First Impression: Ventimiglia Vineyard

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On a sleepy road in rural Sussex County, New Jersey, one finds Ventimiglia Vineyard tucked away on a quiet farm path. Owner Gene Ventimiglia and his wife began making handcrafted wines using traditional methods in 2006, and invite visitors in to sample their current offerings on weekends (there is a $5 tasting fee).

Ventimiglia Vineyard in Sussex, New Jersey.

Ventimiglia Vineyard in Wantage (Sussex), New Jersey.

Ventimiglia’s selections are limited but focused – no fruity, overly sweet wines here, just grape-based wines both locally grown and imported from other states. They offer two whites currently: Boun Giorno ($14) and Wantage White ($16). I loved the Buon Giorno, made from local Cayuga grapes. I’d recommend it to any fan of Pinot Grigio, as it was nice and light, crisp and dry. The Wantage White, made from a blend of different local white grapes, was a little sweet and not as interesting to me. The La Sorella Rose ($15) was again quite dry, but a little bland given it was made from Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir – three of my favorite reds in general.

Indeed I found their red wines the most successful in flavor, although not all from local grapes. I did love their local Chambourcin 2008 ($18) – smooth, earthy and dry, just what I always enjoy about Chambourcin. The Rocky Ridge Red ($16) was surprisingly tasty, using a blend of their estate grown grapes with California Sangiovese and Syrah. The Frattelli Ventimiglia ($22) is a blend of California Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc – nice, but when I want California wine I generally want to get it from a California vineyard and winery. I felt the same way about the Carignane ($25) and Cabernet Franc ($45), neither again from local grapes and while pleasant, neither struck me as worth the higher prices being charged.

Ventimiglia Vineyard is definitely worth a visit should one be in the area and like to try some well-crafted small-batch wines. I hope to see them pursue more wines made from local grapes instead of California varieties as that is truly where they seem to excel best.

VENTIMIGLIA VINEYARD – 101 Layton Road, Wantage New Jersey 07461. Tasting room open Saturday & Sunday, 1:00pm – 6:00pm May 1 – September 30, noon – 5:00pm October 1 – April 30. 973-875-4333

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