The Three Parts of a Grape Berry

We started harvest about ten days ago so I wanted to talk about grapes today. Wine grapes have three parts: the skins, the pulp, and the seeds. The seeds have been bred out of table grapes, one example being Thompson seedless grapes.

Let’s start from the inside with the seeds. Seeds are not very tasty since they have very high amounts of tannins and do little when it comes to winemaking. If you have ever bought a bag of concord grapes and then bit down on the seeds you know how bitter the seeds can be. That being said, the last thing a winemaker wants to do is crush the seeds when the juice is pressed otherwise this bitterness will find its way into the juice. Grapes can have anywhere from one seed per berry up to four seeds per berry.

The most important part of the grape for white wine is the pulp. This contains the sugar, acids (both tartaric and malic), aromatics, and a small amount of potassium. A white wine gets all of its acid and flavor profile from the juice that is extracted from the pulp.   

The last and most important part of the berry for a red wine is the skins. The skins contain all the color (called anthocyanins) in a red berry and thus need to be left in contact with the juice for the wine to have a red color. If the grapes are pressed shortly after they are crushed then the wine will be similar to a white wine or be rose in color. This part of the grape also contains the less bitter tannins that a winemaker wants in a red wine; it helps to give the final product a better mouthfeel.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery
Image Credit: http://dcwineweek.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/DCWW-Blog_extra61.jpg

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Chambourcin

I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. I worked a wine festival in Allentown, NJ and came to realize that a number of people do not know what a Chambourcin is so here is a small introduction.

Chambourcin, a red grape, is a French-American hybrid grape that was first commercially sold in the early 1960’s. For a hybrid it is very popular in France and has found a home in the northeast United States, Australia, and Vietnam as well. It is a grape that can handle the winter cold better than most hybrids but also does well in the hot and humid summers of New Jersey because it is particularly resistant to downy mildew.

From a wine side, Chambourcin does particularly well when aged in oak. It has a number of fruit forward notes like, black cherry and plum but also has hints of baking spices from the oak. We age our Chambourcin in American oak for a period of ten months. The wine has a deep and dark plum purple color and a very round, smooth finish.   

We are just about to release our 2015 vintage, which is a wonderful example of the full bodied reds that can be produced here in Southern New Jersey. Stop in and try some today.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

Let’s Talk about Closure. Wine Closures that is…

There are two main types, corks and screw-caps.

Corks are produced from the bark of a cork tree, in the Quercus species. These cork trees can be harvested every few years. Removing the bark off of the trees does not harm them in any way; additionally a new layer of bark will form meaning the cork is a renewable resource. The majority of corks used for wine are produced from trees that grow in Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy. One benefit to cork is the slight bit of air that passes through them over time. This allows older wines to breath. The main drawback to natural corks is cork taint, a bacterial issue in the cork, which makes the wine inside the bottle smell like wet dogs or old wet cardboard. This has been limited though since corks are screened numerous times between the cork tree growers and the cork producers. To keep a natural cork working correctly a bottle must be inverted so the cork stays wet, otherwise the cork will dry out.     

Screw-caps are small metal shells that go over the opening in a bottle and twist off without the need for an opener. The main advantage for a screw-cap is the assurance of no cork taint. The down side is the lack of airflow across the closure over time; which is not beneficial to wine that should be aged for numerous years. Screw-caps are the main form of closure in Australia and New Zealand as high quality corks were difficult to obtain when these wine regions started to take off in the late 70’s and early 80’s.   

Which closure do you prefer?     

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

The Basics to Bubbly

To begin, as a point of clarification, the word “Champagne” when used on a bottle of bubbly indicates that the bottle was made in the Champagne region of France. In the United States the term “Method Champenoise” means the sparkling wine was produced using the same traditional methods.

The first thing to do for sparkling wine is to pick the grapes early. This minimizes the varietal characteristics of the wine and allows the yeast aromas to come through. Also, slightly under ripe grapes will make a lower alcohol base wine. After a normal fermentation, the base wine is bottled and has more yeast and sugar added. For Method Champenoise, this must be done on a bottle by bottle basis. (You can note on the bottle that it often says, “Fermented in this bottle”.) These bottles are crown capped and allowed to ferment. The secondary fermentation allows for the CO2 to get trapped in the wine and produces a small amount of alcohol to make up for the earlier lower alcohol level. Once the second fermentation is finished, the yeast is allowed to settle near the crown capped end of the bottle. The neck of the bottle then can be frozen, separating the yeast from the sparkling wine. When the bottle is opened the pressure sends the ice in the neck out pushing the yeast out with it. The sparkling wine then may have some sugar added back via a thick liquid syrup of the base wine and sugar, this is called the dosage. After all this, the wine is finally ready to be cored and with a cage, labeled and sold.

Come try some bubbly today at any of our tasting rooms.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

Chardonnay often done two ways

So here at Tomasello Winery we have two Chardonnays. One, our Palmaris Chardonnay, is a classic style similar to Old World methods where the wine is aged for months in oak barrels. This brings out warm oaky notes like vanilla, cloves, and other warm baking spices. Wines of this style, ours included, also commonly undergo malo-lactic fermentation which brings forth buttery aromatics and improves the roundness of the wine, it has a nice smooth silky mouth-feel.  

The other style, found in our Tomasello Painting Chardonnay, is much more a New World creation; the wine solely sees stainless steel tanks. This allows many more varietal characteristics to come through in the finished product. The wine is much more fruit forward, with hints of apple and pear and the lack of malo-lactic fermentation gives the wine a cool, crisp mouth-feel similar to the bite of a green apple. This new style originates from the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement of the late 80’s and early 90’s, when consumers pushed away from heavily oaked and very buttery Chardonnays produced by a few very large wineries.    

If already have enjoyed a 2013 Tomasello Winery or Palmaris Chardonnay I am happy to inform you that all of us here at Tomasello Winery feel the 2014 vintages are even better. These will be released in the next few weeks.   

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

OCP Chardonnay

Wine of the Week: Petit Verdot

2013 Palmaris OCP Petit Verdot (Pronounced pe-TEE ver-DOE)

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Petit Verdot was originally a Bordeaux grape from the southwest area of France. It is a less common grape in its homeland since it ripens very late in the season, additionally it buds very early. Both of these things make growing Petit Verdot a challenge as frost in the spring or fall and cold weather throughout the summer may produce a limited crop or an under ripened crop. In a good year when the grapes fully ripen, Petit Verdot has a very dark purple hue.

Petit Verdot is often not used as a varietal wine, rather it usually is used for blending to round out Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. This year we wanted to highlight our Petit Verdot and produced the 2013 Palmaris (Latin for “prize worthy”) Petit Verdot. 2013 was a wonderful growing season here in the Outer Coastal Plain. We had dry and warm conditions though the end of the harvest which allowed for a full mature crop. Once picked the grapes were allowed to macerate and ferment for two weeks before it was blended together and stored away for 28 months in a mix of French Nevers Oak and American Oak. The blend is 79% Petit Verdot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Cabernet Franc.

Our Petit Verdot is a wonderful full bodied red wine with hints of cherry, warm hearty oak, along with many other secondary and tertiary aromas. It is best to open the wine and let it breath before you drink this wine. This allows the wine to open up and aromas to reach a fuller flavor potential. This is best done by decanting the wine. That being said, stop in at any of our tasting rooms and try some of the 2013 OCP Palmaris Petit Verdot. We are excited about the results.

I hope you enjoy this first of many wine blogs. I am going to try and discuss a few wines a month and teach some basic wine terminology/ wine processing.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

Six Flags Grape Adventure Festival and Safari

Well wine lovers it seems we have come to the end of our festival season for this year. How did you like it? We here at Tomasello Winery know we had a lot of fun.

Before we call it completely over we still have one more event we are hoping you’ll join us at. November 7-8 Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ holds it’s annual Six Flags Grape Adventure (see what they did there?). This festival is more than wine tastings. Six Flags opens up its safari section and for an added cost wine festival “can purchase an upgraded safari package which includes a private tour of the 350-acre safari, a special wine tasting at Camp Aventura with a view of African plains animals including giraffes, zebras, Ankoli cattle, kudu, springbuck, gnu and more plus an unforgettable, face-to-face giraffe feeding experience”. Sounds really exciting to us!

What’s just as exciting is we will be featuring several of our wines including Cranberry Moscato and Spiced Apple. The festival will feature 14 wineries including Tomasello Winery, Amalthea Cellars, Auburn Road Vineyard, Cava Winery, Cedarvale Winery, Coda Rossa Winery, DiMatteo Vineyard, Four Sisters Winery, Monroeville Winery, Plagido’s Winery, Sharrott Winery, Valenzano Winery, Villari Vineyards, and Wagonhouse Winery.

There will also 5 food vendors in attendance; Empanada Guy, Mobile Mardi Gras, Nomad Pizza, So. Jersey Mobile Cafe, and Texas Smoke BBQ. Along with wine and food there will be great craft vendors; An Etch of Glass, Blue Ridge Farms, Carolyn’s Crystal Creations, Celtic Chairde Creations, Demca Demo, Designs with Juls, JD Gormet, Jerky James Fine Meats, Justine’s Truffles, Pappardelle’s Pasta, Silpada Designs, Spices & Stuff, Susan Ruth’s Creations and Simple Elegance by Lauri.

The Grape Adventure takes place November 7 and 8 11:30am-5pm and the Safari Off Road Adventures start at 10:30am each day and end at 3pm both days. You can find tickets and more information HERE. We can’t wait for you to join us for a Grape Adventure!

Grand Harvest Festival

As the festival season starts to wind down we here at Tomasello Winery are thankful for all of you who have come out to support us. This weekend we are headed to the Garden State Wine Grower Association’s Grand Harvest Festival. As some of you may know this event was originally scheduled for October 3 and 4. However the weather changed our plans but it didn’t dampen our spirits. We are now going to celebrate in grand fashion!

The wineries that will be there include us at Tomasello Winery, 4JG’s Vineyards, Auburn Road Vineyards, Cava Winery, Chestnut Run Farm, DiMatteo Vineyard, Four Sisters Winery, Heritage Vineyards, Hopewell Valley Vineyards, Monroevillle Winery, Old York Cellars, Plagido’s Winery, Salem Oak Vineyards, Sharrott Winery, Valenzano Winery, Ventimiglia Vineyards, Villa Milagro Vineyards, Villari Vineyards and Wagonhouse Winery. It’s going to be a very big festival. make sure to stop by and try our Broomstick Brew, Spiced Apple Wine, or Cranberry Moscato.

There will also be entertainment and bands both days of the festival. On Saturday October 24 Sassfaction, a six piece dance band. On Sunday The Heartbeats will be playing their dance music. There will also be presentations over the course of the two days. Presentations include themes like wine pairing, cocktail making, and wine education.

Along with the entertainment will be great food from Carolina Blue BBQ, Cherries on Top, Empanada Guy, Momma’s Meatballs, and Pure & Simple Flatbreads. Perfect for grabbing a bite with that bottle of  Tomasello wine you bought!

Join us Morristown NJ at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm Saturday October 24 and Sunday October 25 from noon to 5pm. You can find tickets HERE. We can’t wait to celebrate the harvest with you.

Autumn Wine Festival at RiverWinds

Why do we love Fall so much? Is it the crisp and cool air? Do we love the colors that nature paints the leaves of trees? Or is it the crunch of said leaves under our boots? Whatever the reason we love Fall we spend every opportunity we can to celebrate it.

This weekend we at Tomasello Winery will be celebrating Autumn at the Autumn Wine Festival at RiverWinds. In West Deptford NJ we will be there with some of our Fall favorite wines like Broomstick Brew and Spiced Apple.

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There will be several wineries in attendance at this festival; Tomasello Winery (us), Auburn Road Vineyard & Winery, Cedarvale Winery, Chestnut Run Farm, Coda Rossa Winery, DiMatteo Vineyards, Monroeville Vineyard & Winery, Plagido’s Winery, Sharrott Winery, Valenzano Winery, Villari Vineyards, and Wagonhouse Winery.

Along with great wines there will be a few eateries in attendance including Carolina Blue Smokehouse, Empanada Guy, Star of the Sea, and So Jersey Mobile Cafe. There will be two bands performing over the weekend. On Saturday SassFaction will be playing and Sunday Right Turn at 40 is on deck. It will be great to hear great local bands while enjoying wines. Lastly 13 artisans and crafters will be in attendance ready to share their beautiful handmade wares with you.

We hope you can join us. The RiverWinds Autumn Wine Festival will be in the RiverWinds Community Center 1000 RiverWinds Dr. West Deptford, NJ 08086 from 12-5pm. Gates open at 11:30am and you can get your tickets HERE.

Chatsworth Cranberry Festival

As we get further into the fall season the harvests are ripening and ready to be picked. Our beloved state of New Jersey isn’t called “The Garden State” by accident. In fact New Jersey’s fertile land is what makes Tomasello wine so delicious. However, grapes aren’t the only crop that thrives in Jersey soil.

This time of year cranberries are ripe in their bogs and ready to be harvested. The town of Chatsworth, NJ celebrates this harvest with their annual Cranberry Festival. The entire small town becomes filled with artists, crafters and vendors selling their wares and displaying their beautiful art. There will also be a band.

Most importantly Tomasello Winery will be there and we like to celebrate New Jersey’s cranberries in our own special way. Both our cranberry wine and our cranberry moscato wine will be there for you to taste and enjoy. The Cranberry Festival is always has a full crowd so we have a handy map showing where we are.

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Where we will be

For those who know Chatsworth we are at 3993 Country Road 563. It’s the main road through town so make sure to look for us. The festival is from 9am-5pm Saturday October 17 and Sunday October 18. We can’t wait to see you!