Warren County boasts more preserved farms than any other county in New Jersey. The county’s gentle hills are not only a haven for rural tradition and idyllic vistas, but also sanctuary for progressive ideas in agriculture. A portion of the western part of Warren County, along the Delaware and Musconetcong rivers and their tributaries, has been designated by the federal government as a wine grape-growing region. The soils and terrain of this part of the county, the Warren Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA), are most suitable for French-American hybrid grapes like Cayuga, Seyval Blanc, Chambourcin and Leon Millot. Take a leisurely ride from one Warren County winery to another and find out what happens with those grapes!
According to Bob Matarazzo, owner of Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere, the ability to grow French-American varietals allows him to produce superior Leon Millot and Seyval Blanc. The Frontenac grape is a favorite for blending with the winery’s popular Warren Hills Red. Many of Four Sisters’ blends bring the fruit forward, some with a crisp finish and balanced acidity.
At Brook Hollow Winery in Columbia, owner Paul Ritter recently added five acres to his vineyards, which now host Noiret and Traminette, two grapes—one red and one white—developed at the New York State Agricultural Experimental Station at Cornell University, in Geneva, NY. Both hybrids, bred to flourish even in the cooler extremes of North Jersey’s growing season, provide excellent fruit structure for the quality dry wines that Ritter produces.
Using sustainable and organic practices, Villa Milagro Vineyards grows vinifera, varieties of grapes that thrive in Europe and California. Unlike hybrids created specifically for challenging climates, vinifera struggle with the shorter number of growing days, cold winters and moist summers of the East Coast. Even so, Villa Milagro successfully grows seven of these varieties—including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Sangiovese—from which it makes European style blends. The limestone soils at the winery are well drained, wicking away summer rains that threaten vine roots; and a gentle southern slope increases sunlight exposure in the vineyard, effectively extending the growing season.
You'll find more great wineries and events along the Vintage North Jersey wine trail.
Restored c.1754 stone ironmaster's home associated with c.1741 Oxford Furnace.is open first and second Sundays, 1-4pm, for tours through Colonial and Victorian rooms with costumed docents. There are special events throughout the year as well as programs for schools. Sunday concerts on the manor lawn are a favorite during the summer.
NJ Audubon's thirty-fifth outpost is a model for blending environmental awareness, wildlife habitat, and agriculture.
Warren County's Montana Mountain, Merrill Creek Reservoir, and the Pohatcong Valley is equally rewarding for students of history and devotees of the outdoors.