another form of advertising and definitely helps our business” says Toby Craig. Casey agrees, “We have outlets at the Morristown INN, Murray Hill INN, and Anthony’s in Haddon Heights. We are in the progress of opening more outlets as we speak.” Also in 2012 a direct shipment ban was lifted thereby allowing any winery that makes less than 250,000 gallons of wine annually to ship directly to customers in and out of state. That is great news for wineries in New Jersey, all of which produce less than 250,000 gallons a year. On the other hand, the law may not be long-lived. A similar law was struck down in Massachusetts as being unconstitutional because large wineries out of state cannot ship thereby discriminating against interstate commerce. As of yet there have been no challenges to the law.

So why all the fuss over New Jersey, particularly South Jersey, and its wine?  It may have been best explained in the movie Bottle Shock. If you haven’t seen Bottle Shock I highly recommend it. It’s a true story about the famous Judgment of Paris of 1976. In a blind taste test Californian white wine from Chateaux Mothalena and Stag Leap’s Wine Cellars’ 1972 red wine beat out their French counterparts. This put Californian wine on the map and promoted this idea that great wine can be grown in other parts of the world besides Europe. It is this sentimentality exactly that has sparked so much excitement. Like Steven Spurrier said in the film, “it all begins with the soil, the vine, the grape.” Charles Tomasello of Tomasello Winery has said that South Jersey, in particular, has a “combination of sandy loam soil, adequate degree days to ripen grapes and maritime influence with the close proximity to the ocean” which all support growing grapes. South Jersey’s climate and geography is that of Medoc, or the Bordeaux region of France.  Sal Westrich, author of New Jersey Wine: A Remarkable History, says that what makes New Jersey unique is its geography lending toward the “possibility of producing some extraordinary wines.”


Does Jersey Wine Stack Up?

Standing over what looks like a lab bench, John Basile is surrounded by flasks, beakers, and graduated cylinders. It all looks like standard lab equipment from my middle school biology class until he draws a cloudy purple liquid from a wine glass with his dropper. The liquid is wine before it is racked and John is adjusting the pH to affect its mouthfeel. It just so happens that John does have a background in science, but as a fourth generation Italian American he also has a background in wine. He is bringing his expertise in both to Monroeville Winery, which he and his wife Debra bought in 2009. He is not alone. At the end of 2012 there were 45 licensed wineries in the state and the number keeps growing. Dustin Tarpine is such an example. He studied Horticulture at Clemson University and became vineyard manager at Bellview Winery in August 2011. Two years later he and a friend are planting 20 of their own acres they call Cedar Rose Vineyards in Rosenhayn, NJ. With 9,000 acres of NJ farmland being lost to development each year, wine may be the one thing keeping the “garden” in garden state.

Lynn Richmond of the Department of Agriculture says that wine continues to be a growing part of the state economy and is an up and coming industry. In 2002 there were 551 acres of grapes grown in New Jersey and in 2007 that rose to 1,043. One way that wineries can distinguish themselves are competitions. A significant competition was the Judgment of Princeton on June 8, 2012. Held in Princeton, NJ, French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy and New Jersey wines were blind taste tested. No significant difference was found. did a similar blind taste test with three testers. Check the link to find out if Jersey wine held its own against the French!



Natali Vineyards!!

Located one-half mile from the Delaware Bay on Delsea Drive (Rt. 47) is a newer winery who began selling wine around 2007. My family and I were on vacation in Ocean City, NJ and wanted to show my Aunt Yolanda, who was visiting from Arizona, a good time. Ocean City, NJ is a great time, don’t  get me wrong, but it is DRY.  Aunt Yolanda loves her wine, so with over 45 wineries in the state, it made perfect sense to visit one.  Near the shore there are about five wineries in the Garden State Wine Grower’s Association to choose from.You can find all of their wineries at  I browsed the web, researching all five and I came across Natali Vineyards. They advertised live music Mondays.  Sold. Four of us piled into my mom’s Edge and followed the GPS directly to Natali Vineyards.  It’s always shocking to me how the GPS actually gets you to the winery, because as you drive closer to a New Jersey winery it becomes more and more remote. You’ll drive and drive and think you’re lost until you see a wooden post with the word “winery” and an arrow. You drive further and then all of a sudden there is civilization and the winery comes in view.


We were greeted by Ray Pensari sporting a Hawaiian shirt- one of the few dudes who could sport that- and smoking a cigar. He explained that he was one of the owners. (His and his partner’s picture is on one of the red blend labels called Nonno’s Cellar wine- one of their biggest sellers). He told us that he purchased a half interest in the property about six years ago. Interestingly Ray built houses for a living before becoming interested in producing wine commercially. The original owner, Al  Natali, did not start out in the wine business either.  He designed telephone circuits for the brokerage industry. He was always interested in history and in studying for his doctorate was introduced to the history of France and Italy and accordingly its wine. He learned that the climate near the Jersey Shore is similar to Bordeaux in France and began  planting such varieties. Today Natali Vineyards make all their own wine with New Jersey grown grapes. And there’s a lot to choose from. Helping us out at the tasting, Dave moves you through all the different white wines, red wines, blush, rose, and fruit wines. For five dollars you get five tastes (but to be honest Dave wasn’t strict with five as a limit). That’s the beauty of buying wine from a winery. You taste what you will buy and so you end up buying what you like!


On their website Natali Vineyards boasts 22 medals.  In my experience up and coming wineries hold great stake in competitions. It is how they can stand out from the rest and the more known wineries like Amalthea Cellars and Cape May Winery.


I personally like dry reds and  the Cabernet Sauvignon was seriously smooth.  Safe to say I bought a bottle (or two).  I also liked the red table wine that had a crisp finish.  Natali wineries have just started making cranberry wine and what I like about their cranberry wine versus others is it isn’t overly sweet. You can really grab the cranberry taste from it. My sister, who is a fan of fruit wines, tried their banana wine and chased it with peanuts or chocolate. Mmm.  Dave took us behind closed doors and showed us the tons of bananas that are currently fermenting for about 10 days before going through the press.



That’s my Aunt Yolanda’s arm raising a glass to me, my Mom and my sister Lauren at the end.

Natali Vineyards is reasonably priced too. Most bottles are in the $15 to $18 dollar range with not much exceeding $25 dollars. You can buy it by the glass there if you’d like for 5-7 dollars a glass. If you like wine and like the atmosphere of drinking it outside brushed up against acres of vineyards with a band playing John Cash Folsom Prison Blues in the background- c’mon you know that sounds awesome- then you need to check them out. It makes for a great summer afternoon.


Last Blog Post of the Semester, but Still More to Come

So here I am, the last post of the semester. To be honest I’m preoccupied by the feature article I’m writing at the moment. I’ve written about a 2700 word draft about the wine industry in South Jersey. After bringing it to class, students in my group liked the article and said they were shocked by the wine culture in New Jersey, which is great. That was what I was going for. On the other hand, they also said I need to add some experiential research. That was what I was afraid of. My article as it stands is literally jammed pack with quotes and statistics and facts all about wine in New Jersey.  I need to add the human element and I’m not sure how to do it. I’m thinking of Writing Ethnographic Field Notes, and I think that is the key. The question  is how do I transition from fact to ethnographic story? And what points should I pull from my blogs about Auburn Road and Cape May? Should I write it in the first person?

Maybe I can write the first person account as a kind of journey I took from the start of my project until now and what I’ve learned along the way. No, everyone does that. I’d rather just interject my first-person experiences and weave them through the story. I also don’t have an ending and it was suggested I talk in the first-person relating something I learned. I think I might end it with my experience in Hops and Grapes. It’s only a few sentences but I think it can wrap up the many topics brought up in the article nicely.

One final point I need to consider is my blog. During this process, the blog developed into a colorful mix of information on wine. I’ve looked around at other wine blogs about New Jersey and they are either hard to find or haven’t been updated is a few years. I do not want my wine blog to end. In thinking about how I’d like it to evolve, I don’t imagine it being a wine critiquing site. After all I’m not a wine expert. But I would like to continue to tackle the issues that face New Jersey wineries by interviewing more people in the industry. I’d also like to advertise and write about different festivals and events.  Here’s to keeping this blog going and keeping it interesting for those as interested as I’ve become in New Jersey wine.

Looking Back at The Art of Creative Research

In the beginning of the semester in my Research and Methods class, we read an article by Philip Gerard entitled “The Art of Creative Research.”I blogged about my feelings towards the article and toward the class. At the time I said I did not have an endpoint in mind for my project but I hoped that though research I would stumble upon one. Three months later and working on a draft about the wine industry in South Jersey, I can look back and see a path that developed along the way.

I remember saying in the beginning of the semester that questions are what drives a research project. The entire time I was researching wine, I’d investigate a certain topic only to form more questions that sometimes led me in an unexpected direction. For example, early in my research I came across the Wall Street Journal article, “Years of Growth at Risk for NJ Wine,” and learned about new legislation at the time that would allow tasting rooms to stay open and allow for direct shipment of wine in New Jersey. That brought me to investigate the direct shipment law further and I found that only wineries who make less than 250,000 gallons of wine annually can ship. Is this legal I asked? I found a law review article that stated this law goes against the commerce clause. So my next question was for the Alcohol Beverage Control of New Jersey who said that no one as of yet has challenged the law. After having read another Wall Street Journal article, “The Garden State of Mind, ”I was curious about the other piece of the legislation concerning tasting rooms. I investigated further and found that wineries have been allowed to open up to 15 wine outlets since spring of 2012. An outlet is usually a BYOB restaurant and there is allowed one winery per restaurant.  That led me to ask winery managers/owners if this was an important part of their business.  I then asked them how they make a majority of their profit. I started with a Wall Street Journal article that focused on a direct shipment law and ended with a look at a winery’s business model. It wasn’t until I asked the questions that this path was discovered.  

When I first started this project about South Jersey’s wine industry I was doubtful that I would use more than one or two of Gerard’s seven archives. I was wrong. Paper archives included books about wine history, origins of wine, wine vocabulary, wine culture, newspaper articles like Bottle Bing, The Garden State of Wine, Years of Growth at Risk for NJ wine, and magazine articles like Modern living: Judgment of Paris. Living archives included all the people in the industry from representatives at the department of agriculture to winery owners and managers to winemakers and customers. I used electronic sources like other blogs about wine and followed wine enthusiasts on twitter. Visual archives like the map of NJ designating all wineries that was found in a pamphlet by the Garden State Wine Grower’s Association proved helpful. I listened to an NPR podcast that investigated the Bottle Bing story further, which is an audio archive. Most importantly I visited wine tastings, events, and wineries all over South Jersey for an experiential archive. I’m finding that the challenge, after having done all these modes of research, is determining what to leave in and what to leave out in an article that can only be 2,000 words.

A Look At Ancient Wine

In my research about wine I have come across Patrick McGovern’s book , Ancient Wine: The Search For the Origins of Viniculture. It is a fascinating look into “stone age wine” using molecular archeological techniques. In the first sentence we learn that the Eurasian Vitis vinifera is one out of 100 wild grapes in Asia, Europe and North America, but the source of 99% of the world’s wine. “The Noah hypothesis” refers to finding when and where this grape was first domesticated. There is one theory by Nikolai Vavilov, a Russian botanist, who claimed Transcaucasia as the origin of wine culture. Overall, it was during the Neolithic period, between 8500 and 4000 B.C. that all the conditions were met for viniculture in the Near East (Zagros Mountains next to Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Transcaucasia to the north and the Taurus Mountains in eastern Turkey.) (p. 15). Looking at DNA the author agrees with Vavilov that Taurus Mountains, or Transcaucasia, was the site where the first Vitis vinifera were cultivated. It then spread and cross-bred with other Vitis species. McGovern does state that his hypothesis could always be proven wrong if there is evidence that wine in the New World or Asia did not come from the Near East.


The Neolithic period became one of wine culture. Pharaohs and high priests originally had the resources to plant and wait five years before producing wine. Later, the common man was able to grow a small vineyard. Wine made from grapes, and not other alcoholic beverages, were the most popular because grapes could be grown in most places, including soils that weren’t good for producing anything else. Wine was used as an antiseptic in ancient civilizations and was used to sterilize drinking water, especially with troops at war in an unknown land.


Sweet wines were the ultimate indulgence and were less likely to go bad. That is interesting because sweet wines are popular in New Jersey. Another popular practice was to add tree resin to the wine. This was done to remedy “wine disease” or wine turning due to oxygen leaking through the porous earthenware vessel (p. 309). It is true that tree resins stop the production of Acetobacter which ferments the alcohol in wine into vinegar. It is not, however, as effective as modern modes that use sulfur dioxide. The idea of a “mixed alcoholic drink” is therefore not new, with resin, honey, barley malt, herbs or spices added to ancient wine.  Wine connoisseurs may turn their noses up to this now but wine that is aged in oak is essentially a tree resin that is added to gain a certain flavor.


Patrick McGovern ends with a question- was the Near East and China in contact with each other during the creation of wine? They were separated by 2,000 kilometers. According to McGovern’s laboratory, the earliest fermented beverage in China dates back to 7,000 B.C. Even though rice was a main ingredient in the Chinese beverage, there was a large amount of tartaric acid (found in grapes). This goes against the author’s Noah hypothesis that the Eurasian grape was transplanted to China from the Near East. It could be the Chinese were using their own native grapes, instead of the Eurasian variety, and creating wine independently and at the same time of those in the Near East. Or, even more enticing is the possibility that the two cultures interacted in ancient times.  


McGovern, P.E. (2003). Ancient wine: The search for the origins of viniculture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Interview with John Basile, owner of Monroeville Winery

At 11:00 AM on a Saturday morning I was excited to meet with the owner of Monroeville Winery. This was the first winery I visited when I  began researching wineries in South Jersey. Looking back, the only thing I knew about wine was one was red and one was white and I wasn’t even sure what made them different. John Basile, one of the owners of Monroeville Winery along with his wife Debra, was so completely patient with me as I hurled question after question.

John invited me into the back of the winery and offered to answer my onslaught of questions as he worked. “What is he doing?” I asked myself as I watched John with a graduated cylinder, a dropper, and a beaker full of cloudy crushed grape juice- materials that reminded me more of my time as a biology major in college than time spent making wine. I later asked John what it was all about. “We determine the natural acid in wine. If pH is high we can adjust it with tartaric acid. We want to determine the mouthfeel of the wine, or how it tastes on tongue. We usually  want pH below 4.”  John equally impressed me with scientific knowledge when I asked about a friend’s homemade wine that was going bad. He explained it may be malolactic fermentation which is a second fermentation that happens through bacteria. With words like tartaric acid and malolactic fermentation, this isn’t just your Grandpa making wine.

In 2009 John Basile and his wife Debra purchased the winery and planted in 2010. In March 2012 the winery had a license to sell off the property. New Jersey may have a similar climate to Bordeaux, but it can sometimes still be a challenge to grow grapes for wine in this region. For example, as John explained, “last March was mild and the grapes grew about 1 inch. Then we had a frost in late April which hurt the plant.” There are other climate considerations when managing a vineyard. I asked what do farmers do to prevent wind damage. “Put screens or stagger pines to create a wind barrier. NRCS provides grants to help farmers plant those barriers.” Next I ask what is the remedy for too much rain? John explains it is important to know the soil and geography of your vineyard before you purchase it. Prevention, or making sure the rain drains properly is the best defense against precipitation.” It’s not good when the rain pools, but if you have a problem with water building up you can put in a tile system at the low spot that leads water away.” All of John’s information furthers my opinion that wine in New Jersey is a very real business with real techniques and a high degree of sophistication.

As a relatively new winery I asked John some questions about the marketing of his wine. He explained that he is in about eight stores in the state and chooses them based on if they have a prominent wine section. Hops and Grapes right here in Glassboro carriers Monroeville wine. I recently picked up a bottle of Monroeville Red. It is a semi-sweet made from native New Jersey grapes, the Concord. I am not a wine critic by any stretch of the imagination, but if you like a light, fruity red wine this one is really good. I can see why it is one of his best sellers. “What is the most effective way you sell your wine?” I asked. John explained that he markets through the Garden State Wine Growers Association with all the events and festivals. This is similar to what Bellview Winery said. Plus, John added, there was a law that was passed that would allow for signs on major roads.

In addition to the events, competitions are important. “I’m looking forward to the Governor’s Cup that is coming up,” he said. At most of the wineries I visited, wines were prominently displayed with gold medals. It is a way for wineries to distinguish themselves from each other. After talking with John, I hope his wines do well in this year’s competitions! I’m sure they will.

Field Notes- Auburn Road Winery Tasting




auburn road 1We are driving along what seems to be an endless road. Farmland is everywhere. Before I know it, I pass a yellow wooden sign with a picture of a tree that reads “Auburn Road Winery Vineyard-Winery Enoteca .” I put my car in reverse with some traffic approaching quickly from behind and turn right onto a long driveway. My friend notes how remote it all is. “It’s bucolic,” he says. It doesn’t seem like New Jersey. I park in a gravel parking lot. The sun is strong at two in the afternoon.  It shines down on acres of bare vineyards and a large wooden slated building. To the right of this building is a wooden awning overtop of a patio with black metal chairs and tables. It looks as if during the summer it would be full of abundant greenery and vines. As we walk up to this building there are people in their thirties and younger drinking bottles of white and some red.  We walk into the winery tasting room. It has yellow walls and a cheery atmosphere. To my right is a wooden old wine press in the corner. There is a certain aura. White Christmas lights adorn the ceiling. An outside patio to the left overlooks vineyards. The whole place reminds me of a French café. One part is sectioned off with a black fold up divider and becomes a dining area. We sit down at the bar and in front of us is a rack of Auburn Road Winery wine. Next to me is an older gentleman with a graying beard. I ask him what he is drinking. He says “Good Karma.” I can see, it’s a red wine. I can see from the menu the name of the tasting room is Enoteca. What does that mean? This is Italian for regional wine shop. As we look at the wine menu a group of four girls in their twenties come in. I hear the bar tender ask,” Are you winery hopping or just stopping by?” “Oh we’re winery hopping,” they respond. I notice thirteen wine bottles behind the bar are adorned with Gold and Bronze medals. I look at the menu:

auburn road 2

Whites and Rosé

Pinot Grigio 2012 16.99/bottle

Sole                       13.99/bottle

Roxanne 2012 (Rosé) 12.99/bottle

auburn road 3

Dry Reds

Good Karma 2011            13.99/bottle

(Blend of Sangiovese and Merlot, like a Pinot Noir)

Rustica 2010                       14.99

(Blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin)

Classico 2010                      19.99

(Blend Sangiovese, Merlot, Chambourcin aged 23months in oak)

Eidolon 2010                       2010

(Blend of Chambourcin and Merlot)

Fruit and Sweet Wines

Rosalita 2012                      12.99


Give Peach a Chance      12.99

Kind of Blue                        12.99

(Blueberry wine)

Mad Anthony’s Chase Spiced Apple Wine            12.99

Blessington                         11.99

(Concord Sweet)

We sit at the bar and taste the “Good Karma” and the “Rosalita” and ordered a plate of cheese, Italian bread, oil for dipping, and green olives. There is blues music playing in the background and sign that reads “Live Music Every Saturday Night.”

I leave my seat at the bar to go talk to a few people. I notice an older woman to my left with her friend drinking what looks to be a lighter sweeter wine. I ask her what is NJ known for. “ Oh definitely sweet wines. They are better with sweet wines. Just like Oregon is better with Pinot Noir.”

auburn road 5

I walk outside and see a young couple with a baby in a stroller. They say “we only buy New Jersey wines.” I ask them what kind of wine they prefer and they say sweet wines.

Finally I see two girls in the twenties, maybe early thirties, and I ask them why they like New Jersey wine. “I’d rather spend $14.99 on a New Jersey wine than $25.99 on a Californian wine” said the girl with the shirt that said “Coffee keeps me busy until it’s acceptable to drink wine.”  She noted that she always fight with her friend about wine because he prefers Californian wine. She did say that he likes dry wines though.

I finish my plate of cheese and bottle of Rosalita outside. I consider today to be successful in that I learned about New Jersey Resident drinking habits and recreational activities such as winery hopping.

 auburn road 4




As was discussed in Writing Ethnographic Field Notes my jottings in some places are sparse, with just a word or two. I felt that was all that was needed to help to jog my memory just now as I wrote down field notes.  Also in the book they say that “people often understand that such activities are required of students and, therefore, tolerate and accommodate the needs of researchers.” It was for this reason that every time I talked with someone at Auburn Road Winery I began by saying I was a student doing research for a project. By talking with the people at the winery I learned quite a bit about NJ wine drinkers’ tastes. For one, they mostly like sweet wines and come to expect good sweet wine from New Jersey. To ask New Jersey wineries to give up this end of their business, in the name of changing their reputation, is not realistic.

I also noticed a lot of similarities and some differences with other wineries. The wooden building resembled Cape May Winery. The prices were cheaper than Cape May. I also noticed how much cheaper the sweet wines were.  Auburn Road did have a distinct feel of a European café which I haven’t seen in other wineries. Each winery I visited had a different feel in their tasting room. Cape May felt like a lounge. Bellview felt like an eatery or a deli. It is interesting to see such diversity in tasting rooms. Another fact that is worth mentioning is the winery hopping group of girls that stopped in. I saw the same thing at Cape May Winery with a stretch limousine taking the girls from winery to winery. I suppose such an attraction can happen in South Jersey, which is particularly full of wineries.

I think I was successful in reaching out and speaking to different people about their views on New Jersey wine. I also think I was successful in capturing what the winery looked and felt like, with the cheery yellow walls and outside patio and blues music playing in the background. If I did this again I would talk more with the wait staff. I would also have liked to do the winery tour, but I hadn’t made a reservation. Overall I feel this outing was successful and I think I’ve gathered information I can definitely use in my article.


Emerson R.M., Fretz R.I., Shaw L. (2011)Writing ethnographic field notes, second edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Post-interview reflection- online interview with Dr. Pavlis

Overall this online interview was very successful. As mentioned in my pre-interview I was nervous that my questions would evoke yes and no answers. This did not happen, in fact the opposite was true. I am lucky in the fact that Dr. Pavlis answered my questions in an essay format incorporating detail I did not expect. For example, I asked him about the price of wine in NJ and he wrote for a paragraph how different NJ wines compare to other regions in the world. It was with this answer that I could even pick out emotion in his answer even though it was through email. He seemed adamant in stating that the gentleman I talked to about NJ wine prices “was really ignorant about the facts.” I appreciated his fervent response showing how much he truly cared about New Jersey wine.

After viewing Dr. Pavlis’s answers I can see how I had pre-conceived notions of what his answers might be.I had hoped, for example, that he would say the growth of NJ wine industry in unique to the state and give reasons why it occurs. Instead he said how wineries are popping up in a multitude of states. It’s a national trend. Similarly, when I asked why New Jersey residents drink only 1% NJ wine I was hoping for an answer saying that is rising. The answer I did get, that in New Jersey we are 4th in per capita consumption of wine and 1st in wine purchases over $25 was different than what I was expecting, but equally as informative and interesting. In reflecting on how I worded my questions, I think that although there was bias in my mind on what I thought the answer would be, my questions did not reflect that bias. This is evident in his answers.

I learned quite a bit. I learned that farmers are moving toward vineyards because it is more of a cash crop. I learned that one of the reasons NJ residents only drink 1% NJ wine is because of our proximity to New York and the fact that we can get any wine we want. Another way to look at it is a 99% potential growth. Most intertesting, I learned a bit about how wine pricing works. Although over $20-35 dollars (which is NJ prices) for a bottle of wine is expensive by most standards, that same cost for a wine from  French Burgundy or Bordeaux isn’t as good. According to Dr. Pavlis, you have to spend upwards of $100 dollars from those regions to taste good quality wine. I’m not sure if it’s ok to quote him saying that because it is opinion and not fact. Though, I would like to mention it in the article.


Dr. Pavlis states in his response that the only wines taken seriously are Californian wines. He says the reason is that California gets the press and so it’s all the public knows. I recently read an article in the New York Times about the New Jersey wine industry and it stated that out of 50 wineries in the state only 10 are good. The author advocated a classification system like in France where good wine is given a different classification from bad wine. This stops one bad winery from ruining the reputation of the good wineries in the state. I asked both the owners of Tomasello Winery and the owner of Cape May Winery and each differed in opinion. Toby Craig from Cape May Winery says that would be very beneficial to the winery.  Charlie Tomasello says a system where they tell you what to grow won’t work in New Jersey where winemakers are going to grow what they want. Next I am planning on asking the author of New Jersey Wine: A Remarkable History what his take is on classifications specifically the 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines with “Premier cru” and “Cinquieme Cru. This is all in response to Dr. Pavlis’s claim that California is taken seriously because it gets more press. Maybe it’s not just the press. Maybe the wineries need a way to self-govern and be persuaded to make serious wine.



Here are Dr. Pavlis’s answers :

Hello Toni,

The growth of the wine industry is something that has happened throughout the USA. There are now wineries in every state in the union. This country has become more and more enchanted with wine and in fact two years ago we started drinking more wine than beer for the first time. So the growth of wineries is everywhere. In New Jersey, much of the growth comes from farmers that want to continue farming but cannot do so growing more traditional crops such as corn and apples. There is no money in these and the situation arises, find a cash crop or sell the farm.

New Jerseyans only drink 1% New Jersey wine because of our proximity to New York City which is basically the world center for wine, i.e. we can get anything we want here, French wine, Italian wine, Spanish wine, Argentineans wine, Croatian wine, etc. That is a lot of competition. Little by little we are chipping away at the 1% wall. The good news is that in New Jerseywe are 4th in per capita consumption of wine and 1st in wine purchases over $25. Add to that the fact that the other 99% is up for our industry to capture. This is our potential market.

It is true that there are incredible values in wine if you look around the world. I just bought a case of chardonnay fromCalifornia for $3.99 a bottle and it is very good. Can I justify buying a $35 cabernet for New Jersey when there are wines as good from Chile, Australia and Spain for half the price? That is the question that every winery throughout the world is asking themselves if they produce wines over $20. Is a $100 Napa Cabernet worth the price? I don’t think so. Most $100 Napa Cabs are that expensive because someone with a giant ego wanted to produce wine with a Napa label and so bought land there for one million an acre. With a mortgage that big you can’t charge $10 for a bottle of wine. Actually, when you compare the New Jersey cabs and Bordeaux, we are much cheaper to get the same quality. At $20-$35 which are our prices, Bordeaux sucks. Your gentleman was really ignorant about the facts. How many people routinely go out and by $100 bottle of Bordeaux? Are they great? Yes some are but who is buying them? Same goes true for Chardonnays from French Burgundy. To get a great wine from there, you have to spend $150. We don’t have any chardonnays at that price.

As far as New Jersey wines taken seriously, the only wines in this country taken seriously by the general public come from California. That is a shame because there are great wines coming from Oregon, Washington, the Finger Lakes, Long Island, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, etc. But they don’t get the press so California is all the public knows.

The Judgment of Princeton was a great event for New Jersey wine because our wines went against wines costing 10X as much and the judges couldn’t pick out ours from the French and scored ours as well. Is such a competition totally valid. I run the New Jersey wine competition and the Pennsylvania wine competition and have done so for 25 years and I can tell you that competitions are a crap shoot. If the same wines were tasted by the same judges the next day the results would be different. I’m sure of it. Given that, it is the best system we have and it is at least an indication that our wines had quality stand up to the French wines.

As far as grape varieties for New Jersey, I think we are still looking and experimenting but Cab sav, Cab franc, Syrah, Riesling, Chambourcin, Merlot and many others are very promising.

I hope this all helps. Let me know if you have any follow up questions.


Gary C. Pavlis




Wine Tour and Tasting at Cape May Winery Field Notes and Reflection

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Cape May is a little further than I thought. My mom and I pull up to the winery at 3:01, the tour starts at 3:00. We park on the gravel lot outside a wooden square building with a terrace out front. It looks like in the summer it would be full of green but today, on a day in mid-March, it’s just the bare wood. I enter in what appears to be a gift shop and find a large group of about six middle aged people and couple that looks to be my parent’s age. The large group were paying for a wine tasting. “How many wines do we get to taste?” “Six for six dollars.” “Do you have a designated driver?” the woman behind the counter teased. The group laughed and said John was their dd. The other middle-aged couple ahead of us asked if they could go on the wine tour. “Are you Toni?” I heard my name and chimed in that indeed I was Toni. The woman behind the counter pulled out four stemless wine glasses and handed them out to the couple and my mother and me. The glasses were etched with the words “Cape May Winery” with a seashell on top.

We walk back outside toward a yellow oversized shed. We walk past rows of vineyards to the left and to the right of us. They are on a diagonal and are bare. They stand about 2 -3 feet tall and there is wire strung horizontally every foot or so above the vine. As we get closer I can hear the older man’s voice who appears to be running the tour. He wore a blue long-sleeved Cape May shirt which read “Johnny” on the left side. There are 26 people on the tour with 16 women, five of which look to be in their 30s and the rest are middle-aged. There are 10 men, three of which appear to be in their 30s and the rest are middle-aged. We come in on Johnny saying “2011 was our worst year. It was bad not just for us but for California as well. We got 23 inches of rain. The wines coming out on Memorial Day will be more light-bodied because of all the rain.”

Johnny goes on to say “the black lines you see on the vineyards are not for irrigation they are for spraying nutrients on the vines because with a lot of rain the soil drains fast and pulls nutrients with it. With a lot of moisture you can get mildew or mold so the vines face north to south to get the most sunlight and keep them dry. Rose bushes at the end of each line of vines detect diseases. They get the same diseases as the vines so if they have a problem we can detect it first. Does everyone see the black box in the distance?” Everyone looks south. I spot a tiny black box on top of the vine. “It is through Cornell and Rutgers. The box measures humidity, temperature, windspeed. If everything is right for a certain disease it tells us that. We buy our vines from North Jersey and New York because if they can survive the winters up there they will be fine down here. They are nice and hardy. “ Johnny went into how they prune the vine and that it is in a T-shape and you get 30-70 shoots from each plant and they use a vertical trellis and they trim throughout the season. I didn’t really understand why it is a T-shape or what vertical trellis is. I must remember to look that up later. I remember seeing from the website there are over 150 acres and 16 varieties of grapes grown here. Johnny says, “there are 800 plants per acre, 4 tons of fruit per acre, 1 ton of fruit makes 750 bottle of wine. After you plant a vine it is 5 years before get first bottle of wine from it. When vines are in their late teens to mid 30s is when you get the most fruit from them. Because the last 7-8 years have been mild winters we have been able to grow Pinot Noir.”

Next Johnny talks  about harvesting. He says  you must know how much sugar is in the grape before you harvest it. They measure sugar through brics. 1bric is 1% sugar. For wine you ideally want 22% sugar. There is a refractometer that tell s you that. It’s re-checked in the lab. You must know the weather when harvesting. If it rains the night before a harvest you could lose 2-3 brics of sugar. Cape May winery is in a migratory zone so they have a problem with birds, not seagulls, other birds. The vineyards must be wrapped in nets or they’d lose 40% of their crop.

Johnny opens the door to this huge yellow shed and we walk inside. It has the feel of a warehouse with cement floors but there are multiple oak barrels and 10 large steel vats.  Johnny explains  the difference between red and white wine. One of us on the tour asked if barrels are reused. The answer was yes but red wine barrels can’t be used for white wine. Johnny explains the steel vats. “They are 1000 gallon double walled and temperature stabilized. You can set the temperature which gives an even fermentation. You can stop it from going above 90 degrees which is when fermentation stops.”  He also explains “cold stabilization” where you bring the temperature of the vat of white wine to below 20 degrees and the tartrates stick to the sides.  He then works his way around the room having us taste Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. On woman joked that she didn’t want that Pinot Noir because it is from 2011. Johnny laughed and said that the Pinot Noir may have less body because it is 2011 but it is still good.IMG_0008IMG_0009

We walk back outside toward the back of the large wooden square building. It is all very rustic looking. There are wooden tables and chairs on the back deck overlooking the vineyards. One can imagine the scene on a summer day, seeing acres of green vines while sipping wine and sitting in the shade of a wooden awning on the back porch of the winery. There are wooden barrels to the side. I stop to take a picture. We continue a little and enter the back door. It is dimly lit but you can see a table in the back with brochures for Cape May Winery and a flyer with the different wines you can taste. Toward the other end of the room is a table with a burgundy tablecloth with three sweet wines in ice, crackers, cheeses like Brie and Blue Cheese and Cheddar, and white grapes. There is water and a bucket to rinse your wine glass. I become pre-occupied with the cheese and miss the first of the three bottles of wine to taste. I did taste the Blush which Johnny said was one of the biggest sellers. It was definitely sweet with a cherry taste and fruity finish. Sweet wines are looked down upon but Johnny says you should drink “what you like.” “If you like a 10 buck chuck, then drink it.” A man behind me says he still likes the boxed wine. Johnny said that actually the boxed wine has less of a chance of going bad then corked wine.  He also says that if you don’t like a wine at a restaurant it’s alright to send it back.IMG_0012

Above the table with the brochures is a staircase. A younger woman on the tour asked what it leads to and Johnny explains it will lead to what will be a wine library, that way you can taste old vintages.

I overhear Johnny say they don’t sell their wine in liquor stores.

After the tour I walk back into the gift shop where I first entered. I see a case with cheese. The same woman who gave us our wine glasses earlier explains that the winery provides the plate and knife and you can pick out whatever cheese and wine you want.  I notice there is Castella Cheese- olive medley and hot olive salad. There is black pepper triangle cheese, Adirondack’s White Gold, Extra sharp cheddar, and three year old cheddar and Smoked Gouda with bacon and Joan of Arc Brie.

Next I go through a hallway that is painted with pictures of green vineyards and enter a lounge with dim lights overhead and candlelight on the tables. There is a fireplace when you walk in on one side of the room and brown leather couches around it. A fire is burning in it at the moment. An older woman sits there lost in thought.  Opposite the fireplace, on the other wall the window looks out to the vineyard. There are palm ferns in every corner of the room. One wall is full of oak barrels that say CM Merlot 2011 in white chalk. I remember sometime on the tour white chalk was mentioned as being used by the wine maker.IMG_0018

There is a bar opposite the oak barrels. About eight people are standing around it. They are smiling and talking quietly while drinking wine. I walk up to a group of three people and introduce myself as a student doing research on NJ wineries and would they be willing to answer some questions. An older woman, probably 5’4’’ ,who told me she was 65 years old, with glasses and short white hair says she agreed to answer some questions. “Yes, I’m from New Jersey. I’ve lived near the Cape May Courthouse for the past 25 years.” I ask her if she likes NJ wine. “I never looked at NJ for wine until recently.” She says that she traveled all around Europe and Asia and tasted the wine and that NJ does have some good wine. When I asked her if she uses wine vocabulary like “nose” she said she was not a wine snob. She asked for my information in case she sees the article so I give her my card. All in all I learned quite a lot from my time at Cape May Winery. It was well worth the 2 hour drive.


“In sum, ethnographers write fieldnote tales that reflect daily experience rather than crafted, artful, suspense-driven narratives” (Emerson, Fretz and Shaw, 2011, pp.122). When I’m in the moment, I try to get down as much detail in as little words as possible, something that will jog my memory later. And then afterwards I try to give the reader a clear sense of place and dialogue. Many of my field notes surround dialogue. I feel dialogue is one of the most important aspects. Just as was mentioned in Writing Ethonographic Fieldnotes, my fieldnotes feel as if there is a temporary ending to be picked up later. This is the approach I take. I try taking a snapshot of a day’s event, but the whole story that a fieldnote is trying to tell, may continue in subsequent field notes.  Looking back at this session of jottings and field notes I really wish I had been able to capture the different questions that were being asked on the tour because that might have given me insight into the type of wine drinker that goes on these wine tours like the one in Cape May. I have learned though through Johnny and the woman I talked to after the tour, that being a wine snob is looked down upon in New Jersey. The culture is to be accepting of everyone and their tastes. So even though Cape May Winery does focus on European varietal wines and dry reds they still sell some sweet wines. I’ve also learned through visiting other wineries as well that it is treated as a tourist attraction. Going to a winery is a whole event. Cape May winery is no different with its lavish couches and fireplace and hallways painted with vineyards. There were quite a few things I learned from these field notes, including the part of the wine library. I may be able to mention that in my article about how if you want to try past vintages that won awards you may be able to. I still have some questions like how much wine does Cape May winery produce, if they are selling their wine in BYOB restaurants and if that helps business, why they don’t sell their wine in liquor stores and how they feel about NJ being a serious wine producer.


Emerson R.M., Fretz R.I., Shaw L. (2011)Writing ethnographic field notes, second edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.