BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - The owners of Bellview Winery will celebrate 100 years of the family's agricultural heritage in Atlantic County this year at their Landisville vineyard.
The Quarella family attributes its longevity to a prescient decision in 1999 to experiment with an agricultural trend that has become a big success in New Jersey - winemaking.
The vegetable farm planted its first grape vines on 3 acres in 1999. Three years later, the farm swapped out all its vegetables to make room for grapes and dedicated itself to making the perfect pour.
Today, the winery produces about 100,000 bottles per year shipped to 12 states.
The newly christened Bellview Winery was a leader in a trend that saw New Jersey's wineries double in number to 48 over the past decade.
"This is a new industry for New Jersey," said Matt Pino, of Estell Manor, marketing director for the winery. "It's been a lot of work seeing it develop. New Jersey is starting to get a big name for itself. We all take pride in what we do."
New Jersey stands out in grape production nationally because its soil and climate support so many varieties, according to the New Jersey Farm Bureau. New Jersey has 40 varieties from pinot noir and riesling in the north to Italian varieties such as barbera in the south, she said.
New Jersey ranks No. 10 nationally in wine production at 1.5 million gallons in an industry valued at $30 million, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
The owners of Bellview Winery celebrated their centennial this year. The vineyard was founded on 10 acres as a vegetable farm in 1914 by owner Jim Quarella's great-grandfather, Angelo Quarella. Jim's son, Scott Quarella, represents the farm's fifth generation.
The Quarellas still have its original 10 acres but have added 140 more. They grow grapes on 40 acres in a business that remains family owned and operated.
Wineries dovetail with South Jersey's largest industry, tourism, Pino said. Bellview is on two designated tours - the Pinelands Reserve Wine Trail and the Two Bridges Wine Trail - that tourists can take for tastings and tours.
The winery has a gift shop, bar and seating area for customers who participate in tastings. Visitors would never guess the store was built in a former tractor barn that sits atop the wine cellar because of its contemporary style, lighting, furniture and fixtures.
A tiny window in the store gives visitors a peek at the wooden wine casks stored beneath their feet in the cool, dark cellar.
The wine is prepared and bottled in a large room in the back of the building with modern winemaking equipment, including towering stainless steel tanks.
The growing season lasts from April through the harvest in August and September, he said.
"We'll see buds breaking very soon," Pino said.
The winery counts on hot, dry summers, which concentrate the sugars in the grapes to produce the best-tasting wines. Last summer was a good example, he said.
"We had a rainy June but a dry August. That's what we want to see," he said.
The winery's employees routinely tend the vineyards, trimming excess foliage to let sunshine reach the fruit to discourage mold, he said.
The winery produces vintages from a geographic and growing region called the Outer Coastal Plain that stretches across most of South Jersey. Each Bellview bottle boasts this geography on its label.
"Experienced wine connoisseurs would be able to tell the geographic region by taste," he said. "Like Napa or Sonoma. This is a specific growing area with a unique identification."
Bellview grows 20 European varieties of grapes to produce 26 wines, including a fruity vintage called Jersey Blues and a dry white called Jersey Devil.
The winery has taken home several awards, including a gold medal in this year's San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for its Blaufrankisch dry red.
Pino said the local demand for wine is only expected to increase, both domestically and internationally.
"Millennials are drinking it. A lot of that popularity goes hand in hand with the craft-beer and distillery market," Pino said. "People have taken to going to tastings. They want to buy locally and meet the winemaker."
Despite the competition that other wineries represent, Pino said there is a surprising amount of cooperation among growers. They lobbied together to get New Jersey lawmakers to allow wine-shipping within the state.
And growers help each other when there are industry-wide threats such as blight, he said.
"We're collegially competitive," he said. "We all want the industry to prosper, but each vineyard has to stand on its own."
Contact Michael Miller:
Location: 150 Atlantic St., Landisville
Owner: Jim Quarella, of Buena Vista Township