Driving back home from visiting family this past weekend, I realized my route would take me just past Cava Winery and Vineyard in Hamburg, New Jersey. Pulling in at Cava, I found a very large facility with a spacious tasting room/restaurant/bar inside. But it wasn’t really the tasting room experience I was expecting or used to at most of the other vineyards and wineries in New Jersey, New York and elsewhere along the East Coast that I’ve visited to date.
Instead of having an actual tasting bar where the server/staff can introduce and talk to you about each wine, I was just shown a menu offering food, wine by the glass or bottle, or one of several Flights of 4 wines each for $7. There was no description of the wines on the tasting flight menu; the server just briefly described them as groupings of various reds and whites and sweet wines. I asked which wines were produced from the grapes actually growing in their vineyard just behind the tasting room, as I prefer to always taste locally grown varietals when possible. Disappointingly, only one wine was grown in their own vineyard – an Estate white that wasn’t actually on the tasting menu. The rest of the grapes were from either California or Italy – not even other areas of New Jersey.
Still, I decided to try one of the red wine flights featuring grapes from Italy, and was offered a chance to taste the Estate White at no extra charge, which was nice. I sat at one of the numbered tables and was soon brought a nicely-labeled tray with my glasses – although really, some kind of text card or menu actually describing the wines would have been nice. Thankfully I was able to use my iPhone to look up the wine descriptions off the Cava website.
The Estate White was actually the only one of the 5 wines I tasted which I genuinely liked. It was a little off-dry but definitely had a nice fresh, clean taste that I could see enjoying in the future. The Cabernet/Merlot blend had an odd, sour taste to it I didn’t care for at all. The other three Italian Reds (D’oro, Rosso Antimonio, Rosso Rame) just were strangely nondescript and I couldn’t really tell one from the other. No strong nose, nothing I could really pick up on compared to the notes for each on the Cava website. I did want to get a bottle of the Estate White before leaving, but then it turned out the one that was open which I’d tasted was the last one they had in stock. The server offered to sell that opened bottle to me “at a discount”, but I declined. Not with 3-4 hours to go in a car in 90 degree heat before I got home, and it wasn’t that I wanted to drink the rest of that bottle that day!
I hate to be negative about a Jersey winery or vineyard, but I just wasn’t particularly impressed by my experience at Cava. I hear good things about the food, especially their pizzas, so maybe I should give them a try some other time when I’m in the mood to eat and not just sample the wines. Also a bit odd about my experience was that according to Cava Winery’s Calendar, July 7 & 8 were supposed to be “Sweet Sugar Cookie Weekend” with homemade cookies being given out. I saw no evidence of such cookies anywhere; perhaps if I had ordered food, or it was only for offered earlier in the day? (I was there around 4pm when the tasting room is open until 6pm).
Cava Winery and Vineyard is located at 3619 State Rt 94, Hamburg, NJ 07419. Phone: (973) 823-9463. Tasting room typically open 12pm – 6pm Saturdays & Sundays; call to confirm or check calendar for special events.