On Friday, October 14 2016 my friend Nicole and I took a study break to explore the South Jersey Vineyards. It was a beautiful crisp Autumn day. While driving on the back roads to Coda Rossa Winery, we had the wind blowing in our hair while singing along to our favorite songs. When we pulled into the parking lot of Coda Rossa, the sunlight sparkled on the vines. It was a beautiful sight I will never forget.
Nicole and I went inside the winery while we had the privilege to meet Joanna Clarke who is a Sale Representative and manager at Coda Rossa Winery. Joanna Clarke explained her love for wine as she poured delicious wine in our glasses to taste. We tasted six different wines while she was willingly able to answer these questions:
Q) What sparked your interested to work in the wine industry?
A) I came in as a customer and I never left. This was 3 years ago back in the end of 2012. I was living in New Jersey and was not convinced New Jersey had good wine until I stumbled across Coda Rossa one afternoon. After I tried Blue Moon Port, I asked if they were hiring and never left after that. I had no previous experience professionally in the wine industry but growing up Italian I always had wine on the table. I had personal experience with wine but no professional training. The past three years I have learned a lot. New Jersey has exploded with wines so there is no shortage of good things to drink in this state right now.
Q)What type of work did you do before you worked at Coda Rossa?
A)It is very interesting because I had an English degree from Villanova University. I worked in various environments doing special writing. I worked at an international consulting firm, pharmaceutical and animal hospital. Then, I had my son and shortly after that I stumbled in here.
Q)What is your job title and responsibilities here at Coda Rossa?
A) I am the manager here in the tasting room. We have someone else who manages the outside vineyard area. I manage right in here and I am also the sales representative. I deal with all the liquor stores and restaurants that sell our wine. During the week I work on the road managing those accounts and on the weekends I am managing the tasting room.
Q) Do you travel to different wine festivals to show case your wine?
A) We do festivals all throughout the state. We have primarily staff members who just work at the festivals. My job is to be at the restaurants and the liquor stores that are selling our wines. While the staff at the festivals are responsible for giving out information and selling the wine there as well. It’s a fun job.
Q) What is the hardest part about your job?
A) Probably, monitoring the alcohol consumption because we all know how that can be tricky at times. Whether it’s in your own house or at a public place. If someone is determine to drink, it can be difficult to manage in a professional and proper way. Our staff here at Coda Rossa goes through Tips Training, so we can manage alcohol consumption. It’s a challenge to handle the situation without offending anybody.
Q) Could you explain the Two Bridges Wine Trail?
A) These coaster are talking about the Commodore Barry and the Delaware Memorial bridges and the great little cluster of wineries in between the two bridges. There are nine of us here. The only one you cant just show up at is Chestnut Run Farm because they don’t have a tasting room. But, they participate in most of the wine festivals. The reason we are actually a wine trail is because we are all so close together. We help to promote one another. Its not necessarily recommended to do them all in a day or have to stay on this trail.It makes sense to have a wine trail like this because we all have the same customers. When people go to one winery they don’t just necessarily stay there all the time. They hop around and taste different wines. We encourage that and support each other.
I also want to show you the Vintage Atlantic Wine Region Map. The Vintage Atlantic Wine Region is actually what they have named this area now. It includes New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. We now have what they consider being the critical mass which is number of wineries to be consider an actual wine region. So people are starting to look at this area in East Coast. So within 90 miles, you have 90 wineries. Just 50 in New Jersey. In the map they also have breweries in yellow and some other places of interest. This is a great tool. Central and South Jersey are where most of the wineries are. There are a some wineries up North but most wineries are in our area.
Q) Why do you think that is?
A) I think the soil has a lot to do with it. If you look at this map, Bordeaux, France and New Jersey actually have the same water ways and land structure. New Jersey has similar climate and soil as Bordeaux, which gives us such a great opportunity to produce fantastic wine.
Q) Could you explain the process of making sweet white wine and red?
A) It depends on the grape, wine maker and how long they firm the wine. For instance, what happens with sweet wines is that the process of fermentation is stopped early so all the sugar in the grape doesn’t convert into alcohol. The longer you ferment it, the more alcohol your getting out of it. We ferment our wines for about 10 months in American Oak or stainless steal for the white wines. But, for the sweet wines we stop that process earlier and then your left with what they call residual sugar. Which is where the sweetness comes from. Depending on the wine maker, they also might add different things to it. Other sugars or other syrups. But that is sensually the main difference. Now, of course the grape can also be an impacting factor as well. The concord grape is natural very sweet. So most of the time concert dry wines. In order to get a dry wine, you have to age it longer.
Q) Why do you make white wine in Stainless Steal?
A) Expect for the Chardonnay. Chardonnay is sometimes aged in the wooden barrels, they call that being “Oak”. I don’t know all the science behind it so I’m not trying to tell you wrong information. Typically with the white wine, they are aged in the stainless and with the red they want the tannins. Tannins come from the grape’s skin as well as the wood in the barrel. So when you age a wine in the barrel. The wine is getting some of the tannins flavor. Most of the time with white wine, they want to reframe from the tannins flavor so they make it in stainless.
Here are some photos when Nicole and I explored Coda Rossa.