New Jersey is one of the oldest wineries in America that is still in operation today. It wasn’t until the 1850s and 1860s that proper wine was grown in Vineland and Egg Harbor City, New Jersey.
By 1859, the agricultural society became organized and conducted tests on 40 different grape varieties to see which would survive the climate.
The Germans were the first to come and try their hand at viticulture, transforming the city from being almost non-existent to a city of German winemakers. Renault, the only one to produce champagne from grapes, came from Mareuil-sur-Ay, France, to Egg Harbor City and bought land in 1864.
Old wine bottles
Previous winemakers would use apples to create champagne because it was easier to achieve that sparkle. In 1900, wine production in the area peaked and eleven different wineries made 220,000 gallons of wine. Native red wines made New Jersey a special place in American wine growing.
Renault soon became a huge success, becoming the largest distributor of sparkling wine. He then sold his winery to the D’Agostino family who kept it alive and running throughout the period of Prohibition.
The government allowed the family to keep producing wine for sacramental and medicinal purposes. Renault Wine Tonic, a pharmaceutical product, was introduced. It had an alcohol content of 22% and was sold in drug stores.
The family skirted the government and put a secret label on their bottles that read, “do not chill the tonic, as it would turn into wine, which is illegal.”  The Prohibition was lifted in 1933 and is celebrated every December 5, known as Repeal Day.