When Michael Manning made his first batch of home brew in 2001, he thought he had found his calling. Beer, however, turned out to be a stepping stone toward his ultimate beverage of choice?mead. In 2009, using a recipe the American Homebrewers Association published for Mead Day, he concocted his first batch of the honey-wine. Eventually, his personal recipe earned a Best of Show at 2011?s Valhalla mead competition. These days, he uses modern tools and his mastery of fermentation to craft The Colony Meadery?s many styles of mead, which range from strawberry- and kiwi-flavored versions to hoppy, IPA-style variations. The meads are available to sample at The Colony?s in-house tasting room, as well as various taverns throughout the state.
Held at Four Sisters Winery?one of the state's oldest wine producers?Vintage North Jersey brings together some of the area's finest food and drink producers. There to celebrate great wine and pairings, many of the vendors bring along unique products that are handmade at their facilities, ranging from fresh honey to Greek-style dips. Each is served alongside their handcrafted wines and showcase some of the best artisanal treats the region has to offer. Live music also sets a soundtrack to festivities, with bands playing instruments to accompany the wine.
Villa Milagro Vineyard is more than a spot for the creation of fine wines. It's also a protective habitat for native species, a culinary school, and a bastion of organic and sustainable agricultural practices. On winery tours, guests stroll down lanes surrounded by vines that are grown without pesticides or herbicides. You can sign up for cooking or wine-tasting classes, or simply sit down with the vintners for dinner. Tastings let you sample the vineyard's output, and bottles are for sale once you find something you like.
The professional, knowledgeable staff at Vintner’s Circle share their love of the wine lifestyle with hands-on wine classes that teach guests, family, and friends how to bottle wines, distinguish between different varietals, or pair wine with cheese. The shop’s unique, all-inclusive winemaking program takes aspiring vintners through the accessible four-part process in store over the course of eight weeks, which begins with choosing wine juices from a selection of more than 50 internationally sourced varieties. Participants eventually bring home more than two dozen bottles with their own vintage for a total cost of less than $10 per bottle. They can emblazon these bottles with custom-designed labels and colorful tops. Vintner's Circle also stocks a variety of gifts for weddings, holidays, and other special occasions, as well as wine accessories and gifts for wine lovers to enjoy year-round. Wine-education classes, corporate events, and team-building events are also on offer.
Blue Mountain Vineyards owners, Joe and Vickie, are pinot pioneers. Beginning with a 5-acre experiment in 1986, they discovered that the soil of the Lehigh Valley does a fine impression of French terrain, making it suitable for growing the grapes of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and other European varietals. Since then, they've expanded to a 50-acre plot, where they now produce wines that have won awards from the Fingerlake International Wine Competition and Appellation America.
Panoramic views of the Blue Mountains overlook scenic terraces at the vineyards, where grapes spring from soil that soldiers roamed during the Revolutionary War. Tastings, concerts, and other events fill the winery's glass-flanked deck, spilling onto an outdoor patio surrounded by ponds as tranquil as a silent lullaby. Visitors admire the vines during tours, and they can also adopt their favorites to preserve the vines' flavorful histories.
When Food Network staple Robert Irvine and his Restaurant Impossible crew arrived at Mamma D's, they were overwhelmed. Ambitious owner Luigi Desiato operated an eatery that was equal parts restaurant, vineyard, and petting zoo, a combination that clouded his sizable culinary prowess and led to an overabundance of greased pig races. But Chef Irvine's visit enabled the charismatic Luigi to pinpoint his vision, and Mamma D's has since transformed into a hub for high-end cuisine and fresh-off-the-vine wines. Vinos, such as a dolce vita sweet red and chardonnay pinot, gush from taps beside craft beers at the full-service bar that, along with the outdoor patio, overlooks the idyllic 2-acre vineyard. Sips on these homegrown varietals complement the menu of small plates, chops, and seafood, which, according to the Montgomery News, encompasses a "combination of recipes from Bologna and Abruzzo, where both sides of Chef Louie’s family grew up."
The host of his own Sayre Woods Media series, Wine'm and Dine'm with Chef Louie Desiato, Luigi also presides over daily classes where he shares his bottomless knowledge of cultivating grapes and pairing wines while serving up artisanal cheese and surprises from the kitchen, which is manned by his talented son, Nick Desiato.