ersey ’ s Wine Country
tribution operation .
summer . After emigrating to the States in 2002 , owner Ottavio ( Otto ) Angelico and his family purchased the former horse farm in 2019 . Otto , a chemical engineer by trade , says his passion for wine-making began in Sicily where , as a child , he worked on his grandfather ’ s farm , growing grapes , oranges , and olives . “ I love what I do ,” Otto says about the wine-making process .
This year Angelico Winery will produce about 1,000 cases of wine with grapes cultivated from their 3.5-acre vineyard . Their tasting room , a neatly-appointed space reimagined from an existing barn that was completed in the Spring of 2022 , is welcoming guests every weekend for tastings . His goal is to triple production and build a warehouse with production space and added parking . If he can achieve this level of production , Otto can finally transition from engineering to the wine business full-time .
“ I am in an artisan business ,” Otto says . “ Everything is done by me , my wife , and my kids . You can tell the difference between my wine and something made in a factory ,” Otto says .
From Hobby to Major Brand
In 1974 , Anthony Valenzano ’ s father purchased 9 acres of farm property as a family residence , where the elder Valenzano pursued his hobby of winemaking when it became legal in the early 1980s . In 1991 , the father and son team started a business that would become one of New Jersey ’ s most prominent wine brands .
“ Between 1994 and 2000 , I was working in the restaurant business full-time , with a new wife , a new baby , and building a house on a new farm all at the same time . It was a crazy time ,” recalls Anthony ( Tony ) Valenzano , president of Valenzano Winery .
Fast forward twenty years , and the Valenzano Family Winery in Shamong , New Jersey today is a vineyard , a winery , and a restaurant as well as a distribution operation , with about 65 full-time employees , producing over 70,000 cases of wine each year .
“ Between the two farms , we have about 60 acres of farmland with about 30 acres of vineyard production ,” notes Tony , who quickly admits the winery ’ s success is derived from understanding limitations . “ At some point , we decided that we were really good at making wine but there are others in New Jersey who are exceptional growers .”
So , while Valenzano produces a lot of wine , it also buys a lot of fruit . “ We are one of the primary purchasers of fruit in New Jersey ,” Tony says . Valenzano has also committed to clean energy initiatives , investing in both geothermal heating and solar arrays for running the production facility .
Using internal salespeople and trucks , Valenzano self-distributes wines to about 900 retail outlets and restaurants across the state . Tony is also an expert promoter . In addition to attending about 30 events each year , the company produces the Valenzano WineFest , a two-day event held every September for the last 20 years . Featuring twelve New Jersey wineries , entertainment , and food , the program attracts over 10,000 attendees .
Tony is confident about the future . “ When we started 25 years ago , it was difficult to sell New Jersey wine in New Jersey . The industry is different now . Consumers are thrilled to visit local wineries , local farms and buy local products . It ’ s such a different market ; so much more enjoyable now .” He concludes .
September 2023 COMMERCE 13