Readers may recall that last year I posted about a trio of wineries down by Cape May that a couple of friends and I visited, the upshot being that some of the wines we tasted were pretty decent, others not especially remarkable. This has been my experience over the years that I've been tasting Jersey wines, with standouts relatively few and far between. However, overall I would say that possibilities are expanding for more noteworthy wineries in the Garden State. Case in point, my most recent visit to three more establishments in the Cape May area with the same friends.
Lest I bury the lede, so to speak, the first on our itinerary, Turdo Vineyards and Winery https://www.turdovineyards.com/ started our journey off with a bang - every wine we tasted, both reds and whites, was a winner, in particular the estate grown wines labeled Turis.
Although Turdo was not on a list of "Ten Best Wineries in Jersey" that I came across in one of my news feeds, for some reason I had a feeling or premonition that we should check this one out. I'd never heard of it before, but perusing the website, I got a sense that these people were serious wine producers. Indeed, the passion and quality come through not only in the final product but in talking with the owners Salvatore and Luca, and their son who is the current wine master.
Established in 1998, Turdo began producing vintages within a few years after the initial planting of vines, focusing largely, but not exclusively, on classic Italian varietals such Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Nero d'Avola. Indeed, we also tasted their "Bordeaux" style blend as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon, which were particularly impressive as they are notoriously difficult to do well in the northeastern states.
We started off, of course, with the whites, the first being a lovely fragrant and crisp Pinot Grigio with bracing acidity and notes of pear, white peach and Meyer lemon. There are so many mediocre PGs in the market place, that it's a real delight to come across one that hits the mark. Next on the list was a Riesling, vinified from grapes sourced in Mulacca Hills, if I'm not mistaken. A fine rendition of the grape widely celebrated in the Finger Lakes, the DiLuca Riesling, embodies its distinctive traits with aromas of Granny Smith, citrus peel and kiwi, leading to flavors of tangerine and lime with a minerally finish.
Now onto the reds which were especially notable, three of which were Turis estate grown - Sangiovese, Persara (Bordeaux blend) and Cabernet Sauvignon. The DiLuca Rosso "Black Label" is a Tempranillo-Syrah blend sourced from Mulacca Hill grapes.
The Sangiovese was a lovely example of the predominant grape of Tuscany that is a major component of Chianti, Brunello and many Super Tuscans. With aromas of tobacco, spice and fruit, this well-balanced, medium-bodied red delights the palate with red currant and tart red cherry, finishing with notes of pepper and toasted oak.As a connoisseur well-versed in Bordeaux wines (I spent a year in there back in the '80's), I have a special predilection on the palate for the French classic, and was duly impressed with Turis's version which is composed of 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. Although I had some very fine Meritage blends in Virginia recently, it's been much harder to find decent versions further north. The Turis Persara blend notably exudes aromas of rich, dark fruit with notes of vanilla, and on the palate raspberry preserves and blueberry meld together for a luscious mouth feel.
Likewise, the Turis Cabernet Sauvignon was also a very well-produced example of this noble variety which has way too many iterations in the Northeast that fall far short of quality standards expected by the discriminating wine aficionado. Aged for 30 months in new French oak, this rich, complex 2020 Cab hits all the right notes - plum, cassis and black cherry with nuances of cocoa, vanilla and baking spice. Now for a good quality red Jersey wine, you will pay a higher price - in the $30-40 price range - but you will feel good about supporting local vintners who really know their craft.
We were also graciously offered samples of the newly released Barbera, one of the "secondary" varietals of the Piedmont region of northern Italy, after Nebbiolo. This is one of my favorite Italian grapes and Turdo does of very fine job of vinifying this varietal into a medium-body wine full of red fruit (cherry and raspberry) with a hint of vanilla, and nicely balanced with the right level of acidity that goes well with pizza and pasta.
The next stop on our winery tour that day was Cape May Winery https://capemaywinery.com/, a sprawling establishment that includes a couple of inside wine bars and lounges as well as spacious outside patios along with a walk-up counter to order from their abundant tapas menu. There is also regular live music throughout the summer.
All this to say that the focus seems to be more on entertainment than serious wine appreciation, although you can opt for a guided tasting. Given the vibe, we decided to just order a selection of wines for tasting while nibbling on snacks. I did order the crab slider which was very tasty. On the other hand, the wines were generally unremarkable, so that if you decide to stop by, don't hold high expectations of the wine, but do enjoy the food, music and bonhomie.
The three reds were tasted were the 2020 Q (a Bordeaux-style blend consisting of Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Malbec & Petit Verdot, aged 2 years in oak barrels), the 2020 Proprietor's Red Blend (70% Merlot, 20% Cab Sauv & 10% Petite Sirah, 17-18 months aging) and the 2020 OA Cabernet Franc (98% with 2% Petit Verdot, 20 months aging). These were also well-produced wines that exhibited prominent characteristics associated with quality wines of the respective blends or varietals. For example, the Cab Franc offered up aromas of plum, clove and lavender with notes of blackberry, black currant and strawberry on the palate. This red topped out at $46, but all the whites were in the low to upper $20s, and the Proprietor's Red came in at $25 and the Q at $39. The range in price points will allow most customers to find something that fits there palate at reasonable price.