As was common during Prohibition, many in this great American wine-growing region became traditional farmers.
In the 1930's, our grandfather, Frank Tomasello was a berry farmer in Hammonton, New Jersey. He was known for his raspberries, strawberries, peaches and sweet potatoes. But he had a special knack for growing grapes and a passion for wine.
In February 1933, when Frank heard the federal government was repealing Prohibition and was ready to once again issue winery licenses he did not waste any time. He jumped into his truck and drove through a snow storm to Washington, DC to be one of the first in line for a license – he made it! Tomasello Winery was bonded that year, license number 68 for the entire country. In June of that year, New Jersey passed the 21st amendment repealing prohibition and Tomasello Winery was officially in business.
Our grandfather understood that the soil and climate in this area was perfect for grape growing for several reasons. First, the native grape vines were so common in the area that the Vikings named the area just down the street from him "Vineland," named after the grape vines that grew so profusely in the area. Second, prior to prohibition there had been as many as 100 wineries in the area, home to some of the oldest in the country. Finally, the area was known for its outstanding produce - corn, tomatoes, etc., which made it easy to believe that this same soil and climate would also produce excellent grapes.
The first wines that Frank Tomasello made were – Ranier Red, Ranier White and Ranier Rose (named after his wife's maiden name) a delightful blend of American varietals. The Raniers were a huge success, so much so, that they are still being made today and are among our top selling wines with a loyal following.
In the 1940s, Frank brought his sons Charles and Joseph into the business. They grew their father's business into a commercial winery. They also began producing sparkling wines employing the classical French method known as methode champenoise -- which involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle as opposed to adding carbonation. These sparkling wines were very popular. By the 1960s, sparkling wines accounted for half of all the wines produced at Tomasello Winery.
Joseph Tomasello passed away in 1971. Charles Tomasello, Sr., then 48, expanded our family’s vineyards to add the first generation of French American hybrids. Many of these varieties were in the experimental stages, being developed and introduced by Cornell University's Extension Station. Today, while many of these varieties are currently being planted throughout the United States, Charles Tomasello, Sr. was the first to plant many of the more successful varieties at our vineyard –accounting for the fact that we have some of the oldest Villard Noir vines in the country.
In the 1980s, a third generation of Tomasellos joined the business when Charles' sons Charles, Jr. and Jack came on board. Together they worked to expand the winery and revamp the vineyard. In the vineyard they planted Vinifera vines, adding Chardonnay first, then Cabernet Sauvignon three years later. We now grow 30 different varieties including Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz to name just a few.
Today, Tomasello Winery produces approximately 45 wines, almost all made from estate-grown fruit or fruit from local farmers including the much celebrated Sparkling Blueberry, made in the classical methode champenoise. Tomasello Winery uses only the top blueberries from the top growers from Hammonton (the Blueberry Capital of the World) in this wine.
In 2016, over eight-eight years after its inception, Tomasello Winery farms nearly 70 acres of vines. We are the only third generation, family-owned winery in the State of New Jersey. Our wines can be found in 37 states nationally, in thousands of stores, as well as in Canada and Asia.
Tomasello Winery is well-known for its premium wines - Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, -- and has also had great success with French Hybrids varieties including Chambourcin, Villard Noir and Vidal Blanc. With close to 40 wines produced, Tomasello has a wine for every palette, including obscure wines like its award-winning Rkatsiteli, a Russian variety grown at the vineyard.
The winery has also won wide acclaim and legions of fans for its high-end dessert wines. These wines - Raspberry, Cranberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Pomegranate and our latest Pomegranate/Blueberry blend; along with three Fruit Forte wines (fruit wines fortified with the corresponding fruit eau de vie) and three sparkling fruit wines (including the newly released Red Raspberry Sparkling Wine), have earned the winery numerous prestigious national and international awards, as well as the praise of wine critics, dessert chefs and wine drinkers alike.
"Quality in wine making is a function of quality fruit," explains Charlie. "To that end we use only the finest fruit from around the country to make our wines. We use Montmorency Cherries from Michigan, Cranberries from Massachusetts, Blueberries from New Jersey and Maine, Raspberries from Oregon and Marion Blackberries from the Pacific Northwest for our wines. The quality shows in the finished product.
"We are very serious about the production of our fruit wines," he added. "The fruit wines in our portfolio are fermented in small lots under very cold conditions to maximize fruit character extraction. We select fruit from specific growers whose passion in fruit growing matches our passion in wine making. You will find these wines to be intense in their fruit character with layers of fruit on the palette and yet balanced in their relative acidity and sweetness. They have remarkable diversity in their use as a wine to drink as an aperitif, with a meal, with desert, or for use in recipes."
Wine drinkers can sample and buy these outstanding wines at Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, New Jersey; as well as in the Tomasello Winery Tasting Rooms in Lambertville, Freehold Cranford, Wyckoff, and the Towne of Historic Smithville. These wines can also be found throughout New Jersey in better wine shops and at independent wine shops and grocery stores in the 37 states they are currently distributing to across the country.
The vineyard in Hammonton also features an elegant Crystal Ballroom which provides an elegant backdrop for special events. In conjunction with gorgeous French country style, crystal chandeliers and decor; Tomasello Winery banquet facilities also offer outstanding cuisine and, of course, Tomasello awardwinning wines. The winery also hosts numerous events including seasonal Opera Galas and Bridal Previews at this location. We also host wedding celebrations and private parties.