AWG Correspondent

Charlie Toms

Cape May Winery And Vineyard Photos

Cape May Winery And Vineyard Review

Regions: Outer Coastal Plain AVA, New Jersey

Reviewed: September 14, 2013 by Charlie Toms
Published: October 2, 2013

I first heard about Cape May Winery and Vineyard around fifteen years ago. Nobody in Cape May County seemed to know exactly where it was, and when I eventually found the winery, it consisted of a house with a few acres of grapes on the side. At the time, the winery had no tasting hours, no gift shop, and only sold its wine at a couple of local restaurants. Fast forward to 2013, and Cape May Winery is among the most visited wineries in New Jersey. The winery is located near the shore resort communities of Wildwood and Cape May, and is in the Outer Coastal Plain Viticultural Area, which consists of more than 25 Southern New Jersey wineries.

Bill Hayes was a retired Coast Guard officer and garden store owner with an interest in home winemaking. He took an apprenticeship for several years at Sylvin Farms Winery, which was a pioneer in the growing of vinifera grapes in New Jersey. In 1992 Bill and his wife Joan planted a vineyard in North Cape May, and three years later started selling wine. In 2002, the Hayes family sold the winery to Arthur “Toby” Craig, a prominent restaurateur. Craig hired professional winemaker Darren Hesington, and today Cape May Winery has 25 acres of grapes under cultivation, and produces 11,000 cases of wine per year.

The winery uses 16 types of grapes – Albarino, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cayuga White, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Colombard, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Vidal Blanc, Viognier, and Zinfandel grapes. In addition, Cape May Winery makes an apple wine, and also has a separate brand named "Issac Smith." In the 1980s, Craig purchased land about a mile from the current location of the winery. The land was part of the former estate of Isaac Smith, a coffin maker from the 1820s, and wines made from the vineyard’s grapes bear his name.

A wooden sign and flag mark the winery’s entrance, and the parking lot consists of broken-up seashells. The winery is a large wooden building with ivy draping its entrance. Inside, there’s a gift shop with a fermentation room behind it. During good weather, visitors have a choice of tasting inside or outside. The indoor tasting room is a cavernous hall with a wall of barrels on one side, a large bar on the other end, and leather couches and coffee tables in the middle. The couches looked very comfortable, but I decided to walk upstairs to their outdoor deck where I was rewarded with a spectacular view of the vineyard. On the deck, there was an improvised bar consisting of two black-colored countertops propped onto wine barrels.

I tried Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and a rose wine from the main property, and Albarino, an apple wine, and a dessert wine from the Isaac Smith vineyard. My server was very friendly, but he informed me that he had only worked there a few months and knew very little about wine. The Chardonnay is fermented in French Oak, and was dry and sharp with a fruity aroma. It would go well with salmon or other strongly-flavored fish. I enjoyed the Cabernet Franc, which was dry but slightly tart. Cape May Rose is made exclusively from Cabernet Franc, and was just as dry, but lighter and crisper. I would pair it with sandwiches or other picnic food.

The Albarino was semi-sweet with a very crisp finish. The wine would be best if served with shellfish. I really liked the Isaac Smith Apple Wine, which is made from Fuji and Granny Smith apples. It was smooth and did not have the sickeningly sweet taste that plagues many apple wines. I finished my tasting with Fini Blanc, a dessert wine that has 8% residual sugar. The wine’s composition varies by batch, but this vintage was made predominately from Riesling. Fini Blanc was sweet and fruity, and I could see myself sipping this wine while eating a large piece of chocolate cake.

Cape May Winery & Vineyard is highly attractive, and all the wines that I sampled were good. They charge $6 to taste six wines, and the fee includes a souvenir wine glass. The winery is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas. They offer a 90-minute tour for $20 that includes a tasting and a fruit and cheese tray. Tours are held daily in the summer, and on Saturdays during the rest of the year. If you cannot make it to Cape May Winery, their wine is sold at a handful of local restaurants and at a few festivals throughout the year. Additionally, they can ship to residents of New Jersey and 38 other states that permit wine deliveries.

Address & Contact Information: 711 Townbank Rd. Cape May, New Jersey 08204. Telephone: 609-884-1169, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 12:00-5:00.

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