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Superstorm Sandy

New Jersey winery helps raise money for storm relief

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L-R: Jenny Tanner and David Wollin of Old York Cellars and Scott McKinney and Jordan Andino of Little Town pose with a mock check for storm relief, Hoboken, N.J.  (Photo by Arun Kristian Das) L-R: Jenny Tanner and David Wollin of Old York Cellars and Scott McKinney and Jordan Andino of Little Town pose with a mock check for storm relief, Hoboken, N.J. (Photo by Arun Kristian Das)
A bottle or white and a bottle of red from What Exit Wines. A bottle or white and a bottle of red from What Exit Wines.
MYFOXNY.COM -

A New Jersey winery has raised more than $5,000 to help rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy thanks to brisk sales of a line of table wines with customizable labels.

Old York Cellars, located in a rural community in Hunterdon County called Ringoes, named the red, white, and blush vino What Exit Wines, featuring labels with town names, parkway exits, or other special messages. Several premade labels are available, including "Stronger than the Storm," the slogan for the state's rebuilding efforts.

The bottles retail for $18, with $1 of that going to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, the state's official storm charity chaired by Mary Pat Christie, the governor's wife.

Old York has moved thousands of bottles via the winery's website, its tasting room, retail outlets, and several restaurants.

One restaurant where the wine has been a hit is Hoboken's Little Town NJ, which buys about 12 to 18 cases a week, according to Old York's sales manager, Jenny Tanner.

In fact, What Exit Wines are the waterfront restaurant's biggest seller, according to Executive Chef Jordan Andino. Many patrons are surprised that the state not only produces wine but that it is good, too. Indeed, all the wines and beers served at Little Town NJ are from New Jersey wineries and craft breweries.

"They come in and they don't really expect anything," said Scott McKinney, assistant general manager. "They expect that you have these super-sweet grapes that have no flavor other than sweetness, or sugar. But they come in and are 'Wow, this is dry, it's complex. You get different notes and aromas from it.' I think that's what's helping change [the perception], too." He said patrons tell the staff that they especially savor the wines from Old York, which at the restaurant carry a custom "Hoboken" label.

Little Town NJ, which opened in April in a space on Sinatra Drive damaged in Superstorm Sandy, is owned by brothers Chris and Albie Manzo, former stars of "Real Housewives of New Jersey." Its New Jersey-themed menu relies heavily on local ingredients, such as Jersey tomatoes, Jersey Taylor ham, Cape May clams and oysters, and more. The decor also reflects that Garden State sensibility, with photos, paintings, and souvenirs depicting scenes from the Jersey Shore and Hoboken. Part of one wall is adornded by boardwalk material.

When the resturant first opened, managers expected it to be more of a beer place. But very quickly they discovered that the clientele wanted good wine to go with the imaginative menu items, Chef Andino said.

"What do you have when you're having a nice dinner? You're going to have wine," Andino said. "You're not going to drink to get drunk. [You] want taste, [you] want flavor. So that's where the wine comes in, that's where the craft beer comes in." He said the restaurant is adding more than 20 menu items, mostly entrees, in response to patrons' hunger for a more sophisticated dinner experience beyond apps, sliders, and "sammies."

Meantime, the positive response to the wine helped fuel the winery's fundraising. Little Town NJ's wine orders account for about 40 percent of the five grand raised, according to David Wolin, Old York's owner. He said the winery continues to raise money for the fund.

Old York Cellars, one of several wineries in the Delaware River Valley, makes wine with grapes from its own vineyard and also sourced from California and elsewhere.

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