Owner(s): Toby Craig
Winemaker: Darren Hesington
Open to Public
Sun-Fri 12 to 5; Sat 12 to 6
711 Town Bank Rd, Cape May, NJ 08204
phone: (609) 884-1169
Cape May Winery & Vineyard Profile
Written by Brian—Jul 25, 2018
There are a few east coast wineries that are simply iconic. Cape May Winery on New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula is arguably one such producer. Owners Betsey and Toby Craig began planting vines in 1996, making them one of the state’s oldest producers.
Today Cape May has 24 acres under vine on three different sites. Additional fruit is sourced as necessary and efforts are made to purchase from New Jersey growers. Between 75 and 85 percent of the grapes used in production are from estate or other local sources. These contribute to the 8,000 to 10,000 cases of Cape May wine bottled annually.
When I arrived at the tasting room and identified myself as a wine writer, I was told in no uncertain terms that Cape May Winery is the best producer in New Jersey. While that is a rather subjective statement, it is fair to say that the winery is in the top tier. Winemaker Darren Hessington is producing a very solid portfolio and the tasting room staff has every right to be proud of the wines they pour.
I tasted through about a dozen of the offerings and I can say without hesitation that they are all well crafted and praiseworthy. Despite the uniform quality, there were a few that really stood out. Among the whites I sampled a pair of Chardonnays, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Riesling. The Sauv Blanc nearly blew my mind. Billed as an off-dry wine, it had just enough sugar to bring out stone fruit notes that mingled with a bit of grapefruit in a perfectly balanced wine.
As for reds, I tasted a Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and a reserve red blend. All were excellent, but I just have to say something about the Cab Franc. It is one of my favorite grape varieties and I taste a lot of great examples in the Mid Atlantic, but this one was special. A violet and black pepper nose gave way to red fruit and structured tannins, which is what I expected. I must say that the tannins mingled with the most pronounced black pepper notes I have ever experienced in a Cab Franc. It is an extraordinary wine.
The vast majority of wine is sold direct to consumer through the tasting room. There is certainly a local audience, but the tasting room is located in one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations. As a result, the space is buzzing with activity throughout the summer months.
Despite the number of visitors, Cape May Winery does a great job of disbursing the crowd. There are many interior spaces for guests to linger and even more room outside. A knowledgeable and courteous staff further enhances the experience.
If Cape May Winery is not the best winery in New Jersey, it is absolutely among the best. This is a producer that needs to be on your short list. After you stop in, please let me know what you think.