Here was an unexpected surprise… At a recent wine tasting event we were enamored with a Cabernet Franc from Hawk Haven Vineyard in New Jersey. Always a fan of this varietal, we admit New Jersey wasn’t the first growing region that came to mind.
The tasting featured wine regions across North America and was an opening event for the Wine Tourism Conference. We were on a mission to taste wines that do not normally show up on our wine store shelf. The table with wines from New Jersey fit the bill.
Ever noticed how elephant ears only taste good at the fair, meals are more memorable when shared on a romantic date, and popcorn is always better at the movies? Ambiance can enhance our experience. We tasted this Cabernet Franc among 75 other wines using the swish, spit, repeat method – and it still stood out.
Visit South Jersey was representing the wines of New Jersey and asked if we would like a sample bottle to take home. Um, yes. We became the proud owners of bottle number 68 out of 1323.
What started as a stellar tasting encounter became a wonderful pairing. Once home we served the Hawk Haven Cab Franc with duck legs braised with root vegetables. The rich flavor of dark meat and slight sweetness of slow roasted vegetables were accompanied perfectly by this wine.
More Old World in style, Hawk Haven Cabernet Franc had the woody herbacousness that makes us love this varietal. Sour red fruit in the glass changed to darker black fruits with the pairing. The fantastic acidity lifted the heaviness of the meal. The wine’s earthiness and tannin mingled with the darker flavors of the duck. The fruit highlighted the sweetness of the veggies. The spice was like a a little flurry of extra seasoning sprinkled over the dish. It was the kind of meal where all we talked about was how good everything tasted. At one point it was decided this wine was worth a half case purchase.
Wanting to know more about this wonderful wine, we called Hawk Haven Vineyard and Owner/Winemaker Todd Wuerker chatted generously. Hawk Haven is located in Rio Grande, NJ in Cape May Wine Country. Turns out besides great wine, Hawk Haven has another quality we love in wineries. It is small and family operated. Wuerker’s Grandfather bought the 100 acre property in 1940 and it has been farmed by 3 family generations. (Wuerker and his wife Kenna are raising the 4th generation). Todd planted the first grapevines in 1997.
The wine label tells the story of an experimental farmer. That would be Todd Wuerker. “We are not in this for mediocrity,” explains Todd. “We want to do great things. People may say you can’t grow certain grapes but there isn’t much precedent in New Jersey.” Thus Wuerker experiments.
He planted the Cabernet Franc in 2007 to use in Bordeaux varietal blends. “I wasn’t expecting it to stand out on its own but it has gotten better every harvest.” Now Wuerker is trying to figure out how to plant more.
We asked Wuerker to explain how New Jersey is producing such a fine example of this Bordeaux varietal. Bordeaux is of course influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde Estuary. Likewise the Delaware Bay extends the influence of the Atlantic Ocean into Cape May. Cool ocean breezes slow ripening at night and provide the vines the diurnal temperature range necessary for grapes of great flavor and balance.
Hawk Haven is actually 2 miles from the shore in 3 directions. According to Wuerker, 17 million people visit the area every year. Near this hustle and bustle is a quaint, serene vineyard where hawks retreat, farmers farm, families grow, and great wine is made.Sounds like a great place to visit and we definitely want to try more Hawk Haven wines. To order wine or plan a visit to Hawk Haven Vineyard click here. Click New Jersey Wines and Visit South Jersey for more information about wine and tourism in this area.
- About 3 cups of chopped root veggies
- (we used 1 white onion, 6 medium carrots. 2 garlic cloves)
- Could try rutabaga, leek, jerusalem artichokes, etc, etc.
- 2 duck legs, trim fat, leave on skin
- parsley, sage, thyme - about ⅓ mixed cup plus more parsley for garnish
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- stock - best with homemade duck stock. Can use low sodium chicken
- Dry duck legs and sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Brown skin side down in skillet (10 minutes)
- Flip and brown (3 minutes)
- Remove from skillet
- Make sure skillet is well coated. If duck has rendered too much fat, pour some off. If skillet is dry, add olive oil.
- Saute onions 5 minutes, add garlic 2 minutes, add carrots and saute until onions are golden
- Spoon veggies into baking dish. Toss in herbs. Nestle duck legs skin side up. Fill with stock until veggies and most of legs are covered but skins are not (so skins will get crispy).
- Bake at 400 for 1½ hours.