Valenzano Family Winery – Shamong, NJ

Posted by Keith Wallace

Full disclosure – I typically write about my first experience at a winery, but I have been going to Valenzano Family Winery for about ten years.  So instead of writing about my initial impression of my winery experience there, I am writing about what keeps me going back.  And I think you’ll see why writing this around the holidays is perfect timing.

When my significant other and I walk into Valenzano, we are always immediately greeted by Al, a friend of the Valenzano family who has worked at the winery for 21 years.  Even in our early days of visiting the winery, he would recognize us as return customers, and we would catch up. 

He recalls that we particularly like their berry red cranberry wine (more on that below) and the dry reds and lets us know if there are any new wines to try since we had been there last.  Someone who knows the customer takes a genuine interest in the customer, including likes and dislikes, and treats the customer like a friend or family member creates an excellent winery experience.  Walking into Valenzano reminds me of the old TV show “Cheers” (I am dating myself now), where “everybody knows your name.”

As the name indicates, the winery is family-owned and operated.  In 1996, it became the first winery in Burlington County, New Jersey.  They make a wide selection of wine from dry to sweet white and red wines to “other fruit” (non-grape) wines to mead (honey wine) and more.  They have some interesting combinations, such as blackberry syrah, and I think there was a wine with hops at one point.

When we first started going to Valenzano, we were struck by the uniqueness of their berry red cranberry wine, which is actually a table wine that pairs well with food.  The cranberries, sourced from local bogs, are balanced in the wine just right not to be too tart or too sweet (they also make a berry white cranberry for sweet wine fans, but that is too sweet for me).

We initially paired the red cranberry wine with a Thanksgiving dinner, and it was a big hit.  I’m told it particularly paired well with the turkey.  As a vegetarian, I can’t personally attest to that, but it went well with all sides, too, and it made the meal more festive.  The cranberry wine has since become a staple at our holiday meals.

We made a recent trip to Valenzano because it ’tis the season, and we were running low on berry red cranberry wine.  As always, we received our warm greeting from Al and also spoke with other friendly and knowledgeable winery staff who shared information on winemaking and recommendations for wines at nearby local wineries.  We stocked up on cranberry and also purchased a bottle of their cabernet merlot.

The winery experience at Valenzano is filled with warmth, good friends, and good cheer.  And their berry red cranberry wine in particular always evokes for me a sense of tradition and holiday spirit.

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