Barrel Trail and Wine Tasting Weekend starts here

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Wine tasting on the Trail Lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay, the Cape May County peninsula is an ideal spot for tourism. But the location also lends itself to another endeavor: wine making.

"We are so close to the water that the cross breeze keeps the climate milder," said Elizabeth Franco, marketing director for Natali Vineyards in Cape May Court House. While there is a frost and sometimes snow, it rarely freezes during the crucial growing periods, such as when the vines first begin to bud, she said, and the warmer climate allows for the growing period to last about 200 days.

The breeze also dries out the vineyard canopy, helping to keep it free of fungal disease. The sandy soil allows for rainfall to be absorbed quickly, and the iron and copper in the soil is beneficial to the vines.

Southern New Jersey has well more than a dozen vineyards, with a half dozen in Cape May County.

Wine enthusiasts can sample future vintages direct from the barrel during the Garden State Wine Growers Association's Barrel Trail and Wine Tasting Weekend Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15 at dozens of participating wineries across the state.

Wineries involved in the tasting will open their barrel rooms so patrons can get a sense of what future wines will taste like. In addition, many wineries will debut their new releases.

Visitors will also get the opportunity to see how the winemakers test wines as they age and what they must do to bring a wine to maturity.

Natali, a 22-acre vineyard owned by Alfred Natali, is one of the wineries on the tour.

It has also joined with Tastings and Tours, a company based in Bucks County, Pa. For $109, customers can tour any three Cape May County wineries and have lunch at Bella Vida Café in Cape May or the Old Grange Restaurant in Cold Spring Village.

Tours run daily through December, and according to Linda Jeffreys, who runs the tours with her husband, Glenn, provide a responsible way to see and taste the area's local wineries.
Natali will be open for tastings and tours noon-5 p.m. as part of the Barrel Trail and Wine Tasting Weekend.

Cape May Winery and Vineyard in Lower Township is open for tastings noon-6 p.m. daily and until 7 p.m. on Saturday. Tours are offered 3 p.m. daily.

Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery in Rio Grande hosts Saturdays on the Crushpad noon-7 p.m. with live music and a gourmet menu prepared by the folks at The Red Store in Cape May Point, run by the owners of Quahog's Seafood Shack in Stone Harbor.

For the fourth year, Hawk Haven will be offering Sangria Sundays noon-7 p.m. through Sept. 9. Patrons can listen to live music from local artists and enjoy lunch catered by the Seaside Cheese Company while sipping red or white wine or frozen sangria from a mason jar.

For a complete list of wineries participating in the wine trail see, or contact individual wineries for offerings and fees. Tour goers can start at any winery and visit as few or as many as they wish.

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