When the temperature heats up, many folks love to enjoy a cold pint of beer or a refreshing glass of wine. Our recent A-LIST post highlighted some restaurants around our area where you can kick back on a veranda or patio, and savor a drink and meal amid warm summer breezes and verdant greenery.
But for true wine lovers or “hop heads,” there’s nothing like enjoying your beverage of choice right from the source. When it comes to winemaking, your mind might jump to places like Sonoma, CA, or Bordeaux, France. Brewing might elicit pictures of silent Belgian abbeys or a medieval Bavarian Brauerei. However, for those in the know, central New Jersey is actually full of world-class vineyards and breweries that offer tours, tastings, and more.
Just in time for summer, here are a few to get you started:
Terhune Orchards – Princeton, NJ
This longtime local favorite has lovingly grown organic fruits and vegetables since 1975, and added a vineyard and winery to their operation in 2003. What a great decision! Terhune now serves prize-winning wines made from 12 varieties of grapes grown onsite, which include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, along with three unique apple-based wines from their orchard. Terhune Orchards offers winetasting in its historic, 150-year-old farmhouse Friday through Sunday from 12 to 5.
Hopewell Valley Vineyards – Hopewell Township, NJ
Hopewell Valley Vineyards’ wines consistently beat out thousands of entrants from around the world to rack up awards and accolades at prestigious local, national, and international competitions. The Neri family, Hopewell’s vintners and proprietors, come from a long tradition of winemaking that stretches back generations to Italy and Greece, and their wines continue to delight the senses today. Open daily for tastings from 12 to 5, this local winery is a must-visit for any connoisseur.
Grape Escape – Dayton, NJ
At this advanced, custom winery, visitors can personalize their own wine by selecting the region, grape variety, length of aging, and barrel. The experience is decidedly “hands-on”: Guests can help to crush and press grapes, and then bottle their own vintage. The grapes here are shipped from legendary winemaking regions like Sonoma, Washington, Chile, and South Africa. An experience like none other and a memorable gift sure to bring a smile to the face of your favorite oenophile!
Old York Cellars – Ringoes, NJ
Nestled in the scenic Sourland Mountain range, Old York Cellars was the first vineyard to produce wines under the New Jersey Farm Act in 1981. Since then, it has evolved into a nearly 40-acre producer of award winning wines. Visitors can explore the picturesque vineyard and see how its wine is made on tours that run every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., while private or group wine tastings are available every day.
Triumph Brewing Co. – Princeton, NJ
New Jersey’s first purpose-built brewpub, Triumph has been a Princeton staple since it opened in 1995. While other brewpubs have opened in New Jersey since then, Triumph has been called the grandest of them all, with a particularly notable interior that offers guests a glimpse behind of the scenes of brewing beer. Its beers have received numerous Great American Beer Festival awards over the years, and it serves a rotating selection of craft-brewed drafts to wash down its scrumptious, locally sourced menu items.
River Horse Brewing Co – Ewing, NJ
Billed as “New Jersey’s Craft Brewery,” River Horse’s full-bodied, balanced brews delight fans up and down the east coast. At this year’s annual Philadelphia Inquirer Brew-vitational, River Horse’s Chocolate Porter was chosen by a panel of experts as the best new beer. Its year-round offerings include an IPA, lager, and special ale, and it is constantly serving up seasonal suds such as summer blonde and oatmeal milk stout. Weekly tours run every Saturday and Sunday, but reservations are required at this popular destination.
A trip to a brewery or vineyard makes for a perfect Father’s Day gift, romantic escape, or fanciful night out with friends. All of these choices are easily accessible from central NJ, and stand on par with some of the best breweries and vineyards in the world.
The bevy of options right on our doorstep promises to keep even the most demanding wine or beer lover satisfied until their next trip to Tuscany or Munich. And supporting local, independent businesses helps keep the greater Princeton area overflowing with delectable, locally sourced food and drink selections.