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Winery Hopping- Cape May County

In case you are new here, let me inform you that Skip and her trusty companion love good food and wine. They are also NJ wine enthusiasts. There have been a couple of new wineries that opened up in Cape May County, so of course we had to go check them out. But instead of doing it alone, we were joined by our fellow wine and fun loving friends, Captain and Tenille. You may remember them from the famous Philly Bar Crawl post from last year when we tried to hit all the spots featured on the program, Drinking Made Easy staring Mr. Zane Lamprey.

Skip and her companion woke up early, had a good breakfast and hit the road with the plan of meeting Captain and Tenille at the first destination, Natali Vineyards. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans... of course we ran into trouble. Attempting to go a back way to avoid traffic, we found ourselves in just that, a terrible traffic jam that put us about an hour behind schedule. We alerted our wine loving friends that they should start without us and we might just meet them at the next place. But our luck began to change once traffic started moving, we arrived at the first destination (which we had to pass to get to the 2nd place) and found that Captain and Tenille were still there! And being good friends, they hung out while we did the tasting they had just completed.

Natali Vineyards is located in Cape May Courthouse, on a lovely plot of farm land. They have a cute little tasting room with lots of wine accessories for sale. They also have a great big chalkboard on the wall with their a list of their wines. We went through the highlights for what they have. Some decent dry and sweet whites, a smattering of deep reds that are pretty good, Skip's particular favorite is the Nonna's Red, which they affectionately refer to as a "party in a bottle" because of it's high alcohol content- but it is also delicious! They also have a good selection of fruit wines. Captain and Tenille are not big fans of the fruit wines, but my companion and I like them. My companion probably likes them more than I, especially the sweet ones. The highlights of Natali's fruit wines is probably the beach plum which is a local fruit in Cape May County, however it is very sweet. If you are looking for less sweet, try their cranberry which is tart and on the drier side for a fruit wine.

Once we finished up there we were on the way to the next destination. Just about a 5 minute ride from Natali is the newly opened, Jessie Creek Winery which also operates a Bed and Breakfast. To continue the theme of running into trouble, we pulled up to the winery and saw that the gate said "Sorry we are closed", even though half the gate was open. The Bed and Breakfast is in the front and then the winery tasting room is behind the gate. Skip took initiative and jumped out of the car and asked a man who was in the parking lot if the winery was open, unfortunately he was just a guest at the B&B and did not know, but then a man appeared from the office door of the B&B and said it was open but someone had failed to open the gate all the way. He opened the gate and we drove through and met him in the tasting room. Jessie Creek has a quaint wood paneled tasting room with a little bar for tasting. The tasting room is off of the banquet room that is used to host weddings. While we were there they were setting up one, looked lovely. We tasted all the wines they had to offer, which were only about 5 or 6 at the time we were there. They were pretty good for a new winery. My companion and I bought a bottle of the Pinot Grigio, which was a crisp, refreshing summer drinking wine with a hint of citrus.

Next up was, Hawk Haven, which is one of our favorites, they have a really large and very nice tasting room. They also have a lovely outdoor seating area to enjoy a glass or bottle on a beautiful day. They also have an adorable wooden swing out front hanging from a tree that Skip could not resist. 
Once inside the tasting room we were greeted by the friendly staff and after paying for our tastings, we were directed to a spot on the bar where we were greeted another staff person who took us through the tasting list. Hawk Haven has always been a favorite of my companion and I because they have clean, crisp whites and heavy, fragrant reds. They also have some sweet wines if that's your thing. We left there with a bottle Riesling which is a wine that we like to keep on hand for pairing with Asian or Indian food. They have great reds, but that is usually what we buy when we are there so we decided to change it up. Some of our favorite reds are the Quill and Cab Franc.

After all that wine tasting, we figured it was a good idea to stop for lunch before hitting our next winery. We ended up at The Depot Market in Cape May. It is a small deli where you order at the counter and then can sit inside or outside and wait for your order to come to you. We chose to sit outside at a picnic table on this beautiful summer day. The menu was basic, but not boring. They had a variety of salads and sandwiches to choose from. My companion and also Captain and Tenille had the turkey burger, only my companion had it without the pesto mayo because as some of you may know, he does not care for mayo. I had a spinach salad with egg and tuna salad on it. All three agreed the turkey burger was yummy and my salad was also very good. It was a perfect lunch to fuel the rest of our wine filled day.

With lunch in our bellies, we headed to another new winery, Willow Creek. They have a beautiful property, which is quite large and also a very large and gorgeous tasting room with giant crystal chandeliers. When we entered the tasting room we were greeting by a young lady behind a table who welcomed us and gave us our options for tours and tastings. Since this was a new winery and we had never been there before, the 4 of us thought that it would be fun to take the tour. We were shocked to learn after agreeing to this that the tour and tasting combined would cost us $120! That's $30 per person for a tour aboard one of their winery carts (basically a large golf cart) and a tasting at a super crowded bar afterwards. I will say that we enjoyed the
Vines at Willow Creek
 property and always like to check out new wineries, but we all agreed they are over charging for the tour and tasting. Their wines are really young, not bad, just most of them could use some more time in the bottle. They also have a lot of wines available, perhaps they are spreading themselves too thin? I think in time their wines will improve and since it was packed, I am guessing the prices are not keeping people away. We'll definitely be back for a visit but I wouldn't put them on our favorite list just yet.

We were supposed to head to Turdo next but as it was close to 5 pm, which is their closing time, we called before driving there, when they didn't answer the phone we decided it was best to skip them. I will note that on past visits, my companion and I have truly enjoyed their Italian style wines and look forward to visiting them again.

So, we then landed at our last destination, Cape May Winery. Cape May Winery is large, they have a tasting room where they also have lots of wine accessories and wine themed items for sale, they also have a second tasting room for over flow and a nice patio for sitting and enjoying some wine outdoors. Because it was crowded, we paid for our tastings in the main room and then headed to the room they were using for over flow as there was more room there. We ended up at a tasting bar where their was a lovely young lady working and we got a private tasting through their list as there was no one else at that bar. Based on past visits, we knew they had good wines. We got to chose, I think like 6 wines each to try, so my companion and I each made our picks and shared each others wines so we could get a taste of each. Their wines are consistently good. Since this was our final winery of the day we were going to get a bottle and sit outside where they had live music, but then a brochure for a nearby seafood restaurant caught our eye and so we thought that instead we should take our wine to go have it with our food at this place that specialized in crabs.  As we purchased our wines, each couple bought a white wine that we thought would go with seafood, we told the woman working at the winery where we were going and so she packed our wines in ice and advised us that we might need a corkscrew and glasses. I purchased a corkscrew and she gave us some plastic cups to take with us.

We arrived at H&H and realized that we were lucky that the woman at the winery warned us. This is a no frills kinda joint. It's basically a shack on a pier, you have to wait and obtain an outdoor picnic table on your own (no hostess) then you order inside and give them your name and wait for them to bring your food to you outside. The place was packed! We did end up getting a picnic table pretty quickly and placed our order, 4 orders of all you can eat crabs and 1 lb of pick and peel shrimp. The order took a long time because they were so busy. They do a huge business of take out in addition to eating on their deck. While it is a little unorganized and is totally no frills (no glasses, no silverware, no plates, no side dishes) it is a reasonable price for quality seafood and it was delicious and a great waterside setting to enjoy wine and seafood with friends. We ate up as many crabs as we could and enjoyed the shrimp as well. Both were fresh and tasty, but very messy. We used up a lot of napkins, thank goodness they do provide those. Once we finished up, it was time to part ways and head home.

We had a wonderful day out in beautiful Cape May County drinking wine and enjoying food with our dear friends, Captain and Tenille.


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