Food Fella: N.J. wineries awarded 45 medals in prestigious competition

Let’s hear it for the Garden State Wine Growers Association wineries, as they once again shined in a blind taste test against wines from throughout the country — bringing home 45 medals in the prestigious Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. Plagido’s Winery in Hammonton won Best of Show for its Cabernet Franc in the competition.

Plagido’s Winery also took home a double gold for its 2016 Coeur d’Est red blend and three silver medals, while Sharrott Winery of Hammonton earned a pair of gold medals, for its NV Pinot Grigio and 2016 Wicked Port wine, plus four silver and seven bronze medals.

Other winners included DiMatteo Vineyards of Hammonton, with six silver and three bronze medals; Fox Hollow Vineyards of Holmdel, with two silver and six bronze medals; Old York Cellars, Ringoes, with a silver and two bronze medals; Villari Vineyards of Deptford earned three silvers and a bronze; and Sky Acres Winery in Somerset brought home a pair of bronze medals.

The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition is one of America’s largest charitable wine competitions. Masters of wine, master sommeliers, wine educators, wine journalists, wine makers and other top internationally certified wine judges from around the world converge each year in Rochester, New York, to evaluate and award thousands of internationally crafted wine and spirits, all accomplished in two days of blind judging.

New Jersey’s wine industry is also getting international exposure with the release of a report on New Jersey’s wine region by the International Wine Review. IWR reports focus on regions and wines currently gaining market prominence. The International Wine Review was launched in 2005 to provide the wine trade (importers, distributors, retailers, sommeliers) and wine enthusiasts with current, accurate information regarding important wines and regions of the world. The publication is not just a list of wines with scores; it provides insight and understanding of viticulture and winemaking, appellations, wine styles, pairing food and wine, and market issues.

Don’t look now, Napa and Sonoma Valley, California, but New Jersey wine is nipping at your heels! We are all quite proud of the accomplishments of the GSWGA. This coalition of over 50 wineries, grape growers and vineyard owners across New Jersey is dedicated to and been doing a great job raising the quality and awareness of the New Jersey wine industry. 

Also be on the lookout for an announcement about a special wine growers conference being planned for June 21 at Princeton University. As we find out more details here, the Food Fella will share them with our readers.


Best of Show

  • Plagido’s Winery, Best Cabernet Franc, 2016

Double gold

  • Plagido’s Winery, Coeur d’Est, Red Blend (Vinifera + Non-vinifera), 2016


  • Sharrott Winery, Pinot Grigio (NV)
  • Sharrott Winery, Wicked (Port ), 2016 

To see the complete list of New Jersey medalists and the full competition results, go to:

Conversation Starter

For more information about the Garden State Wine Growers Association, go to:

Mazars Food & Beverage Forum discusses changes within industry

In the comfortable, elegant setting of Maplewood Country Club in Maplewood, Mazars USA, along with Chase Commercial Bank, hosted their annual Food & Beverage Forum for New Jersey, which included a networking and cocktail hour, a very informative panel discussion from key local food industry professionals and a growing favorite of attendees, the Emerging Companies Contest, featuring some New Jersey-based food and beverage startups and growing companies.

Mazars USA
From left are Kate Edwards, Kate Edwards & Co.; Howard Dorman, Mazars USA; Christine Puglisi, Premio Foods Inc.; Judy Spires, KB US Holdings Inc.; Sue Guerin, World Finer Foods; and Lester Pataki, JP Morgan Chase & Co.

The panel discussion was moderated by Judy Spires, chairwoman and CEO of King’s/Balducci’s Food Lovers Markets, based in Parsippany. Spires also has the distinction of being ranked in the Top 10 on ROI-NJ’s inaugural Food & Beverage influencers list for 2019. The panel covered hot topics that are changing the overall food industry, with panelists Sue Guerin, CEO and president, World Finer Foods; Christine Puglisi, director of marketing, Premio Foods; and Kate Edwards, founder, Kate Edwards & Co. The discussion encompassed how manufacturers and retailers are handling changes in consumer food choices such as plant-based foods, as well as social media and new platforms some companies are harnessing to gain and keep consumers engaged. Also included in the discussion were the velocity of change in food & beverage, and sustainability, including the environmental and social pillars, followed by a Q&A from the audience. 

The winner of the Emerging Companies Contest was Altru Brands beverage, which was also featured in the Food Fella column in ROI-NJ’s March 4 issue, as it took home the $1,000 prize money and the pride of knowing its innovative functional water is gaining acceptance in all the right places!

Congratulations to the team at Mazars USA, all contributing sponsors, participants and attendees for once again making this must-attend event a huge success!

That’s a Lotte store: Another Asian grocery chain coming to Edison

As our ethnically diverse population here in New Jersey continues to grow, so, too, does the food retailing landscape. A new Korean supermarket chain is hoping to open soon at 1199 Amboy Ave., Edison, township officials said. 

Damon Riccio
The soon-to-open Lotte Korean Market in Edison.

The retailer, Lotte Plaza Market, is expected to open in the former A&P and Superfresh location in Tano Mall, at the junction of Route 1 and Amboy Avenue, a planning board official shared with the Food Fella. This will be the chain’s first location in New Jersey, as well as the entire Northeast. The company, corporately known as Sungwon Distributors LLC, is based in Jessup, Maryland, and currently operates 13 Lotte Plaza Market locations throughout Maryland, Virginia and, recently, Florida. This property is managed and leased by The Wick Cos.

In addition to typical American groceries and fresh produce, including some hard-to-find fruit & vegetable varieties, the market will sell Korean cooking staples, including meats for hot pots, halal meats, and its own store brand of Korean packaged goods, along with a variety of fresh fish and seafood. Similar to the H-Mart Korean grocery store model — also in Edison — the retailer is offering tenant space for related businesses such as Asian restaurant and snack bar operators, specialty bakers, cosmetics and beauty suppliers, smart phone retailers and realty outlets. This helps provide some additional business opportunities for select entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own businesses and need an established flow of foot traffic.

The company was founded in 1976 as an Asian food distributor and started retailing in 1989 out of a single store, located in Rockville, Maryland. According to the company’s website, its goal for growth is very lofty, as it is planning to open 50 stores by 2020. 

The plan is also to employ 75-plus workers at the new Edison location.

A Lotte Market representative declined to provide additional information on a possible opening date.