We recently visited Cape May, New Jersey, where we spent one of the best long weekends we’ve had in a while. This quaint and picturesque city is filled with old-world Victorian charm, beautiful white sand beaches, a bustling restaurant and shopping scene, and wine! Lots and lots of wine. Who knew the southern tip of the Jersey Shore is filled with so many wine vineyards?
We certainly didn’t, until I was researching the area prior to our trip. It never crossed my mind that New Jersey had a vineyard scene. But it most certainly does! The reason for this is due to Cape May’s geographical location between the ocean and the bay. To the west is the Delaware Bay, and to the east is the Atlantic ocean, creating a constant cross breeze that makes temps moderate and ideal for wine-growing. This unique microclimate allows grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, among others to all be grown here.
When I think of wine vineyards in the New York City area, I undoubtedly think of the North Fork in Long Island. However, it sounds like the North Fork might be getting some new competition! The Cape May region is fast becoming a wine-lovers haven, with wineries such as Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery, Natali Vineyards, Cape May Winery, Turdo Vineyards and Winery, Jessie Creek Winery and Willow Creek Winery, of which will be the focus of this post.
We actually wound up at Willow Creek Winery on a whim, after we tried to visit the Cape May Lighthouse, only to discover that it was shut down because of its location in a state park. Jersey did not pass its budget when we were there, and subsequently all of the state parks were closed! Uggh! A blessing in disguise though, because we quickly got our act together and decided to hit Cape May’s farmland instead, where we came upon Willow Creek. And what a delightful place it was!
I knew upon entering it was going to be a great afternoon. A pretty entrance and drive up to the winery, it looked and felt like a slice out of Napa. And apparently from reading about the vineyard later on, of all the vineyards, this one most emulates Napa Valley. Situated on a 50-acre farm, the setting is serene and picturesque.
As relaxing as it may have seemed from the outside, when we entered the main building where the wine tasting and restaurant are located, things were hopping! There were lots of people, fun music, and the food and wine was flowing. We waited about 5 minutes to do a tasting – the Quick flight tasting, which consists of 3 wines (we had our kids with us afterall). We saddled up at the bar, chose our wines, and had a really nice conversation with our server. She was knowledgeable , attentive and eager to share the goings-on of Willow Creek with us.
I tried the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and their special white sangria, which was delicious. The wines were fine, exactly what I sort of expected for a New Jersey winery – fine but nothing extraordinary – but the sangria was excellent. Not too sweet, even refreshing. We took a sangria growler at $25 home with us and had it the next day on the beach.
One of the waitresses noticed that we had girls, and said that her daughter was outside giving henna tattoos at their outdoor market, and would they like to come. So that took care of the kids while the adults (we were there with friends), could relax and enjoy the tasting. Perfect! We did not order any food because we had already eaten, but there is a tapas style menu, should you want to order small plates with your wine.
Afterward we went outside, where we discovered an amazing outdoor patio and bar, and could have spent all day there if it weren’t for the kids wanting to get to the beach. The outdoor scene was really nice, surrounded by vineyards in the distance. I could imagine hanging out there all afternoon, taking in the scenery and Cali vibe.
Though we were able to just walk in and do a wine tasting (with a 5 minute wait), it is encouraged you make reservations for any type of visit, including their various tastings, vineyard tours, or simply to sit down and eat and order a glass or bottle of wine. We really enjoyed this vineyard and it was a fun alternative to the every day beach. We will definitely be going back next time we’re in Cape May!
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