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Natali Vineyards

Natali Vineyards located in Cape May Court House, New Jersey on route 47, held their 4th Annual Winter Blues Wine Festival. Both wine and blues music were featured, along with food from local eateries and a plethora of locally grown, delicious wine. It was $5.00 for tasting or $7.00 for tasting and a glass to keep, naturally I went with the $7.00 to keep a fabulous glass.

It was absurdly freezing. The tents were heated with a plethora of Natali’s wines for tasting and great music. The blues festival was worth the uncomfortable temps for the delightful wines.

I started with their Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine weakness of mine, it was a little bitter but finished with a full oaky flavor. It isn’t an easy drinking wine but is a quality wine and goes for $24.00 a bottle.

The next wine I tasted was the Meadows Edge Red also known as “Nono’s Cellar Wine” this was by far one of the most surprising wines I have ever come across. Meadows Edge smelled sweet and fruit forward, much like a fruit rollup–which I noted with an exclamation point–however it finishes bitter. It has a deep flavor and is smooth. They suggest pizza and pasta to pair the wine with, however I think it can be paired with a steak or burger. Meadows Edge Red goes for $18.00 a bottle.

The Sauvignon Blanc was my next venture, moving away from the reds offered, and I liked this one, but it certainly wasn’t a favorite. It was bitter and not what I expected the Blanc to taste like. I would be happy to give this wine another try, but it would not be my first choice from the winery. It goes for $19.00 a bottle.

Nona’s Cucina the newest wine, has a spiced flavor reminiscent of clove and finishes sweet. It’s a reisling-like wine, which was fantastic. I really enjoyed it and would be interested in purchasing a bottle for $18.00.

Now, on to my favorites of the day.

100% N.J. Banana Wine- this was incredible I was pleasantly surprised and ecstatic to try something so unique. This 15.9% av wine is absurdly good. Made from 100% bananas (what gave it away? the name?) was sweet, fruitful, crisp and felt sinful to consume. I would pair this with warm, nutty banana bread, peanut butter–anything, or some sort of chocolate dessert. A 500ml bottle will set you back $24.00 –well worth it.

Best. For. Last.

Captain Vinho’s Pirate Red Port- Finished and aged in whiskey barrels this port has a fruit-forward finish and whiskey undertones, perfect for sipping. One glass was certainly not enough. I kept calling it the “Captain Morgan of wines” due to the name and the easement of drinking (see photo above.) It was smooth, had mild cherry tones, and an aged oak flavor. Captain was by far the most expensive wine I tried all day, the beautiful bottle and even better quality of wine, makes the $26.00 setback worth it.

Hey guys! It is time to come back from my hiatus! This is the first of hopefully many guest posts from a good friend of mine, Don Macavoy. The photographer and beer aficionado took time out to visit a vineyard and give some insight on our trip. Be sure to visit his blog (linked blow), like Natali Vineyards’ Facebook page [and vote for his photos so we can get a private party!] and come back for my post. Enjoy!

Hello! My name’s Don and I usually write on my site Beer Me That Blog! As you may have guessed, I write about beer. This is a slight departure from my polestar, but I’m going to give it a go. I’ve been a fan of wine for quite some time and have even been known to drop in on a vineyard or three while I’m out traveling. That being said, I’m far from an expert on these matters, but I’m hoping to approach this from the perspective that I’m sure many others out there share with me: that of the amateur.

This past weekend found me at Natali Vineyards‘ South Jersey Wine and Food Festival on Route 47 in Cape May Court House, NJ. It was cold, but that didn’t stop the masses from piling into a few tents to sample some of South Jersey’s signature food and wine. We picked up some tickets and our keepsake wine glass and wasted no time getting it filled. I had a chance to try everything they had to offer except the Cedar Hammock Red and 100% Beach Plum Wine (damn!) which they had run out of when we arrived. I took notes and tried to keep things simple; just bear with my terminology? Here goes:

Nonna’s Cucina – Touted as their newest wine, this one tasted bitter to me– but not the way I’m used to. I’m accustomed to hoppy beers, but this was something totally different. It has the nice-smelling fruity qualities at first replaced by a bitterness and a somewhat sweet aftertaste.

Sauvignon Blanc – Really nice sweet smell to this one that is really dry but tasty on the tongue. I noticed a hint of mango when I was looking for it.

Dolcetto – They say the casual wine drinker will enjoy this one as much as the old pro. I can say it’s true for the former, as I really enjoyed it. I’m usually turned off by dry reds, but this one got my attention as it is exquisitely smooth. Try this one.

Meadow’s Edge Red – This is the secret family recipe according to my cheat sheet. It’s known as “Nono’s cellar wine.” It has an amazingly sweet nose which set me up for a bit of disappointment when it tasted so dry and bitter. The bitterness didn’t linger, but I don’t think this one’s for me.

Cabernet Sauvignon – Perhaps this is the easy pick for a tenderfoot such as myself, but I LOVE this one! There is a deliciously beautiful balance to it and a muted but fantastic flavor. Black currants make me happy. Well done!

Shiraz – Though this one was smooth, the dark bitter fruity flavor mixed with the spices somehow did not go over well with my palate. Can’t win ‘em all.

Merlot – This one smells of fresh summer fruits and has a really good, dry taste. Again, as someone who is iffy on reds, I really enjoyed this. It tasted extremely fresh with a nice aftertaste.

100% Strawberry Wine – They are not kidding around when they say it’s 100%. From the smell to the first sip I could swear they liquified a strawberry.. and then added a ton of sugar. The smell is fantastic, I just want to leave it sitting around or make it candle from it. The taste is what you’d expect and does not disappoint as dessert wines go. Small sips! Make it last longer!

100% Blueberry Wine – Another great smelling wine that culminates in a supremely fresh New Jersey blueberry taste. Still gotta take this one slow.

100% Banana Wine – I love bananas and this wine is super sweet and a great substitute if you’re low on the fruit itself! Just kidding.. it’s delicious, but very strong! They suggest drinking it with some peanut butter and now I can’t stop thinking about that.

Captain Vinho’s Pirate Red Port – I saved the best for last.. good thing there was still some left! It’s got that great whiskey nose like a bourbon barrel ale and it follows up with that same kind of sweet whiskey flavor. Really sweet and complex taste with a surprisingly clean finish. I’ll have another. Yarr?

That’s all for the wines! It was a fantastic array of Natali’s Fall offerings. This is all opinion-based of course, but my two favorite were clearly the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Pirate Red Port. Lots of good ones to choose from for whatever you might like. The staff were super friendly and made themselves available to answer any questions and make suggestions.

The rest of the festival was a nice atmosphere as well. There were heaters in the tents keeping us nice and toasty.. you know, until the wine took over that job. There were local vendors with fresh sausage bread and I sampled some delicious honey from Busy Bees. From a self-guided tour of the fields to the live music inside the tent where it was much warmer, everyone was having a great time. Thanks for the good time, Natali! See you again soon.

I enjoyed the opportunity to write outside of my comfort zone and look forward to doing it again sometime soon. Check me out at Beer Me That Blog! if you’re interested in beer or want to step out of your own comfort zone! Until next time, drink up!

-Don

Feature in Suburban Family

This month Suburban Family released their issue featuring this season’s eatings. Sassy Vine’s Sassy Sangria has been one of the recipes featured!

Check out the link here or pick up the print edition if you’re in the circulation area.

Suburban Family Website

Thank you for all your continued support!

The semester is coming to a close and Professor Nick DiUlio has guided myself and my peers through the journey that is Online Journalism I.

This blog is a direct result of this class. I had absolutely no intention of exploring the world of wine. I was truly hoping to dig deep into the lives of hockey players, something I’m more than familiar with, but alas, I was denied. So– Sassy Vine was created.

What a blessing. I have grown so much as a writer and have learned an incredible amount about both wine and wineries. I explored, I ate and I drank. It was a delicious journey of maturation and being as sassy as I want with positive feedback.

I chose the name because of being called sassy so often. Apparently I come stock with sass and wit. I hope my blog has gotten you acquainted with both myself and wine. I really hope to keep this conversation going and explore more! I have so much to learn, on top of wines to try and more wineries to visit.

Here are my 3 favorite posts, I hope they were yours as well!

Truly Sassy Wines

Live Blog

Sassy Sangria(featured in South Jersey Magazine this month!)

I hope you will allow me to keep posting and joining you, as I grow and expand the site. Now, that the semester is coming to a close, I welcome guest posts and collaborative pieces. If you have ideas, wine related subjects to report on or just want to join me for a post, please do not hesitate! I will accept ideas from anyone who as them, this is as much mine as it is yours.

My email caulfield.shannon@gmail.com and twitter (both personal and for this site) are always open to suggestions. @Shanny99 (personal) @SassyVine

Most of all, THANK YOU for making this blog a rewarding experience. Your numerous visits are humbling and I hope to keep making this site the best it can be.

Final thought: Why Southern Accents?

Winery Visits

This year I visited a few wineries, four to be exact. Two of which, I was able to share with you on Sassy Vine. Above is a map of the places I have visited and four I will visit. Truly, I could break it up into Hammonton and every where else, however I will give credit where credit is due for each individual winery.

The Garden State Wine Growers Association helped make choosing where to go incredibly easy, especially for those unsure of exactly where to go or what to look for. The wineries listed below are where I went, why I loved them and hopefully sparks your interest in not only visiting but supporting New Jersey agriculture and the fine products.

Heritage Winery- Located in Richwood, N.J. is located on 150 acres of beautiful South Jersey farmland. I attended an event there, learned from their winemaker as well as returning to visit quite a few times to purchase bottles of wine to share with guests. Their location is just off 322 making it an easy stop on your way to another destination. Heritage’s award winning wines are worth going to visit alone.

“I wrote a review on Heritage Vineyards for Allie Harcharek’s site a little while back. They do lots of events and tastings and have very friendly staff!” said Dennis DiPasquale, of Gainsville, F.L.

Bellview Winery- Bellview’s property is tucked away in Cumberland County and I was lucky enough to try an array of their wines. The land is rolling and gorgeous. The vineyard is inviting to walk around and enjoy the fruits of their vines, in the form of whatever glass of varietal you were sipping. Their tasting room includes tables set with menus to marry food and wine in the experience. I have no doubts I will return, to bring friends, enjoy food and quality wines.

Valenzano Winery- I first passed this beautiful property on my way to explore Wharton State Forest, always a fun adventure. Located on route 206 in Shamong, Valenzano’s brand new tasting room was warm, inviting and allowed you to indulge their unique wines. While I was there, an event was being planned as well as a wedding. The property is beautiful and close to Hammonton. I purchased their Shamong Red on that visit and got creative. Fruitful, delicious and inspiring wines–it makes for a great visit with plans to return.

Tomasello Winery- Extremely close proximity to Valenzano, literally down the road and make a right, it made it all too easy to visit two wineries in a day. Their tasting room is small and modest, but don’t let that fool you. They offer a wide selection of their wines and their property is consistently being used for big events. I look forward to the summer when I can experience their Friday Night Bistro.

Oh the places you’ll go:

Amathea Cellers

Cape May Winery- The allure of Cape May is enough to make me go. This historic shore town holds a special place in my heart, where I have explored many times. Cape May Winery is no exception to this rule, they host events and are open daily noon-five P.M. with the six for six deal, pay six dollars to try six of their varietals and keep the glass. I have no doubt this will be the first I cover after the holidays pass.

Readers agree this is a destination worth visiting: “I haven’t been yet myself, I’m going on Christmas Eve, but my parents are always there. There are a few different tasting menus and it looks beautiful.” said Amy Bohrer, 23 of Tampa, F.L.

DiMatteo Vineyards- DiMatteo is another Hammonton winery close to both Tomasello and Valenzano. It’s a modest $3.00 to try anything in their tasting room. They host events as well. They have award winning wines, and their website offers assistance in pairing their wines. DiMatteo is only open weekends: Saturday and Sunday noon-five p.m. making it easy to find time to make a visit around work hours.

Renault Winery- ” I was at Renault winery once for a wedding. It was really nice, very scenic — looked like Italy or something out of The Godfather. ” said Daniel Kov, 25, of Margate, N.J.

I too was there for a wedding, many years ago and did not get the chance to taste the wine due to a very young age. The property is gorgeous hosting a restaurant, golf course and hotel. Located in Egg Harbor City, it is a close drive to Atlantic City. Along the way you are greeted by both a large wine bottle and oak cask, begging you to stop and try what they have. Luckily, they don’t have to beg too much, I’m all too pleased to make a trip there.

Amathea Cellars- Located in Atco, I was recommended to make a visit by one of the owners of Annata Wine Bar in Hammonton. It’s not far from either Cooper Folly road or the White Horse Pike. Their tastings are complimentary and available Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Cape May is the only outlier in this list of destinations that are a “must visit.” I have no doubt that they will live up to their expectations. I’m more than happy to support the wineries, N.J. agriculture and the Wine Growers Association and most importantly share my enriched experiences with you, here.

Visit the WGA at: http://newjerseywines.com/

Truly sassy wines

Truly sassy wines

On Wednesday December 7th, 2011 the New York Times printed an article about wines behaving badly, so to speak in the piece aptly named Wine Stops Minding Its Manners. The picture features two wines, the same two wines depicted above, Bitch and Fat Bastard. I must say, it’s clever and cheeky and an absolutely brilliant way to market. When something is pushing boundaries, people talk and it spreads.

The article was interesting discussing the “budget friendly” wines and how the label markets itself. The name is so catchy and saucy, how could it not catch someone’s eye? I have often seen Bitch at the Hops and Grapes in Glassboro, often very curious of the contents sealed by the cap.

“It’s actually a good place to see cultural fault lines shift,” said Robert C. Lehrman, whose compnay Lehrman Beverage Law, advises clients on government regulations. “Because of a series of commercial speech decisions, not many things are off limits anymore.” says the NYT article

The piece inspired me. I purchased the two wines, with the question in the forefront of my mind– are the names overcompensating for a poor product? That question is generally applied (in the most cliched way possible) to the male persona of gaudy cars and certain body parts, in the same turn, can it apply to wines? Wines with ‘tude and nothing to back it up.

I took my sleuthing skills to the local liquor store and purchased a 2009 Aragon Grenache Bitch, whose pink label on the back, by the way, is hysterical (with repeated “bitch” filling the back), and the pink Fat Bastard with a gold hippo adorning the label. Bitch will put you back $11.99 while Fat Bastard will keep your wallet feeling heavy after spending a mere $6.99.

The first wine I tried was the Bitch, I’m always up for good confrontation and I figured I would get her sassy attitude out of the way. Let me tell you, she was less confrontational than expected. In all honesty, she was okay. You get what you pay for, which is an acidic and alcohol aftertaste of red wine. It’s okay to drink but not terribly high quality. It’s slightly bitter and dry. Don’t misunderstand me, it isn’t a horrible wine, it just isn’t great. It’s very much a “drink to get drunk wine.” After a few glasses you might go from proper lady to bitch in 3.5 glasses.

Fat Bastard was next, and while it didn’t ask me to “Get in my belleh” the pink of the label and the actual wine were slightly overwhelming and thus it was enticing, especially as a female. If I didn’t know any better I would think the wine was marketed towards both my age group and gender. The back label explains the name equipped with the French accent that coined it, “Now zat iz what you call eh PHET bast-ard!” (read in a French accent, really over do it.)

Fat Bastard wasn’t as much of a bastard as I expected. Price isn’t everything, folks. This money saver is a light, well-rounded wine. It drinks easy and doesn’t make you want to cringe. I’m honestly very pleased with it and would recommend it for anyone, especially on a tight budget.

I was interested in what my readers had to say and took to Twitter about the matter of vulgarity and wines.

@Blonde_Penguin: @Shanny99 doesn’t bother me. I’ll buy anything if it has good reviews.

@MikePatota: @Shanny99 I think their target audience is younger folks, and for that I wont touch it.

@deabruzo: @Shanny99 I’m intrigued & consider purchasing, it appeals to the non-conformist in me. But I don’t expect it to be good. Quite the opposite.
Whether you agree, or not, these wine companies understand how to market. Even if it’s off-putting I know there’s no way the consumer is not interested. Even the novelty of owning the empty bottle is enough for some people to purchase these wines. Buy them, fulfill your curiosities and shock house guests, but know what you may be getting into. Whether it’s an overcompensating Bitch or an unexpectedly charming Fat Bastard, you have to make your own choices as a consumer.

Live Blog

Wine and records to set the tone of the night

Sassy Vine Live Blog

Last night was full of tasting wines and good atmosphere. It was my goal to try two bargain wines, one in a box and one in a bottle and determine which had the most bang for your buck. The wines in question were Cupcake Pinot Grigio and Franzia House Wine Favorite. I wanted to shoot for spending a total of $20.00, sadly boxed wine doesn’t sell for less than $12.00, so for the sake of science I went with the $12.

Above, is the link to the live blog I held chronicling the night from start to finish. It was a lot of fun and gave me the chance to live blog again. (It’s been a long while since I’ve done it, and my first time with wine.) Feel free to click the link, it will open a new tab and a transcript of the evening.

The evening wasn’t strictly about the wines, either. The wines enhanced the social atmosphere. I think that is an important part of the nuances of wine I haven’t touched upon in my travels. Wine has been a part of socializing since, well, forever. It’s the original social media.  It’s talked about as part a miracle in the Bible, drank on dates to increase romanticism, a drink for families to share at dinner and generally bringing people together. The selection we chose helped set the tone for the evening. We were listening to records, talking, telling stories and eventually watched the Walking Dead. We enjoyed the company and the atmosphere.

“The boxed wine was better, it was more sweet than the Cupcake wine.” Courtney said, my partner-in-crime (since we were 6) “The Franzia didn’t have an aftertaste, which was kind of deceiving, I expected the Cupcake wine to be sweeter. Overall, it was a good night, I had fun.”

I personally preferred the Cupcake. It was more flavorful and was worth the $9.99 spent. I know they gained a customer from it

and when I need a quick go-to wine, I can count on Cupcake to deliver for my personal taste and please whatever guests I may be entertaining.

After a great night with friends, wine and records it was decided (almost unanimously) that Franzia House Wine was the winner. Talk about underdog, Franzia, really? I know what you’re thinking, everyone loves a good underdog story. For the price, amount and taste–it was a good addition to an even better crowd.

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