It's the first wine from New Jersey to be scored in the 90s.
Much has been made of Robert Parker's wine ratings: a system that tries to boil all of the intricacies of a bottle of wine down to a score from 50 to 100. But whether you love this system's handy simplicity or loath its opinionated rigidity, wine ratings are relevant—at the very least as a benchmark. And New Jersey recently set a major benchmark. For the first time ever, the state famous for growing tomatoes landed a 90-point score from Wine Advocate for a wine produced from the state's grapes.
By now, it should come as no surprise that the East Coast is home to some perfectly enjoyable if not downright excellent wines. But even those familiar with the publicized winemaking strides taken by states like New York and Virginia might be surprised that New Jersey wineries are seeking to improve their national profile. According to PennLive, a couple of years ago four New Jersey wineries came together to create The Winemaker Co-op, a group dedicated to "the adoption of vineyard practices, winemaking techniques, and business strategies that advance the mission of producing the best wines possible in New Jersey" while also forcing members to "adhere to strictly enforced standards ensuring quality and authenticity." New Jersey's first Wine Advocate 90-point wine—William Heritage Vineyards' 2014 Vintage Brut—comes from one of those members.
"We are trying to carve out a name for a new wine region on the East Coast, and events like this are a major accomplishment toward that goal," John Cifelli, executive director for the co-op and general manager at Unionville Vineyards, one of the founding wineries, told PennLive. The hope is that breaking the 90-point barrier may encourage other New Jersey wineries to get involved with The Winemaker Co-op – which still only consists of its four original members – and continue to grow the premium side of New Jersey's wine industry.
But for now, New Jersey is taking a moment revel in this small victory. "To receive 90 points from the Advocate is a groundbreaking achievement," Richard Heritage, who handles marketing and sales for William Heritage Winery, told Wine Industry Advisor. "Think about it… We are talking about a New Jersey wine receiving 90 points from one of the world's top wine publications. This is really going to turn some heads." Yeah, now you have a reason to pull off I-95 when it's not tomato season.