"They Can Say Without Doubt That They Can Compete With The French"

LANDISVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The Garden State lives up to its nickname with such produce as tomatoes and blueberries – but what about grapes?

Some wine enthusiasts have been growing grapes and producing their own wines for several years now, with solid results.

In June, New Jersey wines were put to the test by an international panel of top wine experts. The Jersey wines were up against French ones in a blind taste test and the result was a tie.

Jim Quarella owns Bellview Winery in Landisville and made one of the wines that tied for top honors.

“We went up against thousand-dollar wines, top chateaus, and we were right there with them,” Quarella told CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson.

“Your wines are judged on their merit and nothing else…and so we were very happy,” Quarella said.

Wine journalist Jamal Rayyis was one of the judges at the blind tasting and said the results could give the Garden State wineries some bragging rights.

“They can say without doubt that they can compete with the French,” Rayyis said. “It should make a big difference,” he told Johnson.

There are some skeptics, but the wines produced in New Jersey sell for a lot less than similar varietals from abroad and vintners hope that will help them win over some wine drinkers.

“I think people who aren’t prejudiced and aren’t snobs will recognize the value in growing grapes here and making wine in New Jersey,” Larry Coia of the Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association told Johnson.

Lou Caracciolo was one of New Jersey’s first winemakers when he opened Amathea Winery in Atco and said he’s glad more wineries are cropping up across the state.

“The world could be looking at the rise of a great region like Tuscany, Napa or Bordeaux,” Caracciolo told Johnson.

There are about 50 wineries in New Jersey now. That number has doubled in the last ten years.

Have you tried any New Jersey-produced wines? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below…