Jersey Geography

Do you remember those old Miller Light commercials where the “slightly over the hill” athletes got into an argument about whether the beer was “Less filling” or “Tastes great?” Well, New Jersey has their own version of the argument. “Central Jersey” or “No Central Jersey.”

I know, doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in Jersey they could be fighting words! I’m a North Jersey girl, pretty much as North as you can get. The Southern Jersey folks are just as proud, but there is a whole section of Jersey that is in the gray area and people from those areas feel there needs to be a Central Jersey (Mike being one of them) Let’s just say you don’t want to be in the middle of the heated debate in a bar if this topic comes up!

courtesy of Wikipedia

Here’s a brief Jersey geography lesson. Notice in the photo that there are distinct red and blue regions of the state, then there’s that blurred lines region – yeah, those are the towns of so-called “Central Jersey.” Central Jersey is more of a general designation than a distinct region. In fact, while there is agreement that their border is somewhere in the middle third of the state, there is actually no official delineation in the books. So to us Northerners, everything south of us is South Jersey and to the Southerners, everything north of them is North Jersey. But those people who in  Middlesex , Monmouth, Mercer, Hunterdon, Union, Ocean and Somerset counties are living in Jersey limbo! 

Ringoes is one of those towns. Located in Hunterdon County, they live in the gray area of South Jersey. In order to alleviate some of the confusion for non-Jersey peeps, (or increase it depending on your view) the New Jersey department of tourism decided to create regions within the so-called Central Jersey, classifying Hunterdon County as part of the Skylands Region.

The Wines of Skylands

Old York Cellars is a winery in Ringoes , New Jersey. They opened their doors to the public in 2010, with about 1,500 cases to their name. In a mere 7 years, they have grown in case production and acres under vine.  Although most of their now  10,000 cases are produced with source fruit, they are dedicated to increasing their estate fruit by planting new vines every year. When visiting Old York Cellars, you have the opportunity to taste a large selection of varietals from Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cayuga White, Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Colobel, Landot noir, Malbec, Marechal Foch, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Syrah, Vidal Blanc, Vignoles and Ravat 51. They also produce wines from blueberries, blackberries and peaches. They also have a second label known as “What Exit Wines” which is a play off of the Saturday Night Live skit by Joe Piscapo, poking fun at the fact that we all talk about where we live by what exit we are off of the NJ Parkway.  (BTW- I’m Exit  159 out of 172)

I, along Debbie Gioquindo (Hudson Valley Winegoddess) and David Mullen (New Jersey Uncorked,) was invited to visit Old York Cellars for a Sunday afternoon tasting of their port-style wines.  Upon arriving, we were greeted by a very helpful tasting room attendant and then escorted through the back of the quaint and rustic tasting

courtesy of Old York Cellars

room, out a back door to a beautiful patio overlooking the vineyards. Just behind and to the right of the tasting room, lied a owner’s single story residence. After entering the home, we were greeted by Dave Wolin (owner), Scott Gares (Winemaker) and Laurin Dorman (CSW, General Mgr.). The home was cozy and reminiscent of a country cottage. Once inside, I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful Post-Impressionism paintings throughout the room.  

SouthPaw Port-style Wine

Although Portugal is known for its Port is actually a British “invention.” The Brits love their wine, but were not impressed with any grapes that were growing in their homeland, so its citizens traditionally imported wine from France. That worked well for them until the 17th and 18th centuries when they entered into war with France. With a boycott on French wine, the Brits needed to look elsewhere for their wine. At that time Portuguese wines often didn’t survive the longer sea journey to England. As the story goes, port was invented when two brothers  fortified the wine on their ship with grape brandy to maintain its quality during the long trip. 

Just as Champagne can only be called Champagne if it is produced in the region, technically in order to be called Port, it must be a fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red dessert wine, although it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. With this in mind, Scott decided to have a little fun with the name of his port-styled wines by calling them SouthPaw. Scott is a Southpaw, which in baseball terms means he is a left hander. Along with this, the left side of a ship is known as the Port side. With Port’s  historical significance of ships, it felt apropos to call their port-styled wines SouthPaw.

2016 Old York SouthPaw White

Sipping Southpaw in South JerseyMade from a blend of Ravat and Riesling, this port style wine is available in one of the most unique bottles I have ever seen. This tear dropped shaped bottle is so beautiful I had to suggest they submit it for a design award, but is must be a bottling nightmare. Since the shape is not conducive to a bottling line, every bottle is hand-filled, labeled and corked. The Ravat is estate grown and is known for is cold heartiness thanks to its thick skin. It has large clusters, ripens early and is the offspring of Vignoles. (the second parent is unknown) 

With 3% residual sugar and clocking in at 19.2% ABV, you would think this port styled wine would be tough to swallow, but this wine is extremely smooth and not at all syrupy. The wine is produced in small batches to help control temperature. Aged brandy from California was transported to New Jersey in 50 gallon drums in order to make the port-style wine. Recommended pairings include brûlée, white chocolate bark and dried fruit. Notes: lemon-gold; medium+ aromas of apricot, pair; dried apricot, honey on palate; full-body, long finish

2016 Old York Cellars SouthPaw Red

This may have been the most fun I have ever had tasting wine. Scott informed us that in Australia there is a very specific way to drink red port. He then demonstrated the “Tim Tam Slam.” It starts with taking a Tim Tam and biting off two opposite corners. Then you place the one end into your glass of port, using it like a straw, suck up the port.  The port is then infused within the biscuit and you can enjoy the port and chocolate cookie simultaneously! 



Dry Wines Sampled

2016 Barrel Sample Cabernet Sauvignon

Nothing beats barrel sampling and we were treated to two! The first sample was actually being bottled the week after our tasting. The sourced fruit was hand harvested in mid October at a Brix of 22. It went through fermentation and malolactic fermentation in stainless steel and spent 18 days on skin. Notes: ruby; medium aromas of cherry, plum; more cherry on the palate; medium (-) tannins and acid, full-body, medium finish

The second Cabernet Sauvignon, which went through 3/4 ML will be part of their Fall release program. It spent ten months in second year French and American oak after being manually harvested at a Brix of 25.  ruby with translucent edges; medium+ aromas of cinnamon, herbs, earth; cherry, vanilla, off-dry on the palate; light tannins; medium(-) acid, full-body, long finish

What Exit Red

One dollar per each bottle sold is donated to a local based charity. The labels are all New Jersey themed, but can be customized for customers. This vintage was made of 66% Petite Sirah and 34% Merlot. This is the definition of a pizza wine. Although the wine is primarily Petite Sirah, it was not an overbearing wine with more Merlot like qualities. Notes: light ruby; medium+ aromas of blackberry, chocolate; ripe raspberry and herbal notes on palate; medium (-) body, medium finish. 

2016 Riesling

2% residual sugar with a lower TA. Notes: lemon-green; medium (+) aromas of apricot, green apple; apricot, peach, pineapple on palate; medium body and acid; medium finish 

Blueberry Table Wine (What Exit)

This semi-sweet wine is made from 100% blueberries and has 4.5% residual sugar. Notes: bright ruby red, bright acidity which hides the sugar content. Make a perfect sangria with it by mixing with sparkling water and fresh fruit. 

From Lawyer to Winery Owner

Dave Wolin spent a lot of time traveling while he was an attorney. During one of his trips to Mendoza, he fell in love with the beauty of the vineyards. He thought to himself how nice it would be to live among the vines. Upon returning to New Jersey, the desire to be in the vineyards continued to gnaw at him. He began looking for a vineyard site in 2004 in Louden County. In 2007, he discovered that there were vineyards right here in south Jersey and came across Amwell Winery, which remained in business during Prohibition thanks to the Farm Winery Act and became the first winery after Prohibition. He bought the property, but none of the winery equipment. He immediately began redesigning the buildings on the property and planted new vines. 

If you are in the Tri-State area, be sure to stop by Old York Cellars to taste their wines and enjoy many of their activities including comedy nights, rotating artist exhibits, food and chocolate pairings, and an Easter Cork Hunt! To find out more about Old York Cellars, their wine offerings and their Vintners Club click here


Dracaena Wines now has  a Wine Club! We named it the CHALK CLUB. Draco is on our label, but Vegas was getting a little jealous.  So we decided he deserved to be club spokesdog. In Las Vegas, betting CHALK means you are betting on all the favorites. We are betting that we are one of your favorite wineries, so we thought the name was apropos.  The club is simple yet a bit different than most. When you wager on us, we will ship you three bottles of wine twice a year; once in April and once in September. You can choose all red or a mix of red and rose’. You immediately receive 15% off ALL your wine purchases but what makes our club stand out is a progressive discount.  Let your club membership ride into the next year, your discount increases. Each year you parlay your membership, you receive an additional 5% off up to a plan maximum of 25%. Your club shipments are discounted. Flat $15 shipping PLUS we’ll cover your club shipping cost for your second shipment. That is $15 house money in a sure bet for you! So please head to our website; to find out all of the benefits of joining the CHALK CLUB and to sign up. We’ve stacked the odds so that you can get our award winning wines without breaking the bank.








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  1. Thanks for the Jersey geography lesson. Knowning little about your state I had no idea there was such controversy. The port-style wine sounds interesting. I also appreciate you calling it that. I learned during my week with the Symington Family in the Douro that, unlike Champagne, the Portuguese government actually does not have a law that only ports made in the Douro can be called port. However, the Port producers wish there were a law and take offense to others (many in CA and Australia) calling their so called wines port.

    1. I’m glad I can share a little Jersey geography. It’s a pretty funny debate but some people take it to the heart. I bet the producers wish there were a law. I definitely would if so were in their situation.

  2. Great post! And I love that they’ve labeled some of their wines What Exit. As a Delawarean, I’m familiar with the North vs South Jersey controversy and can verify that every discussion about the state comes down to where you live vis a vis the turnpike exit. Sounds like a fun day of wine tasting!

    1. Hah! Yes it’s the first question when you meet a NJ person when out of the area – “What Exit are you from?” LOL

  3. How I love a post about New Jersey wine! We’re moving soon to Exit 13 (on the Garden State, not the Turnpike).

  4. 17 years? I think you need to check your math…but no matter how many years it’s been, Old York is one of our favorite New Jersey wineries. We’ve visited most of them at this point, most recently hitting a bunch down in deep South Jersey. The Skylands Region is home to our favorite wineries, hands down.

    Those of us living in West Jersey don’t use the What Exit Are You? thing, as the GSP & NJT don’t come close to our part of the state. I spent my teen years in Middlesex County, and we’d joke Exit 9 as the turnpike was kinda sorta near us if we went to East Brunswick. But it was more mocking than participating. LOL Now don’t tell that to my husband, who grew up in the shore area…he takes it much more seriously.

    1. ha! yep. BAD MATH for sure! Thanks for pointing it out.. I am changing it now. Yes, some people take it extremely seriously! I am at the North end of the Turnpike- can’t get much more North Jersey than us!

  5. Awesome post! Love the Tim Tam slam! Funny stuff. Just goes to show us winedrinkers to like a bit of fun!

    I really agree with you about the bottle- stunning!

    1. Thanks Amber! The Tim Tam Slam was a blast! And I do love the bottle- but not jealous of the fact it all has to be hand bottled, labeled and cork.!

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