The wine revolution has begun all across America!
When the world thinks about American wine, it’s firmly located on the West Coast, but the truth is that wine is produced in all 50 states. But even as you read that, how many of you are aware of the diversity and excellent quality of wine grapes grown and wines produced right here in New Jersey, which is home to 48 wineries as of 2017?
Over 800 wines were tasted last month by the critics at JamesSuckling.com, a website which focuses on the great wine regions of the world including Italy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Australia, New Zealand, California, Chile, and Argentina. Held at Barboursville Winery in Virginia, the tasting offered a comprehensive look at winemaking across the United States.
Bottles were sampled from wineries in 14 different states. In an effort to shine light on emerging quality producers across the country, wineries from the established industries of California, Oregon, and Washington were not included. New Jersey wineries impressed.
Leading the way for New Jersey were two red wines from Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown, whose 2015 Pinot Noir earned a 93 point score, placing it in the top three percent of all wines tasted. Beneduce also scored 92 points for “Blue 2,” the winery’s signature red wine made from the Blaufränkisch grape. Ten separate New Jersey wineries that were sampled in the tasting each earned at least one 90-point score.
Mike Beneduce, owner-winemaker at Beneduce Vineyards sees the results as a potential signpost, directing serious wine enthusiasts to the doors of quality producers in New Jersey. “It’s exciting to see that the major publications are starting to pay attention to our corner of the wine world,” said Beneduce. “Passionate producers in emerging regions are crafting some really interesting wines, and I think wine lovers owe it to themselves to spend some time exploring these lesser-known areas. I hope these scores give them a reason to start with ours.”
In 2000, the Beneduce family purchased a 51-acre farm in Pittstown to supply their retail garden center, Great Swamp Greenhouses in Gillette. Since then, they’ve planted over 20 acres of grapevines on a sunny hillside at the top of the property and transformed a large storage barn into a spectacular 7,000 square-foot winery.
Working Dog Winery
Working Dog Winery in Robbinsville joined Beneduce Vineyards as the two New Jersey wineries to score 90 points or better with each of their four wines submitted. Another relatively young winery, Working Dog, began in 2001 as a “wouldn’t it be great” kind of conversation among friends that quickly turned obsession into passion into a thriving business.
“We started with three acres of Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. The more we planted, and the more wine we made, the more we came to realize that our terroir… that combination of soil, climate, topography… is capable of producing outstanding fruit. And our idea about making our own wines has taken on a life of its own, quickly changing from hobby to passion to obsession,” it said on their website.
The massive tasting was branded by the Suckling team as the “American Wine Revolution.” On the impetus to undertake such an endeavor, contributing editor Stuart Pigott wrote, “The idea of American wine from places other than the west coast is entirely new and exciting. It illustrates America’s pioneering spirit as well as the trend for authentic food and gastronomic experiences from heirloom vegetables to craft beer. American wine is unique and now part of the American psyche for food and wine. We focused on non-West Coast wineries and rated wines from 14 different states from Colorado to New York.”
Green Ribbon Schools
The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognizes public and private K-12 schools, districts and Institutions of Higher Education that reduce environmental impact and costs, improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide environmental education, among many other attributes.
The New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey Audubon, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey School Boards Association, and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators are the primary leadership organizations in the state that are implementing the Green Ribbon Schools program. The core committee also acts as the Nomination Committee to identify up to five schools that the NJ Department of Education will then nominate to the US Education Department to receive the award and recognition.
The Green Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools taking a comprehensive approach to greening their school. A comprehensive approach incorporates environmental learning with improving environmental and health impacts. Becoming a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School is a three-step process: a Letter of Intent, submitting a completed application, and then, if selected, the nominee is review by the US Department of Education.
The current deadline for state applications is December 14 with awards announced in May of 2019. Program details and nomination forms are available online at njaudubon.org/green-ribbon-schools/ and also at www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/eligibility.html.