Wine to Go: Hear it Growl

South Jersey’s Bellview Winery in Landisville, just outside Vineland, is one of the first (and possibly the first) of the state’s 43 wineries to offer convenient and environmentally conscious ‘growlers’ of wine to customers at the winery.

Fill-and-go has long been popular at breweries and brewpubs, but not until last March did the state Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau pass a rule allowing certified wineries to offer refillable growler-style jugs.

The name growler is said to date to the 1800s and was supposedly based on the sound beer made as it sloshed in the galvanized buckets people brought to carry home their purchases from the brewery.

The 2014 state rule defines a growler as “any container that is designed to be securely covered and is intended to be filled (or refilled) with wine for purposes of off-premises consumption.”

The containers may not be larger than two gallons and “they may be purchased empty from the retailer and then filled onsite.”

Bellview saw this as an opportunity “to do something new,” says marketing coordinator Matt Pino. “We wanted to do test blends and batches. Instead of having to produce a thousand gallon batch, we could produce very small batches. We can do a five gallon keg and try it out.”

They installed four pressure-sealed steel kegs with taps. One provides a steady flow of their popular Fiesta Sangria, while the other three rotate new wines.

”All the wines available by the growler are also available by the glass at any time,” Pino says. Anyone of legal drinking age "is welcome to come to the tasting room” for a sample, he adds. “The growlers become a great way to take home wines that you can get only at the winery.”

The Quarella family has grown crops on Bellview’s 150 acres for a century. Owner Jim Quarella always had a passion for winemaking, and believed that winemaking would diversify the farm’s output and possibilities. Beginning in 1999, they planted 40 acres of grapes. Now, while still growing fruits and vegetables, Bellview produces 9000 cases of wine per year.

“We make about ten different dry reds, five or six dry whites, a few semi-sweet wines and four or five fruit wines,” Pino says. Bellview also makes a dandelion wine from a 70-year-old family recipe and a port.

Bellview’s bottled wines are available at 150 liquor stores in New Jersey. Ten of the state’s restaurants sell their wine exclusively, while others feature them on their wine lists.

A one-liter glass bottle with a flip-top costs $5 at the winery. “It’s theirs to keep," Pino says. "They can bring it back and refill it with wine, they can put flowers in it, they can do whatever they want.”

Bellview charges about the same for a filled growler as for a standard 750 ml. bottle of the same wine, but the growler holds about 1½ cups more, making it a bit of a bargain. Reusing the bottle cuts down on recycling for the consumer and packaging for the winery.

The main difference, Pino explains, is that wine in a growler “is not meant for long-term storage.” He recommends consuming it within a month.

“This is a very drinking-local thing," he says, "It’s a cool concept.”

Bellview Winery

150 Atlantic Street
Landisville
856-697-7172
bellviewwinery.com

 

SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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