Have you noticed that Delawareans like bragging rights for being “first?” First Town, First State, first state to reform animal welfare laws, etc.
Well, Nassau Valley Vineyards of Lewes was the first winery in Delaware, and remains the largest. Established in 1987, but not officially producing commercial wine until 1993, founders Peggy Raley-Ward and her father, Bob pursued the concept of transforming their family farm into a vineyard. But at the time, Delaware law did not allow wineries.
Undeterred, Peggy lobbied diligently, drafted legislation for consideration, and by 1993 was able to begin production. This year, they celebrate their 30th harvest.
The vineyard, just off Coastal Highway is a pleasant surprise. Gorgeous rows of vines greet you as you drive through the long entrance, rewarded at the end with a sort of village of farm buildings. There’s the shop, the tasting room, and several buildings and areas designated for special events. There’s even an art gallery featuring local artists. From mid-May through mid-October, there’s a lovely farmers market on Sunday afternoons, always accompanied with live music.
Nassau is also a favorite destination for weddings. Guests can walk the grounds, and brides can choose from a number of spaces, indoor or outdoor. Depending on the size of the wedding, they are sure to find something magical.
It is not just for weddings, however! Many other celebrations take place, such as family reunions and holiday parties.
The wines produced by Nassau Valley have earned them over 200 prestigious awards, including Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Show in 2017. Their grapes are from regional farms, a commitment to sourcing locally. They include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, 14 different labels in all.
Self-guided tours are encouraged, and guided group tours are available for $15, which includes a tasting and a souvenir crystal tasting glass (individuals doing the self-guided tour can experience the tasting for $10).
This year’s crop was exceptionally abundant, according to Nassau’s winemaker, Mike Reese. He cites summer’s plentiful heat and relatively low humidity in late summer. They’ve also improved their pre-emptive methods to prevent bird damage, such as netting and piping in loud bird noise.
You don’t want to miss this special place that is unexpectedly nestled next to Nassau Commons. It’s a getaway from the bustle of nearby highways, and it’s so close! Consider a tour and tasting to see for yourself the striking beauty of Nassau Valley Vineyards. Cheers!