After graduating from Vassar College in 1997, vintner Tom Carroll Jr. continued his education in California, where he taught himself about viticulture and enology to achieve a lifelong dream of opening a winery. Three years later, he returned to his hometown to found Crossing Vineyards on a plot of land situated a short distance from George Washington’s Delaware River crossing. The winery mingles historic charm and pastoral surroundings with modern technologies, such as a sterile HVAC bottling system and solar-energy panels. Tom and his parents, also co-owners, built the facility around eco-friendly winemaking practices, such as composting waste and using cover crops, a technique that prevents topsoil erosion and helps vintners sing the young grapevines to sleep.
Crossing Vineyards' European-style wines have won more than 115 awards in both national and international competitions over the past 12 years. The winery offers tastings and wine-pairing classes in an onsite educational area and hosts an annual summer wine-and-music series on its sprawling, 15-acre property.
If it weren't for a pesky aphid, Renault Winery may never have existed. When parasitic bug wiped out much of Europe's grape crop, it forced master vintner Louis Nicholas Renault to move from France to the United States. He eventually settled in New Jersey, a state that boasts a similar climate to France and a similar accent to Parisians. Here, he cultivated American grapes that were unfettered by the insects, turning Renault Winery into a prize-winning establishment and eventually into a New Jersey historical site.
Today, the winery offers tours of its storied grounds, inviting visitors to peruse while sampling a wide variety of reds, whites, and champagne. The space also doubles as a popular wedding venue and even houses a golf course on site.
Brooklyn Winery's team crafts small-batch, artisanal wines in Williamsburg—and if winemaking in an urban environment sounds odd to customers, they can always find out how it works during Tuesday winery tours. The tour guides walk groups through their entire process, from the moment the grapes arrive at the facility to when the cork goes in the final wine bottle, trapping the wine genie inside for good. Of course, the process varies from wine to wine. The team ages some vintages in stainless-steel containers, while the barrel-fermented riesling is aged, predictably, in oak barrels, an old-school technique that originated in prerefrigeration Germany. The result? A quirky riesling with hints of soapstone, mushroom, and honey.
The team doesn't just reclaim old German traditions, though. For their unpretentious 1,200-square-foot wine bar, they also reclaimed most of the building materials. In the cozy, unpretentious bar, visitors sip vintages pulled from wine racks that were once World War II ammo boxes; the walls, meanwhile, were barn wood in a past life, and the bar itself is made from old church pews, completing the aura of modernity rooted in history.
Armed with memories of his father's and grandfather's winepress, Dominick Chirichillo founded his wine school as a hobby in a basement cellar. Since he began crafting his own wines, he has won 47 medals from national American Wine Society competitions and established a proper winemaking school. During a series of classes, instructors guide students through all the stages of winemaking, from crushing grapes to prepping barrels, removing sediment, and softly singing to expedite fermentation. Students handle the same seasonal grapes—harvested from regions of California and Chile—that Chirichillo blends into more than 40 different varietals for sale by the bottle and case.
Hosted by the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Jersey Shore Wine Festival gives visitors to FirstEnergy Park a taste of the state's finest wineries for two fun-filled days. Guests aged 21 or older may sample the wares of merchants such as Ventimiglia Vineyards and Wagonhouse Winery, and kids carouse in a designated play area. The event also boasts food vendors, crafters, and artists who specialize in making mosaics out of nacho chips.
In 1955, Joseph and Margaret Gerard bought a liquor store near Lovelandtown Bridge in Point Pleasant, from which they sold spirits and wine to their community. Members of the same family still operate Gerard's Wine & Spirits today, but they distribute bottles across the country as well as locally. Staff members—all well-versed in the world of wine—curate an inventory of high-quality varietals. For a sampling of wines ranked highly by experts, check out bottles rated at 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator.