The Essex County Wine Society was founded in 1972 and incorporated in 1973 as a non-profit organization. The purpose of the society "includes the education and instruction of its members in the wines and vineyards of the world" (Star Ledger). Membership is limited to 80 individuals and a requirement for continued membership is participation in one-half of the tastings and dinners each year.
In recent years tastings have been held monthly from October through April and wine-themed dinners have been held in September and May (Calendar). The society maintains a wine cellar to supply properly aged wine for the dinners.
The Society's interest has generally centered in Europe, primarily France. In the past 15 years we have had a little over forty tastings of Bordeaux and Burgundy, usually of a current good vintage and sometimes of one particular estate in several vintages. Italian wines were tasted ten times and Rhone wines and California cabernets were tasted a little less than ten times each. Realizing that excellent wines are made world-wide, we have also given tastings of wine from Spain, Australia, Germany, South America, and in the US, wines of Washington State, Oregon, and non-cabernet wines of California.
Our tastings are usually led by a member of the Society who elects to research the wines to be presented. Occasionally we have had outside speakers. The wines are purchased for each tasting and are paid for by the members and guests.
Those who would like to join the society are placed on a waiting/guest list for one year and are voted into membership after this time if they show interest by attending a majority of the scheduled tastings and dinners during this period of time.
The society does not demand any specific knowledge or sophistication concerning wine but only a desire to learn about wine.
Tastings are usually held in Montclair, N.J. Further information may be obtained by contacting us.
How the Society Got Started
"ANY ESSEX COUNTY N.J. RESIDENTS INTERESTED IN FORMING A WINE SOCIETY PLEASE CONTACT HERBERT NEW, 77 MOUNTAINVIEW DRIVE, CEDAR GROVE, N.J. 07009 (201) 239-6216"
Fourteen (14) vinophiles responded to this ad in the July, 1972 issue of (the now-defunct) VINTAGE Magazine. Eighteen (18) of us - old friends, Rae and Jack Cohen, who had encouraged me to place the ad were the additional two - met on October 19, 1972 at the TOWN & CAMPUS in West Orange. Marcene and Irv Tarlow, Susan and Dick Murray, Ann and Jules Terry, the Cohens, Steve Mills, Herman Sebiri, and Laurie and I (to name but twelve) tasted some '64 and '66 Bordeaux and started to structure the society. As they say, "The rest is history".
Our first dinner was held on May 26, 1973 at the (also now-defunct) Continental Plaza, Hackensack, N.J. By this time we had grown to about forty members. [Out of our attempts to but old wines for this dinner grew the idea of acquiring a Society Wine Cellar.] The evening was a huge success; as we emptied the bottles we stood them on the floor against the walls - soon they were ringing the room to the amazement of the restaurant staff. The most memorable item from that evening was the '66 Romanee St. Vivant (DRC) which Herman Sebiri acquired for us for all of $150.00 per case. I can still taste it! From the start we were fortunate in attracting a congenial group. We inaugurated our season-closing July "Beaujolais Picnic" where everyone chipped in with food, making their grounds available (the 1st two at our house), and we tasted the latest Beaujolais; we had informal Chinese, Moroccan, Greek, French, and Italian dinners; and Champagne and similar brunches featuring Rae Cohen's cuisine. To my mind, the singular event which fostered camaraderie of the group was our three day weekend bus trip to the Finger Lake wine region on June 7-9, 1974. Suzanne and Gene Terry organized a never-to-be-forgotten round of vineyard visits and tastings, hotel stays, lunches and dinners and culminating with our visit with the legendary and late Dr. Konstantin Frank. Happily, Jack Cohen made a fine film record (titles, music and all). I'm sure he'll show it, on popular demand. [Many have suggested that it is time for another such trip. To Napa/Sonoma?]
Now after twenty years I believe that the Society has and will continue to accomplish the intent of its charter members: to instruct and disseminate knowledge of the world of wine in all its facets. All of us - present and past members - have acquired our wine knowledge through the Society (spelled, the collaborative efforts of its members); we continue to do so. As a by-product the Society has been the catalyst for the formation of many life-long personal friendships. May the ever be true!
HERBERT NEW (10/2/92)