Valenzano Winery Review
Address: 1090 Route 206 Shamong,New Jersey 08088.
Phone Number: 609-268-6731
Tasting Hours: Mon-Fri 11:00-5:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-4:00
Region: Outer Coastal Plain AVA, New Jersey
Reviewer: Charlie Toms
Review Date: 12/28/2013
Reviewer: Charlie Toms
In the last decade, Valenzano Winery has become one of the largest and best known wineries in New Jersey. In 1974, auto mechanic and gas station owner Anthony Tony Valenzano Sr. started a farm in Shamong, which is deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. He raised livestock and grew grains, and as a hobby made wine. In 1991, Tony and his sons Mark and Anthony Jr. planted three acres of grapes, and five years later the winery opened to the public. Today, the family grows 44 acres of grapes, and produces 40,000 cases of wine per year. Valenzano is a member of the Garden State Wine Growers Association, and is located in the Outer Coastal Plain Viticultural Area, which consists of more than 25 Southern New Jersey wineries.
Wine is made from 12 types of grapes Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Concord, Fredonia, Ives Noir, Merlot, Niagara, Norton (Cynthiana), Vidal Blanc, and Zinfandel. Valenzano also produces fruit wines from apples, blueberries, cranberries, peaches, raspberries, and pumpkins, and makes mead from locally-produced honey. They are the only winery in New Jersey to produce mead. Since 2002, the vineyard has hosted “WineFest,” a festival that over 10,000 people typically attend. Valenzano is fully powered by solar energy and is exclusively heated with geothermal energy from steam that comes from 60 feet below the vineyard.
The winery is easy to find, being directly on Route 206 with a large stone sign in front. The building looks like a banquet hall, and next to the parking lot there is a pond with a bridge over it. Behind the vineyard is a neo-Victorian style house where the family lives. The tasting room is large with an ornate brick and marble bar and tables and chairs for patrons to enjoy a glass of wine. The winery also has a ballroom that can hold up to 250 people and a rustic Wine House for more intimate events. In recent years the winery has become a destination for many weddings.
Because of the extensive variety of wines offered, I visited twice and tasted 18 of their wines. My server was quite friendly and very knowledgeable. Tastings at Valenzano are complimentary with a purchase, and he encouraged me to try as many wines as possible. Vidal Blanc was dry and crisp and could be paired with a cheese spread. I really liked Valenzano’s White Cabernet. The wine is made from Cabernet Franc and is semi-sweet and very smooth. It would be a hit at a picnic.
Cabernet / Merlot is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chambourcin, and had a somewhat harsh taste. Labrusca, which is made from Fredonia grapes, was semi-sweet and fruity. I would pair this easy-drinking red with a hamburger. Shamong Red is made from Concord grapes, and – not surprisingly – was light-bodied and sweet. My favorite wine at Valenzano was their Sweet Cab. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this wine smells dry and initially tastes dry, but finishes sweet. I could see myself drinking this enigmatic wine while eating a chocolate cannoli.
Jersey Devil Port is made with Cynthiana grapes fortified with brandy and is aged in oak for three years. Jersey Devil Honey Wine (Mead) was strong with a subtle sweetness. Red White and Blueberry Sangria is a mixture of red cranberries, white cranberries, and blueberries, whereas Santa’s Little Helper is made with all three fruits plus grapes. Both tasted a lot like fruit juice. Their white cranberry wine was somewhat less sweet and wasn’t tart like many cranberry wines. I tried their apple, blueberry, peach, and pumpkin wines, but my favorite fruit wine was the raspberry, which was intensely sweet and smooth and would go well with ice cream.
Valenzanos growth over the last ten years mirrors the spectacular expansion of New Jersey wine industry. They offer a wide variety of wines, a picturesque setting, and excellent service. Furthermore, Valenzano prides itself on affordability prices range from $9 to $18, and I bought a 1.5 liter bottle of Sweet Cab for $12. Valenzanos wines are sold at farmers markets, liquor stores, restaurants, and festivals throughout the state. They can also be shipped to residents of New Jersey and 38 other states that permit wine deliveries.