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Worse than drinking alone at a wine festival…

…is not drinking, alone, at a wine festival. But that’s what I get for being cheap.

The sight of big white tents on the side of 322 on Saturday afternoon reminded me that there was one thing worth celebrating all across the state: enough alcohol to make New Jersey forget that it was in New Jersey this weekend.

This wasn’t your average kegger—I had arrived at the Heritage Vineyards Wine & Beer Festival, one of the countless wine/beer festivals in the state this particular autumn weekend. A$15 wristband was your ticket to your heart’s content of beer and wine tasting, and guests under 21 were completely free to enjoy the craft vendors, food, and live music. I was allowed into the event for free, notebook-in-hand, for the express purpose of wandering around. (I recommend buying a wristband instead)

A little research on Heritage Vineyards yields astounding results: the party literally does not seem to stop. The place hosts wine tastings and live music on the weekends of the weather-friendly months, a “Summer Happy Hour” on Thursdays, apple picking and hayrides, even a “Run the Vineyards Fall Trail 5K” run in October. With ample room and ample nature, Heritage Vineyards would be wasting itself if it hadn’t decided to squeeze every last drop out of those huge funny-looking wine grapes that embody the Vineyard’s ambiance.

Heritage Vineyards slapped its Wine & Beer Fest on the calendar right at the beginning of autumn perhaps as a signal to the parents of South Jersey, a proclamation of desperate relief that autumn has arrived and another summer’s worth of Six Flags, Dorney Parks, and Wildwoods is finally in the past. The Festival demographic really is something of a reverse-amusement park, with children (who can content themselves on apple cider) sitting in the sun baffled at their parents’ enjoyment while adults form wine-sampling queues as hopelessly tangled as rollercoaster lines.

Any casual Google search for “stuff to do in South Jersey” will yield wine-related results, which leads me to pose this question to the audience: What makes the Jersey wine culture different from that of other states’?

Here are some of the answers I’ve found yet so far:

  • Much of South Jersey is located in the Outer Coastal Plain American Viticultural Area, as designated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.  These appellations serve to divvy up regions by the characteristics of their wine production–including a region’s soil type, weather conditions, and thriving grape varieties.
  • South Jersey viticulture has been hoppin’ for centuries, and Jersey wine was even some of the first good wine to come out of the colonies.
  • A particularly ambitious doctor by the name of Thomas Welch thought New Jersey the perfect place to start up his “unfermented wine” company. But where in the luscious Garden State was he to go? Why not Vineland?

Share what you know and make the list longer!


Find Your Fall Food Fest

The Woodbury Fall Arts festival comes to Railroad Ave. in Woodbury this Saturday!

Well, the list of foodie events over at Jersey Bites isn’t South Jersey-centric enough for my taste, so I went ahead and compiled a Franken-list of South Jersey Fall Foodie Stuff with the help of Jersey Bites, FestivalNet  , Google, and various Jersey goons that report directly to me.

1.   1st Annual Woodbury Fall Arts Festival

Sept. 29: 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Craft Beer Garden, Wine and Cheese, Art of Spice Chili Cook-off, Writer’s Corner, Performing Arts stage, vendors, special guests…. a whole lot of variety.

This is my foodie-favorite this weekend because it features quite a bit of DIY food, including a session on “Preserving the Art of Home Canning.” And, remarkably, it’s right down the street from me.

2. Sea Isle City Harborfest

Sept. 29: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Lots of seafood, a clam-eating contest, vendors market, “a blessing of the fleet by local religious leaders,” and participating local eateries.

3.  9th Gloucester County Italian Heritage Festival 

Sept. 30: 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Located at the West Deptford Riverwinds Community Center. Traditional Italian food, crafts, and activities for the kids.

4. Jersey Fresh Wine Festival at the Burlington County Fairgrounds  

Sept. 29 & 30: 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

$25 a ticket or $20 in advance. Features wine sampling from over 15 wineries and live music.

5. Long Beach Island Chowderfest 2012

Sept. 29 & 30: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

$20 for adults, $10 for children, $50 for VIP. On Saturday: Merchants Mart, outdoor food court, live music & entertainment. On Sunday: Chowder Cook-Off Classic (help decide on a winner!), local restaurant participation, live music.

6. Cape May’s Annual Oktoberfest Street Fair

Sept. 29: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

German beer, sausage, local food vendors, crafters, live music, and that great Cape May aesthetic. See the video on the website for last year’s highlights.

7. Pemberton Borough Fall Fest 2012

Sept. 29: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Scarecrow contest, children’s bicycle parade, vendors, a street car show, and whatever a “duck race” is!

8. Mays Landing Pepsico Fall Festival

Sept. 29: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Pumpkin painting, crafts, vendors, a hay toss, and a mummy-wrapping contest.

9. Somerdale Day on the Boulevard

Sept. 29: 10:00 a.m. – ?

Classic car show, BMX stunt show, food, live music, crafters, vendors.

10. Woodstown Fall Festival

Sept. 29: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Scarecrow competition, 5K Run for Education, chili contest, crafters, vendors, kids’ zone, wine tasting, live music.

11. Margate Fall Funfest by the Bay

Sept. 29 & 30: Sat. 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Sun. 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Car show, children’s stage, arts & crafts, venders, crafters, live bands.