A little-known but vital piece of New Jersey history from the 19th century

In a quiet, wooded valley just west of the town of Wolffer, New Jersey, sits the estate of John Wolffer.

Wolffer’s vineyard is home to some of the finest wines in New Jersey.

Wolff’s vineyards were also the birthplace of several of New York’s most famous winemakers, including Francis J. Bourdain, who was born in Wolffer in 1879. 

John Wolffer was born to a wealthy family in the wealthy section of New Rochelle, New York. 

In 1876, at age 21, Wolff was hired by William Wolff to be his apprentice in the vineyard. 

Wolff went on to win four of his five major awards at the 1879 New Roches International Wine Competition. 

On his return to New York, he moved into the home of a family of well-to-do farmers. 

“When I came back to New Rochel, I had the privilege of working in the family vineyard,” Wolff said in an interview with the New York Times. 

When Wolff left for California in 1884, he and his wife, Mary, built a new home on a large plot of land in the nearby town of Santa Cruz. 

The Wolff family’s reputation was cemented with the arrival of the first American ship, the Santa Cruz, in 1892. 

 In 1896, Wolf’s grandson, George Wolff, purchased the estate and renamed it the John Wolff Estate. 

It became one of the largest estates in the state. 

While Wolff and his family were able to purchase land on the Wolff estate, many of the wines produced at the estate were later bottled in the neighboring vineyards of Wollman Estate Vineyard and Wolffer Estate Vineyards. 

From the 1920s until the early 1960s, John Wolf enjoyed a reputation as one of New England’s leading winemaking experts. 

He also served as a commissioner of the New Jersey Agricultural Society, the oldest wine society in the United States. 

But in 1972, the Wolf Estate was sold to the Wollmans for $1.2 million. 

A decade later, the estate was purchased by an American winemaker named Walter Wilhelmsen. 

Wilhelmsens winery was later converted into a luxury hotel and home. 

Today, the property is home of the Wolff Estate Wine Cellar and Restaurant, which was the first winery in the country to serve wine from the Wolford Estate.