A Wine from the Heart of South Jersey
It started with an idea.
Wine makers from New Jersey’s Outer Coastal Plain, designated by the federal government as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2006, needed a signature wine—one that would identify the region and stand out among the sweet, fruity wines so prevalent there. So in the tradition of Bordeaux, France, wine makers created a blend from the finest red grapes that thrive in the warm climate and sandy soil of southern New Jersey.
Coeur d’Est, which translates to heart of the East, is made exclusively from grapes grown in the Outer Coastal Plain. It is a combination of up to five varietals: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chambourcin, which is the basis for the blend at 25 to 50 percent. According to Larry Sharrott, II, owner and wine maker at Sharrott Winery in Blue Anchor, “Blending allows the wine maker to play and draw out the strengths of the grapes.”
The Chambourcin grapes grown in the area are known for their consistency and high quality. In wine they exhibit a deep ruby color, dry yet fruity flavors, and a bold structure with firm tannins. And it all starts in the vineyard. “After all,” Sharrott adds, “you cannot make good wine from bad grapes.”
Currently the Outer Coastal Plain AVA covers over 2.25 million acres in southeastern New Jersey with more than 20 wineries and commercial vineyards. It boasts a long, warm growing season that is influenced by the maritime effects of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay.Well-drained soils and flat lands or low hills make the region perfect for growing many French varietals including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and Viognier.
According to Jim Quarella, owner of Bellview Winery, in Landisville, currently 12 wineries have committed to the Coeur d’Est project, with eight wineries releasing their blends in May 2014. Each of the participating wineries has established its own unique blend using guidelines to assure that the blend includes the varietals in a way that reflects the best of their characteristics when grown in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA. In addition, each of these vintage wines must be rated a Silver Medal or higher by the independent wine group The Beverage Tasting Institute.
At a reception held at Tomasello Winery, in Hammonton, on May 7, the media and fans of the New Jersey wine industry were treated to a taste of the Coeur d’Est blends from participating wineries. Although each one boasted a different blend of grape varietals, guests repeatedly remarked on the quality and consistency of the wines. While guest Harris Freidberg had his favorite, he admitted that “there’s not a bad wine in the bunch!”
And that’s the point. The New Jersey wine industry has had its share of growing pains, trying to turn around a reputation for sweet, cheap wines. With Coeur d’Est, the wine makers of the Outer Coastal Plain have created a new heritage for their region, and a wine that truly reflects the heart and identity of South Jersey.
For more information on Coeur d’Est, please visit www.coeurdest.com.
Jennifer Malme is a writer based in Vineland, in Cumberland County. She is the author of Down-Home South Jersey, a lifestyle blog about her adventures living in the Garden State, and in addition to being a contributor to Jersey Bites, she contributes to Sharrott Winery blog. Jennifer enjoys reading, cooking and exploring the wineries of New Jersey.