In 1983, a show called Sundays in the Park with George opened on Broadway. Stephan Sondheim composed the music. You don’t need to know anyone named George or see a Broadway show to enjoy “music in the park.” Simply plan a visit to the Nassau Valley Vineyards between 12 – 3 pm for the weekly Farmer’s Market held every Sunday from Mid-May to the end of October. More than 20 vendors set up each week.
Music is a key element of Nassau’s Farmer’s Market. Visitors can stock up on items like lettuce, tomatoes, corn, jams, honey, Japanese vegetables, gourmet ice cream, French delicacies, doggy treats, ceramics and holistic health products. At the same time, they can enjoy tunes by local musicians and perhaps sip a glass of wine or sample the winery’s Sangria.
Acts include Hot Sauce, Ed Shockley, Keith Mack, Matt Lafferty, Jr Wilson and Chatty and others. On a recent Sunday, acoustical guitarist/singer Mack entertained the crowd with songs that ranged from Irish folk tunes to Neil Young classics.
Nassau staff sets up chairs in a shady sycamore tree grove right next to the Farmer’s Market, but guests are invited to bring their own as well. Dogs are not allowed, however.
Peggy Raney-Ward is the fireball who runs the business on what was the family farm. It is located just west of the town of Lewes. After a stint with Les Amis du Vin International and The Friends of Wine magazine, she decided it was time to stop writing about other people’s wines and start making them. Peggy and her father, Bob Raley, started the winery in 19B7 although it took several years for the vines to bear fruit. Raney-Ward was instrumental in writing the Delaware legislation that allowed for farm wineries. She helped push it through the Delaware General Assembly in 1991.
Raney-Ward is a musician in her own right – specializing in jazz – so she has her finger on the pulse of the music world in coastal Delaware. She performs at fundraisers and at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand along with musical sidekick Eddie Sherman of Eddie Sherman Show fame. The pair conceived of and still produce the annual Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival under the banner of TrueBlue Jazz. October is a big month for her as the festival takes place then as well.
Wine tastings are available on Sundays and each day the winery is open – every day from April – December from 11 am to 5 pm. The last tasting starts at 4:30 (half hour before closing per state law). A sampling of six choices costs $12. The winery is closed on Monday during the winter months.
Self-guided tours of the winery and grounds are available during operation hours free. The self-guided museum chronicles everything from the 8,000-year-old history of wine to how a vineyard grows in the modern day. The winery also hosts a small art gallery that highlights local artists.
This coming October marks the 31st harvest for Nassau Vineyards. The majority of grapes for the wine comes from the property although Raney-Ward says “we buy some hybrids and other grapes from nearby Maryland and Virginia.”
If you can’t make it to Nassau Vineyards on a Sunday, then consider the TrueBlue Jazz on the First Wednesdays of the month. Doors open at 5:30, showtime is 7 to 8:30 p.m. and the fee is $25. For details, show tickets and First Wednesday Jazz Series events through December, go to truebluejazz.org. The monthly shows will have full bar service and dinner available.
Nassau Vineyards is Delaware’s first and only award-winning winery.
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Ophrah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.