AWG Correspondent

Charlie Toms

Hawk Haven Vineyards Photos

Hawk Haven Vineyards Review

Regions: Outer Coastal Plain AVA, New Jersey

Reviewed: September 7, 2013 by Charlie Toms
Published: September 17, 2013

The Wuerker family has farmed in Rio Grande, New Jersey since 1940. Originally they were lima bean and dairy farmers, but in 1997 they planted Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Twelve years later Todd and Kenna Wuerker opened Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery. The name refers to the large number of hawks that migrate to the farm every year, and many of their wines have hawk-related names. The winery is located near the shore resort communities of Wildwood and Cape May, and is in the Outer Coastal Plain Viticultural Area, which consists of more than 25 Southern New Jersey wineries. Hawk Haven has 120 acres of land, 9 acres of which is cultivated with grapes grown by the Wuerkers and their viticulturalist Lalo Serra. The vineyard is a member of the Garden State Wine Growers Association, and produces around 4,200 cases of wine per year.

The winery is easy to find – just look for grape vines, an American flag, and a sign with two hawks on it. Across the street from the entrance are more of Hawk Haven’s grapevines, and a railroad track which is part of the Cape May Seashore Lines. A tourist train occasionally runs on the track, and the train will stop upon request at the vineyard. Hawk Haven has a patio with chairs, tables, and umbrellas, and customers are invited to have picnics and bring pets. The winery is in a large concrete and stone building with an arched entrance. The tasting room consists of a pine-clad counter with wooden stools, behind which is a wine rack. To the side of the tasting room is a room filled with oak barrels and awards that Hawk Haven has won.

Hawk Haven produces wine from 17 different grapes – Albarino, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Vidal Blanc, Viognier, and Zinfandel. The winery was chosen to be a test site for a Rutgers University study, and in the spring of 2013, they planted Lagrein and Teroldego grapes, two very rare red grapes from Trentino-South Tyrol region of Italy. Researchers are studying whether grapes from this region of Italy can be successfully grown in New Jersey. If the project is successful, Hawk Haven plans to make blended wines from Lagrein and Teroldego.

I tried four whites, four reds, and a rose. My server had a biology background and was very knowledgeable about which grapes were used to make each wine. Hawk Haven describes their Pinot Grigio as “lively with bright acidity,” and not surprisingly it had a harsh, acerbic taste. American Kestral White is mostly Chardonnay with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc and was light-bodied and fruity. I would pair it with flounder or another mild fish. The Riesling was just as fruity but somewhat sweeter. The Chardonnay was the best of the white wines. It was strong-bodied and smooth, and would go well with salmon or shellfish.

The Proprietor’s Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chamborcin, and Merlot. It’s advertised as a basic table wine, but unfortunately was way too spicy. Northern Harrier Red consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, and was medium-bodied and smooth. I could see myself eating a hamburger, and drinking this wine. Quill consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot. It was dry and moderately-strong and tasted like a decent Bordeaux wine.

Talon is made from equal parts of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Syrah. It was just as dry, but loaded with tannins. This wine needs to be paired with a big, juicy steak. Red-Tailed Rose is a blend of White Cabernet Sauvignon, White Zinfindel, and Vidal Blanc. It was sweeter than any of the other wines and had a smooth finish. Hawk Haven also has their Wine Maker’s Signature Series, but the server told me that they don’t let people try them. This was a disappointment because the Signature Series had some varietals that are less common in New Jersey, such as Albarino and Petit Verdot.

Hawk Haven has a great deal of potential. They primarily make dry wines from European vinifera grapes rather than the more common hybrid-based dessert wines and ports that are commonly produced by New Jersey wineries. Furthermore, the winery shows no hesitation in growing uncommon grape varieties.

During the summer, Hawk Haven has tours and tastings every day. The basic tasting fee is $7, and they charge $15 for a 45-minute tour followed by a tasting. If you cannot make it to Hawk Haven, their wine is sold at a handful of local restaurants and liquor stores, and at a few festivals throughout the year. Additionally, they can ship to residents of New Jersey and 38 other states that permit wine deliveries.

Address & Contact Information: 600 South Railroad Ave Rio Grande, New Jersey 08246. email:, website: Tasting Hours: See website for wine tasting details..

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