Wine lovers who like to make their own are expecting an exceptional crop of “bold” California grapes, along with an earlier-than-usual winemaking season due to weather conditions on the West Coast this past spring, according to The Wine Room of Cherry Hill, South Jersey’s only hands–on winemaking facility.
“Normally, our California grapes arrive in late September or early October, but this year we’re expecting them to begin arriving mid-September,” says Kenton Nice, owner of The Wine Room. In addition, this year's harvest is expected to be "light" (less grapes than usual.) “As a result, wines are expected to have a greater concentration of flavor.”
That’s welcome news for the likes of Jay Levenson of Marlton, who has been making quarter barrels of Cabernet and Meritage for several years with friends and family members.
“Bolder wines are exciting,” says Levenson, who often donates bottles of his creations to charitable groups he participates in. “Because this year’s crop has a lower yield, the grapes will likely make some terrific wines. It’s definitely very interesting to me.”
The Wine Room of Cherry Hill combines old-country techniques with state-of-the-art, imported machinery to help anyone become a master winemaker. Individuals as well as groups of friends, relatives or co-workers can choose from among more than 30 types of wine to handcraft and then bottle and label with their own name listed as "winemaker."
During four visits over the course of about 10 months, guests get to crush their grapes, then press them, “rack” the barrel to remove sediment, and eventually bottle and label their wine with their own personalized label. Each session involves about 40 minutes of effort, but winemakers spend significantly more time socializing and enjoying food and other wines.
“It’s not so much work as it is a celebration of the harvest,” says Nice, adding that his guests use Italian-made machines to crush and press the grapes.
Typically, friends, relatives or co-workers form winemaking groups to create a barrel, half-barrel, or quarter-barrel and at the end of the process divvy up the fruits of their labor. One barrel yields 240 750ml bottles.
The Wine Room also has a winemaking club for those who can’t commit to a barrel or just want to give winemaking a try. For $75, they can join a Wine Club with other members, where they will go through all the same winemaking steps to make Wine Club wines.,
The Wine Room is located at 1 Esterbrook Lane in Cherry Hill, N.J., right off Springdale Road. For more information on The Wine Room, or to enroll in winemaking, visit www.thewineroom.com or call 856-424-WINE (9463).
Top Wine Selections Among South Jersey Winemakers:
1. Phelps Blend, a five grape Bordeaux blend
2. Cabernet blends, including cabernet with merlot, cab franc, or syrah
3. Super Tuscan (Sangiovese blended with cabernet, merlot or both)
4. Brunello, straight or blended with cab franc
5. Pinot Noir
7. Rioja Blend (Tempranillo)
9. Petite Sirah
Source: The Wine Room of Cherry Hill