Located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, the resort town of Cape May has been welcoming vacationers for generations. The town, filled with historic Victorian-style homes that have been converted to cozy bed and breakfast resorts, has a quaint Southern Charm that you will not find in the rest of the Garden State. In addition to being America’s oldest seaside resort, Cape May is also home to a half dozen wineries and has recently been recognized as its own American Viticultural Area.
Established in 2018, the Cape May Peninsula AVA was created due to the area’s moderate temperature which helps to provide a longer growing season compared to the rest of the Outer Coastal Plain AVA which it is situated within. The region is also characterized by well-drained sandy or sandy loam soils of low to moderate fertility. These unique characteristics have attracted experienced and educated winemakers to the area who are producing a diverse range of delicious wines.
With the summer upon us, now is the perfect time to visit the city of Cape May. We’ve been vacationing in the area for the past few summers and absolutely love the wine scene. Spend a couple days here and we’re confident you will as well. Below is our 48 hour wine lover’s guide to Cape May.
WILLOW CREEK FARM & WINERY
Located on what feels like a beautiful southern plantation in West Cape May is Willow Creek Farm & Winery. Willow Creek offers wine tastings and flights in addition to tapas and cheese boards. Their wines are split into two brands, the estate series and the Wilde Cock series. The Wilde Cock series is produced from a mixture of estate-grown and imported grapes (typically from California). Willow Creek is the only winery in New Jersey to produce Malvasia Bianca, a dry and aromatic white Italian varietal. We caution you that at Willow Creek, you should be prepared to pay a premium for their wines (their non-estate Rosé is priced at $38). If a relaxing atmosphere is what you are after, check out their outside bar and skip on the indoor tasting room (where reservations are strongly encouraged).
168 Stevens St, West Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 770-8782, willowcreekwinerycapemay.com
TURDO VINEYARDS & WINERY
Turdo Vineyards & Winery is located in North Cape May and one mile away from Cape May Winery & Vineyard. Turdo is a small producer, but a must visit for any lover of dry Italian wines. Their offerings include Albariño, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Nero d’Avola. If orange wines are up your alley, be sure to try their Arancino (50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Catarratto, and 10% Grillo). Price point is a bit higher than others in the area, but the quality of their wines will knock your socks off. If you plan to visit, a heads up that their hours are limited, and their parking is down the street and not on their property. They also tend to open during the summer season only (between Memorial Day and Labor Day).
3911 Bayshore Rd, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-5591, turdovineyards.com
CAPE MAY WINERY & VINEYARD
Stop by for a tasting and a tour of the oldest planted vines in the Cape May Peninsula. They have dry red and white wines available as well as a few semi-sweet and dessert options. Cape May offers wine on tap which helps to reduce their impact on the environment while offering an additional experience to the consumer. Our current favorite from them is their Barrel Aged Sauvignon Blanc which is only available in their Tap Room. If you are around on a Sunday in the summer, pop in for their recently released brunch tapas menu which has easily become our favorite brunch spot in the area.
711 Town Bank Rd, Cape May, NJ 08204, (609) 884-1169, capemaywinery.com
HAWK HAVEN VINEYARD & WINERY
Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery has become one of our favorite wineries while visiting the shore. They produce many wines at varying price points, so there is something for everyone. Their Flying Press series offers affordable red, white, and rosé table wines that are also used as base for their sangria on Sunday’s in the summer. If you are on the hunt for higher end wines, we recommend checking out their Signature Series line. This product line offers more specialized options like Albariño, Viognier, or Syrah. Their Signature Series line is not available for tastings every day, so be sure to call and find out their availability if you are interested in them. If the Signature Series are unavailable, be sure to ask about their Talon (Super Tuscan blend) and Quill (Bordeaux blend) which are two of their must haves.
600 S Railroad Ave, Rio Grande, NJ 08242, (609) 846-7347, hawkhavenvineyard.com
JESSIE CREEK WINERY
Looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy shore season? If so, Jessie Creek Winery is the place you’re looking for. They have dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wine offerings available for both guided tastings and relaxed spiral flights. Jessie Creek Winery is a small producer in comparison to others in the Cape May Peninsula, but do not let that deter you from stopping in. Their team provides a personalized and friendly experience which keeps us coming back often throughout the season. If you have children in your party, be sure to check out the family friendly games that are available to keep them occupied during your visit.
1 Route 47 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210, (609) 536-2023, jessiecreekwinery.com
Where to Stay
Cape May has many quaint Victorian-style bed and breakfast resorts that are available for accommodations. If bed and breakfasts aren’t your thing and you’re looking for a boutique hotel experience, we recommend staying at the oldest seaside resort in the US, the stately Congress Hall. Congress Hall is located in the heart of Cape May and offers many luxury experiences for their guests including restaurants on-site, a spa, and private beach access. If you prefer an Airbnb type experience, a handful of wineries in the area offer hotel accommodations as well and can be booked through Airbnb (Willow Creek Farm & Winery and Jessie Creek Winery).
200 Congress Pl, Cape May, NJ 08204, (888) 944-1816, www.caperesorts.com/congress-hall
When to Visit
Being a seaside resort town, you can imagine that the busiest time to visit Cape May is in the summer. We recommend visiting during this season because you will be able to experience everything that the area has to offer (avoid summer holiday weeks if you can). If shore crowds are not your thing, we recommend visiting Cape May in September or October for a more calming experience. Traffic is limited, hotel accommodations are at a lower price point, and the ocean is still comfortable for swimming and relaxing at the beach. The one downside to visiting outside of the summer months is that a handful of businesses close after the Labor Day holiday (Turdo Vineyards included).
Wine production in the Cape May Peninsula AVA is scheduled to more than double with 115 acres of vines planted today and an additional 147 acres planned in the next few years. We recommend taking 48 hours to explore Cape May as it is beginning to get recognized as a premier wine growing region.