By Murray Schulman
Nonna and nonno guardavano il telegiornale e ho sentito che recentemente volcani (Many of my readers know, and I am sure that my new readers will quickly discover, that I have a passion and enthusiasm for all things related to wine. So, for me, there was a natural transition from retirement to building a wine tour business that reflects my personality and interests. Thus, Arnie and The Chef (that’s me), Wine, Food Lovers and Outdoor Tours LLC was born.
Finally, after months of working on how our business would work in the context of attracting like-minded enthusiasts for a different type of wine tour experience, we launched our inaugural tour on June 3. We had the perfect group of 10 superexcited people with us and we visited two amazing New Jersey wineries in the Salem County region.
First, we visited Monroeville Vineyards and Winery in Upper Pittsgrove Township. We tasted seven wines that each of us selected from their full list of available wines. Everything that we tasted at this winery was of good quality and demonstrated the care that the vintners put into the nurturing of the vines and the grapes. I was thrilled to discover a pair of what I will call sister wines that lit up all of my senses. There was a red and a white that were aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The white was a clean dry crisp wine that in and of itself would be a refreshing afternoon delight. Now, add to that the nuances of Kentucky bourbon drawn from that barrel and the result is sheer decadence. Similarly, take that good quality table red, introduce the impact of a high-quality bourbon barrel and the result is mind-altering. From the initial interaction with the nose, you begin to understand the complexity of the wine. The aroma flowed deep and full. That first taste of the white was so clean and pleasing. Then that bourbon landed at the back of my tongue and carried through to a long and delightful finish.
As for the red, the fruit, the florals and the oak were all present in both the nose and in the mouth. Once again, that bourbon nuance came on strong at the end like a great Kentucky race horse. The finish was huge and long. But the genius of the process was that the complexity of that red was never lost to the bourbon. If anything, it was enhanced. Tasting these two Monroeville Vineyards and Winery wines made the visit something spectacular.
Our second winery on the tour was a favorite of mine in this area. Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery is a bit bigger, bolder, more daring and their awards sparkle on the walls behind the wine bar. My friend Trish is the boss in every sense of the word.
Her team actually know the wines and are articulate in describing each selection. The hospitality and customer service always is simply outstanding. The back wall of the Enoteca is all windows overlooking a large patio that fronts directly to perfectly aligned row upon row of vines in full bloom. If you want to sip great wine while relaxing in an otherworldly reality, this is the place to go.
As for the wines, we tasted eight selections that we were able to choose from their extensive wine list. Unfortunately, their Cellar Collection was not offered on this level of tasting. But special tastings can be arranged and are well worth the cost. Like I said, this is one of my favorite wineries and it is only 15 minutes from home. To say that I am familiar with most of their offerings would be an understatement. I do have two hands-down favorites that are always present in my wine case. Their Classico reminds me of the great table reds that I enjoyed as I traveled throughout Tuscany’s Chianti Region. This wine is deep red in color with a nose that demands aged cheese and warm bread with fine EVOO. In the mouth, the wine is pure happiness. It speaks of the joy of working the soil, pruning the vines and watching the grapes ripen. It is a wine that belongs on every table for Sunday dinner.
But, then this vintner takes it to yet another level with a wine that they call Eido’lon. This is what I enjoy when I am drinking Auburn Road wine. This beautiful deep red concoction is big, bold and fullbodied. The blend of three wonderful grapes are perfect together and create balance with unique complexity. Thirty months in oak barrels plus an additional six months in the bottle drive the wine’s unique yet amazingly smooth mouth and finish. This wine is an absolute pleasure to sip and enjoy in any setting. It is a must try for any enthusiast with a sense of adventure and a heart for the local vintner. Auburn Road also understands the importance of giving back to the local community. They donate 25 cents to the Walt Whitman Association of Camden from every bottle of Eido’lon sold. This is a topnotch winery that should be on every wine lover’s must-try list
I truly hope that you will allow me to introduce you to the many outstanding wineries throughout our readership area. I love to share my passion for wine as well as my many stories of adventures and misadventures from my travels and from meeting people who live their dreams.
Murray Schulman is a retired chef and a partner in Arnie and The Chef Wine, Food Lovers and Outdoor Tours, LLC. Contact him at facebook.com/Arnie and The Chef Wine, Brew, Food and Outdoor Tours, and at www.newjerseywineguys.com.