New Jersey Successfully Hosts The First Covid-19 Era Group Wine Media Tour

Posted: Dec 02, 2020

Cream Ridge, NJ – The Garden State Wine Growers Association (GSWGA), a non-profit organization of New Jersey-based wineries, vineyards, and allied businesses successfully executed the world’s first and only group media tour since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nine journalists from the US east coast traveled October 25-29 within different New Jersey wine regions. A total of 14 wineries were visited with many others providing their wines in the tour that included several tourist destinations, themed meals, and cultural viewings.

International wine communications expert David Furer was retained by the GSWGA to help organize the trip, working directly with GSWGA Executive Director Tom Cosentino.

With the health and welfare of journalists, wineries’ representatives, and those in food service paramount all aspects of the well-planned trip were designed with proper pandemic safety protocols and sanitary measures factored in. Writers were given the option getting tested for COVID-19 before joining the tour, and rather than transportation occurring as normal with all attendees on a van or bus, each media drove their own automobile to all stops. All participating New Jersey wineries followed protocols established by the GSWGA and New Jersey’s Department of Health.

The media attending were:

David Furer, Kathleen Willcox, Jacy Topps, Debbie Gioquindo, Carlo Devito, Robin Shreeves, Reggie Solomon, Hank Zona, Shelby Vittek and Shea Swenson. Some journalists attended all of the tour while others joined at varying points in the tour.

“This was a major undertaking to accomplish in these uncertain times, but the planning and safe diligence of our wineries, combined with the professionalism of the journalists involved, ultimately made this a tremendous success,” noted Tom Cosentino. “The health and well-being of everyone is the philosophy we’ve taken at all our wineries and we wanted to make this stand out during this chance to showcase our industry to the esteemed group of media we hosted.”

Wineries hosting the media were pleased with the outcome.

"It was exciting for us as a young wine region to have a chance to show some experts in the industry what we are all about and maybe even surprise a few people," said Scott Donnini, GSWGA Chair and owner of Auburn Road Vineyards in Pilesgrove, Salem County.

Wine media participating were also pleased with how the tour was executed. Freelancer Jacy Topps said: “I believe the safety precautions and protocols that were put in place were followed, and I felt completely safe. Covid made everything, including press trips, complicated.”

“The small size of the group, coupled with largely outdoor tastings and meals made me feel safe and allowed me to actually make the wine the focus of my attention. This felt as close to a normal wine press tour as could have been pulled off during a pandemic. The only thing that could have made it better is if all of us wine media had been required to have negative covid tests 72 hours before the start of the tour similar to what's required for international flights,” commented Reggie Solomon of, who recently returned from a trip to Germany.

The impetus for the trip came from a 3-day August visit arranged by Cosentino for Furer to a dozen New Jersey wineries researching for France’s Sommeliers International. Impressed with the quality of wines throughout the state, the veteran wine writer proposed developing and executing with Cosentino a group media trip with the wineries he visited. “New Jersey’s been on my radar since tasting a terrific dry 2010 Riesling in 2012,” Furer said. “New Jersey’s expansion of quality and production is remarkable—its best wines are on a par with the best of those from neighboring states, and certainly ready for professional scrutiny.” All the wineries he visited were on board with the GSWGA underwriting the trip.

New Jersey Dept. of State Division of Travel & Tourism and several local Direct Marketing Organizations in New Jersey including Cape May Tourism and Visit South Jersey played a vital role in coordinating critical aspects of the tour.

“Beverage tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of our visitor experience. That is due in a large part to the great quality of New Jersey wines and the creativity of our wine makers. As the word gets out about all of the medal-winning wines in New Jersey, our wine tours will continue to grow which will drive more people to all of our other attractions, shopping, restaurants, and hotels as well,” said Jeffrey Vasser, Executive Director at NJ Division of Travel & Tourism, State of New Jersey. "We were grateful that such well-traveled and well respected writers would make the time to pay us all a visit. Hopefully this is the beginning of changing some minds about Garden State wine."

Tourist and cultural attractions visited included whale watching in Cape May, private tours of the Harriet Tubman Museum and Edelman Fossil Park of Rowan University as part of the tour schedule.

Douglas Fisher, NJ Secretary of Agriculture, who attended and spoke at a media dinner at Cecil Creek Farm in Gloucester County observed:

“Our vintners themselves, throughout the state, are the best conduit through which to engage the public and other businesses about quality and availability of New Jersey wines, by continuing to produce high-quality, award-winning wines, which are often promoted through joint efforts of the NJDA and the Garden State Wine Growers Association.”

A complete tour summary is available by clicking here.

Attached Photos Courtesy of GSWGA:

8306 – Media are welcomed at Auburn Road Vineyards in Salem County by owners Scott & Jules Donnini

8356 – Group is given a tour of the Edelman Fossil Park in Glassboro, NJ, Gloucester County

8336 – Rich Heritage conducts a socially-distanced tasting at William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, Gloucester County

About the Garden State Wine Growers Association

The Garden State Wine Growers Association (GSWGA) a non-profit organization of New Jersey-based wineries, vineyards and allied businesses. It serves as a centralized information repository, resource and clearing house for industry members, and offers a unified voice advocating for issues important to the entire range of New Jersey winery and vineyard operations. Central to this mission are efforts toward branding, marketing, public relations, education, and legislation and regulation for the furtherance of the vineyard and wine industries in the Garden State.

To learn more visit

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