Vineyards aren’t just places to create wines anymore.
Wineries these days are also in the business of making memories, and Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, one of New Jersey’s biggest wine producers, is greatly expanding its space for hosting special events that can produce lifelong memories.
The 82-year-old, family-owned winery plans a late-April opening for a 10,000-square-foot expansion, including a banquet room that the owners hope will be a major draw for weddings. The project will also more than quadruple the size of a tasting room that has been too small too often for the popular winery on the White Horse Pike, said Jack Tomasello, the co-owner with his brother, Charlie.
Jack said his family’s expansion reflects an ongoing boom in the state’s wine business.
“Now we’re getting people who had no idea that there even were wineries in New Jersey,” Jack said, adding that at last count, the state had about 50 wineries — up from seven in the 1980s, when the brothers became the third generation of Tomasellos making wine. “We have wine trails now, and we’d have lines out our doors on the weekends. We just couldn’t accommodate as many people as we would have liked.”
That explains the tasting room’s growth — from about 400 square feet now to 2,500 when the expansion is finished, by Charlie’s figures.
But no matter how big their operation gets, Tomasello doesn’t expect to change its “one-bride, one-event” policy, a pledge to host no more than one wedding a day.
That promise “means a bride never has to worry about meeting another bride in the bathroom,” Charlie Tomasello said. “She has our banquet room and entire facility to herself.”
Highlights of the new room include a “bridal suite with separate bridal changing room and private bathroom,” the family said in announcing the expansion.
They add that they can host the actual ceremonies right in their vineyard, in a “veranda pergola,” and move parties through three spaces in one wedding — cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the Vintner’s Room, dinner in the main dining room and the reception in the Crystal Ballroom, which will offer 800 square feet of dance floor, 14-foot-high ceilings and crystal chandeliers.
The winery has decades of experience in handling weddings, Jack said, adding that Tomasello has hosted them since 1993.
“We’ve been doing private events for 22 years. We’re not new to that,” he said. “We just wanted to do it better, and by increasing our space, we think we can do it a lot better.”
The winery’s hometown is also celebrating Tomasello’s ambitions. Councilman Tom Gribbin, a member of the town’s Tourism and Development Commission, said Hammonton has been working to increase business along the White Horse Pike, or Route 30, one of the town’s main thorofares.
“Obviously there has been a tremendous amount of development in the downtown area,” he said, adding that he and other local leaders have been asking “how can we expand the progress that downtown has seen to the White Horse Pike corridor?”
So Tomasello’s growth there is good news, but Hammonton has even bigger hopes for using wine as a magnet. Along with Tomasello, the town is home to DiMatteo Vineyards and Plagido’s Winery — and Sharrott Winery is just a mile or so away, across the Camden County line in Winslow Township.
“Based on the fact we have such a great wine industry in New Jersey, we looked to propose wine tours,” Gribbin said. “We’ve been trying to get that off the ground with area wineries, and Tomasello has been the most receptive to that.”
He added that the owners of a new craft beer maker, Tomfoolery Brewing Co., are moving ahead with plans to open in Hammonton. Plus the town expects Pinelands Distillers to start making whiskey in a former muffler shop on Egg Harbor Road, Gribbin said.
Jack Tomasello said another new winery is in the works in Winslow, even closer to Hammonton than Sharrott. He said his family — which hopes to welcome its fourth generation in the wine business soon — is happy to have another new neighbor in the business.
“I don’t look at any of these guys as competition,” he said. “I look them as assets to encourage tourism.”
In other words, it’s a the-more-the-merrier attitude at this winery — including that new banquet hall. Tomasello Winery already has its first event in the expansion booked for late April.
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