Ask anyone about their favorite treats, and you will often find “wine” and “chocolate” at the top of the list. New Jersey wineries are celebrating both, with two weekends of the classic pairing over the next two weekends (February 7-8 and 14-15). The Garden State Wine Growers Association, which is the statewide advocacy group for the wine industry, will hold its annual Wine & Chocolate Trail Weekends over Valentine’s Day weekend, as well as the weekend prior for the many early bird lovebirds looking to find a special way to celebrate this year. From Sussex to Cape May and everywhere in between, more than 40 New Jersey wineries will open their tasting rooms with special features and attractions, often focusing on—you guessed it—chocolate!
Some wineries will have multi-course dinners, which will prove novel and different from the usual restaurant experience. Brook Hollow Winery in Columbia and Salem Oak Vineyards in Pedricktown will have Valentine’s dinners at their wineries. Villa Milagro Vineyards in Milford will take it a step further by hosting a dinner dance, starting with hors d’oeuvres in the vintner’s residence on the vineyard property. Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere offers a more macabre Valentines experience, with a murder mystery dinner theatre.
Other wineries will add unique features to the trail weekend, which is one of four that the GSWGA holds each year. These weekends make wine tasting in NJ a different experience than a usual winery visit. Sharrott Winery in Winslow will have a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings (second weekend only), Old York Cellars in Ringoes will bring an instant photo booth to its tasting room for both weekends, and Plagido’s Winery, in Hammonton, will welcome author (and Jersey Bites contributor) Charlie Toms on Valentine’s Day. Toms recently published Road to the Vineyard: Cruising Through New Jersey Wine Country. Plagido’s will have light fare and chocolates to complement wine tastings, and Toms will be signing copies of his book, which will be available at the event.
Besides the special events and plenty of goodies from local chocolatiers in NJ’s winery tasting rooms over the two trail weekends, the GSWGA has another special perk for in-state wine enthusiasts. The winery passport program encourages users to collect stamps at each winery in New Jersey. Once all stamps are collected, the passport can be mailed back to the Association and redeemed for a pair of crystal engraved wine glasses. Redeemed passports are then entered into a drawing for an international wine trip. The drawing is held annually at the Blues, BBQ, & Wine Festival over Memorial Day Weekend. Last year’s winning couple traveled to Austria and Hungary. The free passports can be found in any NJ tasting room, or a mobile app version can be found through an app search for “NJ Wine” on any smart phone.
No matter where in New Jersey you live, there is a winery in your neck of the woods! For the full list of participating wineries, costs to attend, and details of the special offerings at each location, visit NewJerseyWines.com, where the GSWGA provides a full calendar of opportunities to help you plan your visit to the rapidly increasing number of wineries across the state.
The GSWGA is a coalition of nearly 50 wineries and vineyards across New Jersey, dedicated to raising the quality and awareness of the New Jersey wine industry. For more information, please contact Executive Director John Cifelli at 908-866-6529 or [email protected]
Photo courtesy of the GSWGA.
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.