After suffering through bitter cold, icy roads and gray skies, we arrived at Salem Oak Vineyards in Pedericktown, NJ. My first impression – I just stepped into a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie! Vast, snow-covered vineyards filled the horizon as we were warmly welcomed into the tasting room. There, the atmosphere quickly took a sharp-turn into “Cheers” territory. Sure, Salem Oak has great wine, fantastic food, and free live music but what really makes them special is their dedication to hospitality. Mandi, Salem Oak’s owner, actually took the time to show us around the tasting room and the displays of historical artifacts from the Native Americans who had once inhabited the land where her winery now stands. And yes, she and the staff did indeed know most of their loyal local followers’ names.
Then it was time to taste the wine. For my semi-sweet palate, the standouts of the night included Jessica Rose 2018 Vidal Blanc, which can best be described as summertime in a glass, Julie-Marie 2018 Cayuga with its grapefruit notes, Luke 2017 Vidal Blanc Niagara blend, which is the perfect combination of dry and fruity, and our favorite, the Shoshana Apple wine.
By now we had worked up an appetite and lucky for us, this is where Salem Oak truly shines. Sure, they have the usual winery cheese plate fare but they also offer a variety of comfort foods – hearty beef stew, soups, chili, mac and cheese, nachos, etc. However, Salem Oak’s true claim to fame is their ravioli. We’re not talking just your basic ravioli in tomato sauce, although that is on menu. Salem Oak also does ravioli with a twist – topped with either bruschetta, pulled pork, or buffalo chicken, all of which were incredibly tasty. Then there’s dessert – decadent chocolate cup “shooters” filled with cheesecakes or chocolate cakes or the naughty goodness of chocolate fondues. Full? Then take home a box of the wickedly scrumptious Sweet Mary’s chocolates. After indulging in the turtle cheesecake shooter, it was time to hit the road but thanks to Salem Oak, we had found brightness and warmth on a frosty day.