Okay, it’s not ethnic and it’s not casual, but it is local. Arcadia Publishing, the folks who put out the Images of America series with historic photos and tidbits about “your town USA,” has just published “New Jersey Wineries.” The author is Jennifer Papale Rignani, who used to work with the Garden State Wine Growers Association. I especially enjoyed reading a 1930s notebook from Renault Winery with their “recipes” for sherry, port, vermouth, and orange bitters. Guess what – they used additives and flavorings even back then!
It was also interesting to see what a big player Renault was on the national liquor market until the rise of California wines in the 1970s “virtually crushed the New Jersey wine industry.” Many New Jersey wineries started as family dairy and produce farms, but switched over to the niche market of grapes and wine when their original operations became less profitable. I hate to think how much more Garden State farmland would be lost without our winemaking operations.
During prohibition, many producers increased their alcohol content to a potent 22 percent. Such liquor was then legally labeled a “tonic,” and sold in pharmacies. Bottoms up!