Classic Champagne In Your Own Backyard

By Jeff & Stephanie Sylva

Imagine sitting in a wine and beer garden at a French chateau, sipping a glass of estate-grown Champagne. Oh, you don’t have the time to travel to France. How about a 2-hour drive to Egg Harbor City, NJ? The Renault Winery & Resort, the nation’s second oldest winery, boasts 158 years of continuous production of Champagne and fine wines and is ready to offer guests an exceptional wine, food, and entertainment experience.

The story of Renault begins in 1864, when Louis Renault left his hometown, Mareuil-sur-Ay, France, to save his vines from blight. Renault had yet to succeed in California. But the loamy soil of Egg Harbor City, which also has a similar climate as France’s Champagne region, proved to be the answer for Renault. Renault’s dream of producing Champagne and fine wines gained his new hometown the name of “Wine City.” Because his vine stock originated in Mareuil-sur-Ay and his production process complied with traditional methods, Renault was one of the only vintners in the U.S. with the privilege of calling his sparkling wine “Champagne.” This privilege was grandfathered to the winery and is still in effect today.

The D’Agostino family has continued to produce Renault’s famous wine. Renault became the largest distributor of Champagne in America during the 1960s. The Champagne toast at the John F. Kennedy inauguration was Renault’s famed Champagne. The original property evolved under various ownership, including a hotel, restaurant, and golf course.  

It was in 2018 that Vivamee Hospitality purchased the winery and began a revitalization that resulted in a French-inspired resort with chateau-style accommodations, fine dining options, an 18-hole championship golf course, a wine & beer garden, the largest wine-tasting room on the East Coast, and a calendar of events that enhance the Renault experience.

The newly renovated Château Renault combines modern amenities with classic hospitality. The hotel has 55 spacious, elegant rooms and suites. Two side-by-side outdoor pools offer a perfect relaxing spot during the warmer months. Various seasonal and regularly scheduled packages include the Ultimate Golf Getaway, a Couples Retreat Package, The Historic Tour & Taste Package, a Wine & Dance Package, and the Wine & Vine Tour Package.

Dining at Renault is a beautiful experience. Renault’s signature restaurant, Taste 1864, offers classic American favorites in a historical setting. Dine among historic wine barrels; start with Taste 1864’s signature Charcuterie and Bruschetta Board. Then choose from a selection of main entrees or imaginative flatbreads. Don’t overlook the Vintner Select offering, a seasonal tasting menu available from Thursday to Sunday. The menu features gourmet dishes carefully curated by the Executive Chef and paired with the winery’s celebrated wines and Champagnes.

Adjacent to French-inspired gardens, the Renault Wine & Beer Garden offers casual alfresco dining and an exciting schedule of outdoor entertainment. Consider a dining experience centered around one of the many fire pits or cabanas on the patio or near the outdoor stage. Café La Fleur is a Parisian-inspired café with a farmhouse flair. Delicious French pastries and American farmhouse favorites are paired with artisanal coffees and beverages. Enjoy freshly baked croissants, decadent stuffed cookies, the daily quiche selection, stuffed croissants, wine-infused cupcakes, and much more. The cinnamon or raspberry cruffin is to die for.

Experience Renault more fully with one regularly scheduled tour: the Historic Tour & Taste on Wednesdays, the Wine & Vine Tour on Thursdays, and the Weekend Tours & Taste. A few exciting stops on the history tours include Renault’s Glass Museum—a collection of historic wine & Champagne glasses dating back to the 13th century, and the landmark Speakeasy filled with Prohibition-era lore.

We had a lot of fun on the Wine & Vine Tour as we boarded a tractor-pulled trailer and cruised the vineyard and golf course. Our guide provided a rich history of Louis Renault’s dream of producing fine Champagne and wine and the long history of the winery and resort. He was equally gracious when pouring the wine samples and accompanying hors d’oeuvres we enjoyed on the tour.

A couple of their signature wines that we feel you must try are the Fleur de Blanc, a white wine from Renault’s Noah grapes grown at the resort, and the Blueberry Champagne, a bubbly crisp enough on the palate that the sweet finish is by no means cloying. Want to try even more? Consider one of Renault’s tasting flights. The Louie Special includes four wines of your choice, and the Renault Premier consists of four wines and one sparkling wine.

Enjoy one of the winery’s seasonal events, such as The Classic American or The European Car Show, the Grape Stomp Community Event, the Pick & Press harvest festival, and the Renault Beer Fest and 5K run. Check the website’s monthly calendar of events to plan your trip to Renault.

Extend your trip with a visit to nearby Atlantic City—less than a half-hour’s drive from the winery.

For more on the Renault Winery & Resort, visit

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