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DayTripper: Laurita Vineyards & Winery
04/28/2009 - By Teja Anderson
A perfect getaway that’ll have you stomping for joy!
For a quick romantic getaway with your significant other, a spa weekend with your girlfriends, or just a fun trip with family and friends, the Laurita Vineyards & Winery is a wonderful find right here in the Garden State! You don’t need to know much about wines before you go, but you will gain a great appreciation for them with this experience. Located in New Egypt (just past Great Adventure), Laurita is dedicated to creating wines that derive as much character from the fruit of the vine as possible. As responsible stewards of the land, owners Randy Johnson and Ray Shea have devoted themselves to the intense care of their vines and grapes. Located on 250 acres, with 40 acres of vineyards and 36,000 vines, Laurita is a state-of-the- art sustainable alternative, linked to local area, tradition, culture, and respect for natural resources. The Laurita Winery, which is 20,000 square feet on three floors, produces 14,000 to 16,000 cases of exclusive estate-grown and bottled wines, and offers three wine-tasting bars, vineyard tours, a gift shop, a fromagerie with delectable gourmet cheeses, and a deli and marketplace, where visitors can purchase homemade soups, sandwiches, and snacks. The wine shop itself is lots of fun, offering wines priced from $15 to $30 a bottle. There are lots of crackers and condiments to go with your wine choices, as well as beautiful gift baskets. All the wines and baskets are available online or by phone. Laurita has also become a regional destination for the enjoyment of diverse musical entertainment. Here you can experience some of the best music in the area, from Classical to Bluegrass. Their extensive events calendar can be found on the Laurita website.
Of increasing importance to many people nowadays, Laurita Vineyards & Winery is an eco destination. Approximately 70% of the winery’s structure and interior is recycled or reclaimed. The asphalt and concrete used for the floors and parking lot are recycled, and the winery uses solar systems to produce clean energy for heat, hot water, steam, cooling, and refrigeration. In the barrel storage space (the production area) the walls are in contact with the earth for energy efficiency, and there are increased daylight levels and outside views through additional windows and skylights. Low VOC paints and SIPS panels for energy efficiency contribute to a genuine commitment to greening and for obtaining a LEEDS certification. The winery’s landscaping emphasizes the value of water retention and conservation, as does the method by which the vineyards are irrigated. Controlled water practices include reducing water usage by collecting wash-down water from bio-retention ponds and gardens through filtering by adjusting the pH levels and using the pond for vine-directed irrigation of the vineyards. Very commendable!
The owners’ goal is to preserve and enhance the existing habitats by removing invasive exotic species and planting native species. Their hope is to mimic the natural landscapes and plant communities of the New Jersey outer coastal plain region. Johnson and Shea are dedicated to providing a habitat for area wildlife, including birds, mammals, and amphibians. Laurita Winery has three primary habitats that support wildlife: an extensive open meadow and grasslands, mature wetland, and upland forests.
Production at Laurita Vineyards focuses on making wines from grapes that are recognized and accepted worldwide, with a concentration on the Vinifera – a classic European Noble variety. From 1998 through 2000, the first 20 acres of Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot were planted and, in 2002, the other 20 acres received cuttings for Pinot Gris, Lemberger, Chambourcin, Norton, and Zweigelt. Five more acres have been set aside to experiment with grapes that do not usually grow well in New Jersey soil and climate. The hope is that with proper tending they will eventually produce excellent wines.
Vineyard manager Nicolaas J. Opdam started in the industry 34 years ago as a chemist with Canada’s leading winery; there he quickly rose to the position of assistant winemaker. Nick’s philosophy on wine making and grape growing is simply a hands-on approach. “Be there when the buds break open, notice the flowers bloom, smell the vineyard as the grapes ripen, then concentrate on turning what nature has provided into wine that everyone will enjoy.” Nick is always delighted to talk to curious wine enthusiasts…but have pen and paper ready, as he is a wealth of information.
It is just beautiful here – bucolic and peaceful – so don’t forget your camera. The vineyards overlook “The Walkabout” and the paddocks that accommodate the horses that are stabled at the Laurita Equestrian Center. If you want to stay overnight, just down the road is a newly restored and renovated farmhouse – Dancer Farm Bed & Breakfast Inn – offering the rustic appeal and setting of the original 19th Century homestead, as well as elegant guest rooms with all the modern amenities. Ten uniquely themed guest rooms feature thermo-massage tubs, fireplaces, private balconies, and magnificent views. As an added bonus, The Avanti Day Resort of Manalapan, in partnership with the B&B, has established Avanti at Dancer Farm on site. Guests can truly indulge themselves in a state of tranquility with the many choices of massages, body wraps, scrubs, facials, manicures, and pedicures. For spa appointments call Avanti (732-780-0222). Approximately 85% of the B&B’s building materials, furnishings, and decorations are either reclaimed or recycled. Dancer Farm is a 250 acre working farm with nature trails, wildflower meadows, and more. Call for availability and rates (1-609-752-030) or visit their website: www.dancerfarm.com. Sharing the property with the bed and breakfast and the Laurita Vineyards & Winery is the Laurita Equestrian Center. Visitors can take riding lessons or enjoy trail rides through miles of scenic landscape. Whether you go for a few hours, host a private party or event at Laurita, or stay overnight in the area, you won’t be disappointed. With all the available activities, a visit to the Laurita Vineyards & Winery certainly holds all the fascination one anticipates in a quick getaway.
Interestingly, the name Laurita was derived from the first names of the owners’ mothers: Laura and Rita. The winery is dedicated to them in gratitude for the positive influence they have had on the lives of their sons.
Laurita Vineyards & Winery
35 Archertown Road
New Egypt, NJ 08533
Tuesday–Saturday, 12–6 pm
Sunday, 12–5 pm
Via New Jersey Turnpike
North or South
Take the Turnpike to Exit 7A. Bear right after the toll to Route I-195 East (toward Shore Points). Shortly after merging on Route I-195 East, take Exit 7 to Route 526 East toward Allentown. Proceed approximately 1 mile and turn right at the stop sign onto Route 539 (Main Street). Drive a short distance through town; after passing the old mill and pond, make a sharp left turn to stay on Route 539 (High Street). Proceed just over 3 miles, then bear right to remain on Route 539 South. After the second light, make a left turn onto West Colliers Mills Road. Go less than 1 mile and Colliers Mills will turn sharply to the right, becoming Archertown Road, which then curves sharply to the left. The vineyards will be on your right, just after the curve.
Via 195 West
Go to Exit 11 (Imlaystown) and bear left on exit ramp. At the stop sign, make a left onto Imlaystown-Hightstown Road. When the road ends, make a right onto Route 526 West. At the first light, make a left on Sharon Station Road. After about 1 mile, Sharon Station becomes Route 539 South. From this point follow directions above.
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