On an unseasonably warm afternoon shortly before Christmas here in New Jersey, Patrick and I decided to stop by the Salem Oak Vineyards for a quick glass (or 2) of wine on the way to a holiday party. Since the party was nearby and we were intending to begin writing about experiences at area wineries, it seemed like a perfect time to visit. Nestled into the small hamlet of Pedricktown, it is not necessarily the easiest place to locate, but it is well worth a visit. From the front, it looks like it is going to offer only a very small area for visitors, but when one parks around the back and enters, it turns out to be a much larger tasting room than expected. There is a full size bar, along with a multitude of tables, settled into a décor that nicely blends a barn-like industrial aesthetic with classy wooden touches and nods to winemaking throughout. Our hostess, and the owner, Mandi, greeted us immediately and was quick to strike up pleasant conversation about everything from the wine-bottle light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, to the wines themselves. As for those wines? Everything I tried was quite tasty indeed. Each wine is named after someone in her family, and features an illustration on the bottle based on one of their character traits, a nice touch that gives each a little extra personality. The Jessica Rose Vidal Blanc was very good, with a smooth but crisp feel; a light, easy drinkability, and mild citrus notes. The BiPartisan red offered a dry, smoky and tart taste that was quite delicious. Merlot’s Merlot (named after a dog named after a wine) was next up; it had a pleasantly vivacious sweetness and a nice, fruity flavor. Cabernet Francs have been among my favorite wines over the last year, and the one that Salem Oaks had on offer, named Brandon Jay, proved to be my favorite here as well. It had the dry smokiness I like in the wine, but with what Mandi described as an effervescence, that really made it stand out from the norm. Last up I sampled what they were referring to as The Candidate, so named as they had not yet decided if they should begin making it on a regular basis or not. It had a rather complex flavor, with an interesting combination of fruit notes and a smoky, dry undertone, that were also complimented by a taste that was reminiscent of a candy I used to enjoy as a child that I still can’t quite put my finger on (if any of you taste it and can figure out what it might be, let me know). They also were offering some wine cocktails; a delicious strawberry wine which came served in a glass rimmed with chocolate shavings; and one Christmas themed drink that smelled and tasted exactly like the holidays, of which they were kind enough to share the recipe. It was an absolutely excellent stop filled with delicious wines and I highly recommend anyone pay them a visit when in the area. Cheers!