New Jersey grows and produces wine from more than 80 grape varieties, and (almost) all of those grapes can be found in neighboring states, across the U.S., and throughout the world. But the Garden State makes two wines exclusive to New Jersey. One is made from a grape brought to the U.S. from Italy, and as of now, New Jersey is the only state offering up a commercial bottling. The other is made from a special blend of grapes unique to the Outer Coastal Plain AVA.
Read on to learn about these exclusive wines.
San Marco: Available Only at Bellview Winery
Importing a new-to-the-U.S. grape variety to plant in our soils is a long process. Because vines imported from another country can come with diseases that may spread to other vines, there’s a quarantine process—often at UC Davis’ Foundation Plant Services—where the vines are tested for disease and observed, sometimes for several years. It’s an exhaustive process.
In 2012, Larry Coia, owner of Coia Vineyards in Vineland, began that exhaustive process with an Italian grape that’s become known as San Marco. The grape is a cross between two native Italian varieties, Teroldego and Lagrein. Coia told Wine Industry Advisor that he “recognized not only the cross’s potential for high quality wine production, but that the same level of quality could be achieved back home in New Jersey’s Outer Coastal Plain AVA.”
In 2016, San Marco went into Coia’s vineyards and a few other vineyards in South Jersey. Only Bellview Winery in Landisville—so far—has bottled the San Marco to sell.
2020 was Bellview’s first commercial vintage of San Marco, and it sold out after its release in 2021. The winery planted an additional 800 San Marco vines in 2021 to add to the approximately 270 vines already in the vineyard.
We spoke to Bellview’s general manager and winemaker David Gardner about when we can expect the 2021 vintage of this exciting new wine to be released.
“Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine exactly when a wine will be ready, but I’m hoping to have it in bottle by Fall of 2023. It’s been hard not having any San Marco on our wine list for the past six months, but we definitely want to take our time with a wine as important as this,” says Gardner.
Taking their time means allowing the 2021 vintage to age longer than the 2020, which was aged in “neutral oak barrels to get a feel for the flavors of the grape without the changes from long aging in new oak.” He describes the wine as having “aromas of black cherries, cedar and plum, medium bodied with tart cherry and plum and dark flavors, and assertive but smooth tannins.”
“The 2021 vintage has spent time in new French and American oak to round out its flavors and aroma,” says the winemaker.
“San Marco has very food friendly characteristics. It’s Italian. It has to go with food!” says Gardner. “I can’t wait to see where it’s going in the future.
We can’t wait to see where it’s going either, and we’ll be sure to let you know when the 2021 vintage is released so you can taste this exclusive New Jersey wine. (Just an FYI—there are some wineries on the East Coast outside of NJ growing the grape, but they have not yet commercially bottled it.)
Coeur d’Est: A Unique New Jersey Blend
You may have seen Coeur d’Est at various wineries throughout the Outer Coastal Plain AVA (OCP). The wine is a red blend that combines two to six grape varieties that grow exceptionally well in the region: Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Why the French name if the wine is grown in New Jersey? Coeur d’Est is French for “heart of the East” and the OCP website explains “the name was chosen to reflect the French heritage of the grapes used in the blend and the fact that the AVA is located in the center of quality wine grape growing in the mid-Atlantic region of the East.”
Wineries that choose to make Coeur d’Est must use at least 25% to 50% of Chambourcin in the blend. The rest of the wine can be made up in various percentages from the other permitted grapes. (If you want to see the exact percentages, take a look at the Coeur d’Est blend parameters.) All the grapes must come from the OCP and from the same vintage.
The OCP created the blend to “raise awareness and help further establish [the] identity of the Outer Coastal Plain AVA as a quality winegrowing region.” Wineries that choose to produce the wine must send each vintage to be independently evaluated, and the wine must receive a score of 85 or above to be permitted to have Coeur d’East on the label.
What can you expect when you open a bottle of Coeur d’Est? Because the percentage of the grapes vary from winery to winery, each winery’s Coeur d’Est is unique, but you can be sure of these three things:
- It will be dry with less than .5 % residual sugar.
- Food will love it, and vice versa. The red grapes that are used in Coeur d’Est—with the exception of Chambourcin—are all grape varieties that go into Bordeaux wines, which go wonderfully with food.
- Your bottle will be one of the many quality, premium wines that New Jersey produces.
On your next visit to a New Jersey winery, find out if they produce Coeur d’Est. If they do, give this uniquely New Jersey wine a try.