Hopewell Valley Vineyards Review
Address: 46 Yard Rd. Pennington,New Jersey 08534.
Phone Number: 609-737-4465
Tasting Hours: 12:00-5:00
Region: New Jersey
Reviewer: Charlie Toms
Review Date: 5/3/2014
Reviewer: Charlie Toms
Winemaking is in Sergio and Violetta Neri’s blood. Sergio’s family owned vineyards in Tuscany where they made Brunello di Montalcino wines, and Violetta’s grandmother was a winemaker from the Macedonia region of Greece who made white wine. In 1996, the couple bought a 75-acre farm in the quaint town of Hopewell in central New Jersey. Five years later, grapes were planted, and in 2003 Hopewell Valley Vineyards opened to the public. I first visited the winery soon after it opened, and I was moved by the friendliness of the owners and their willingness to make uncommon vintages such as White Merlot. To add to the charm, Hopewell Valley also sells brick oven pizzas and makes olive oil from olives grown in Tuscany.
Hopewell Valley Vineyards is much larger today, having 23 acres under cultivation, and producing 7,000 cases of wine per year. They produce wine from 10 types of grapes Barbera, Brachetto, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Merlot, Muscat Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sangiovese, and Vidal Blanc. Most of their grapes are estate grown, but they do purchase some varieties like Sangiovese that are difficult to grow in New Jersey. It is the only winery in New Jersey that produces wine from Brachetto, which is a red vinifera grape indigenous to the Piedmont region of Italy that is often used to make sparkling wines. Hopewell Valley is not located in one of New Jersey’s three viticultural areas but is a member of the Garden State Wine Growers Association.
The winery is easy to find just look for row of grapes, a large black sign, and a yellow building with a large porch. Upon entering, there is a gift shop. Beyond the gift shop, and down a flight of steps is the tasting room, which reminded me of a jazz club. The walls are adorned with artwork, there is a stage with a piano, bistro-style chairs and tables throughout the room, and in the corner is the wine bar. The bar is made of brick with an ornate marble top. Behind the server, there is a brick oven where their famous pizzas (only served on Friday and Saturday night) are made.
I visited twice, and tasted fourteen wines. On both occasions I found the servers to be competent but slow. The Pinot Grigio was dry and a bit bland. The Chardonnay, which is aged in European oak, was just as dry but had more body and a bit of a bite. The Vidal Blanc was thin and slightly sweet with a fruity aroma. Stony Brook Blush, which is 95% Vidal Blanc and 5% Chambourcin, was light and fruity and would go well with salad.
Chambourcin, Merlot, and Sangiovese were each medium-bodied, but a bit too acidic for me. The 2008 Barbera started a little spicy and had a very smooth finish. This Northern Italian variety would go well with tomato-based pasta dishes. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is aged in French Oak for fourteen months, was very dry and strongly flavored. I really liked Rosso Della Valle, a blend of Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon, which reminded me of a good Bordeaux wine. I would pair Rosso Della Valle with a duck dinner. Hopewell Valley also produces a Super Tuscan called Basia which is made from Sangiovese and is aged for three years, but they do not make it available for tasting.
The dessert wines were better. White Merlot was rather unique, having the delicacy of a Pinot Grigio, the complexity of a Cabernet Franc, and sweetness of a Concord. Serve this enigmatic wine with a lobster salad. White Port, which is made from Vidal Blanc fortified with brandy, was stronger and sweeter, having 8% residual sugar. Dolca Vita, a late harvest Vidal Blanc, was just as sweet with explosive fruit flavors. Dolca Vita should be paired with strawberries and ice cream. Spuma Rossa is a red sparkling wine made from Brachetto, and is sweet and fruity yet refreshingly clean. I could see myself coming back to Hopewell Valley with a group, and ordering a brick oven pizza and a bottle of Spuma Rossa.
Hopewell Valley Vineyards offers visitors highly attractive scenery, a laid-back atmosphere, and the opportunity to try some unusual wines. Hopewell Valley’s wines cost $13-$40 per bottle, and are sold on-site, and at local farmers’ markets, liquor stores, and restaurants. They can also be shipped to residents of New Jersey and 38 other states that permit wine deliveries.