Teeing Off, Over the Vineyards

Sand traps and seclusion beckon at Renault Winery Resort.

A Vintage Round: Much of the front nine at Renault Winery’s Vineyard Golf layout runs alongside rows of grapes ripening on the vine.
Photo Courtesy of Renault Winery

You would be hard-pressed to find a more secluded vacation destination in New Jersey than the Renault Winery Resort in Egg Harbor City. It’s a unique destination, too, with a 50-room hotel, two restaurants, an 18-hole golf course and, of course, the winery and vineyards. Although remote—the paved road gives way to dirt about 100 yards past the entrance—it’s just a 15-minute drive from Exit 44 off the Garden State Parkway.

First planted in 1864 by French immigrant Louis Nicholas Renault, the winery is New Jersey’s oldest. Joseph Milza, a native of nearby Toms River, purchased the property in 1977 and developed the modern-day resort while keeping the winery humming. Today, the vineyard covers 1,400 acres and is planted with 12 varieties of grapes, which yield about 31 different wines and champagnes.

As might be expected, the Tuscany House Hotel, built in 2001, mimics the Tuscan region of Italy, with its tiled lobby, large murals, campy fountains and ample earth tones. Rooms are spacious, if sparsely furnished. There are two small pools in a nicely landscaped space behind the hotel, but don’t expect a spa, or even a fitness center. This could hardly be called an opulent resort, but it is quite comfortable for a quiet getaway. Room rates are remarkably reasonable in midweek, although weekends get expensive, thanks to a brisk wedding business.

The resort has two restaurants: Joseph’s, a full-service restaurant and bar, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and Renault Gourmet Restaurant, currently open only for Sunday brunch ($23.95). For breakfast, Joseph’s has an abbreviated $10 menu with about eight à la carte choices. Dinner has broader offerings—and moderate prices. We enjoyed our Italian sausage flatbread appetizer ($10) and saffron orzo paella ($32). There’s a long wine list, highlighted by Renault’s own bottles (all available by the glass), but also including selections from Italy, California and Oregon.

We loved the golf. For much of the front nine, the fairways run alongside an outcropping of the vineyard; on the 7th hole, you must carry your tee shot over a stretch of vines. The rest of the fairways are lined by pine forest—this is, after all, the Pine Barrens. The course is relatively flat, but ample water hazards and fairway bunkers create challenges for any level of golfer. Best of all, it’s a quiet round; there are no homes along the course and no adjacent highways.

After the golf, we enjoyed a 40-minute winery tour and tasting ($10). Don’t miss the Glass Museum, an intriguing collection of nicely displayed and documented champagne glasses.

The winery has been celebrating its 150th anniversary this year with a number of special events. Fall happenings include a Grape Stomping Festival (featuring German food) from noon to 4 pm October 5; an October 24 Masquerade Ball, with a Boardwalk Empire theme; and the annual Thanksgiving celebration, with a holiday dinner served at both Renault restaurants.

October rates start at $63 weekdays and $225 on weekends. For information or reservations, visit the Renault Winery website or call 609-965-2111.

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