AWG Correspondent

Charlie Toms

Old York Cellars Photos

Old York Cellars Review

Region: New Jersey

Reviewed: March 29, 2014 by Charlie Toms
Published: April 14, 2014

More than a decade ago, I visited a small quaint winery in the rolling hills of western New Jersey named Amwell Valley Vineyard, which is known today as Old York Cellars. In 1978 Dr. Michael Fisher, a prominent scientist, planted French-American hybrid grapes on a farm in the town of Ringoes and was a leading advocate of the New Jersey Farm Winery Act which removed Prohibition-era restrictions on the number of wineries in the state. Amwell Valley Vineyards sold wine from 1982 until 2005, when Fisher passed away. The winery was purchased by attorney David Wolin and reopened as Old York Cellars in 2010. Operations are run by winemaker Scott Gares and general manager Laurin Dorman.

Thirteen acres of grapes are under cultivation, and 3,500 cases of wine are produced each year from 16 types of grapes – Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cayuga White, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colobel, Landot Noir, Malbec, Marechal Foch, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Syrah, Vidal Blanc, and Vignoles (Ravat 51). Old York makes fruit wines from blackberries and peaches and has a separate brand of New Jersey themed vintages named “What Exit Wines” that are used to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief. It is the only winery in New Jersey that produces wine from Colobel, a red hybrid grape developed in France in the early twentieth century that is often used for wine coloration. Old York is not located in an official viticultural area, but is a member of the Garden State Wine Growers Association and Vintage North Jersey, a subsidiary of the GSWGA. The winery is named for Old York Road, a historic roadway connecting New York City and Philadelphia.

The entrance of Old York Cellars is marked by two matching corkscrew-shaped signs. At the end of a long driveway is a stone, wood, and glass chalet which serves as the tasting and event facility. In the back of the building is a patio with tables and chairs where visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the Sourland Mountains. The tasting room consists of a large stone and marble bar with bottles of What Exit wines hanging from the walls. Old York has a small gallery featuring the works of local artists and regularly offers art classes. Because of the extensive variety of wines offered, I visited twice and tasted thirteen of their wines. On both occasions, I felt that service was good.

Chardonnay was mildly oaked, but a little weaker than I anticipated. Dry Riesling was very dry with a crisp finish. Pair this wine with a very sharp Cheddar cheese. Although I visited during cold weather, the semi-sweet Pinot Gris had a very summery feel to it. Serve this clean-tasting wine with a freshly-made salad. Both Chenin Blanc and What Exit White, which is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Seyval Blanc, were a little more acidic than I prefer. Sweet Riesling was aromatic and fruity and would go well with strawberry cheesecake. For something even stronger, try their Southpaw White Port, a fortified wine made with Riesling.

Blush, a blend of Cayuga White and Colobel, was mild and fruity. What Exit Red, which is mostly Merlot with a splash of Barbera and Landot Noir was a decent dry red wine. I would pair What Exit Red with a hamburger. Malbec was just as dry but wasn’t as strong as I expected. Stagecoach Red, a blend of 50% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot, is named after the historic wagons that once travelled on Old York Road and reminded me of a good Bordeaux. My favorite wine at Old York Cellars was their Cabernet Sauvignon. This full-bodied red wine starts dry and soft, but finishes with a bit of a spicy kick.

Old York Cellars combines wine and beauty – a highly attractive vineyard with an artistic flair, accompanied by fine wine. The winery is open every day from 12 PM to 5 PM, and there are tours on Saturdays and Sunday at 2 PM. Tastings are $5 for 6 wines. Old York Cellars wines cost $12 to $24 per bottle, and are sold at liquor stores, restaurants, and festivals throughout the state. They can also be shipped to residents of New Jersey and 38 other states that permit wine deliveries.

Address & Contact Information: 80 Old York Road Ringoes, New Jersey 08551. Telephone: 908-284-WINE, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 12:00-5:00.

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