Since becoming Delaware’s first commercial winery in 1993, Lewes-based Nassau Valley Vineyards has won dozens of awards at competitions around the globe. On Dec. 12, the renowned winery won one more, becoming the recipient of Southern Delaware Tourism’s annual recognition award for 2012.
The honor, that recognizes a person or organization in Sussex County that has contributed significantly to the area’s vital tourism industry, is awarded annually by Southern Delaware Tourism and its board of directors.
Voted on by a panel of independent judges, each nominee for the award is judged based on the following criteria:
• Visitation draw
• Contribution to a unique event, or making an attraction unique
• Helping to place Sussex County on the map
“As tourism is such a vital economic driver in our area, we feel that presenting this award each year is a good way to acknowledge some of our partners who are helping us promote and support tourism in southern Delaware,” says Scott Thomas, executive director of SDT. “We have had some great winners in years past and Nassau Valley Vineyards certainly falls into that category.”
Nassau Valley is Delaware’s first and only farm winery, defined as a place where grapes are grown, produced into wine and sold, all in the same location. The facility produces a wide variety of wines, from sweet to dry and white to red. Owner Peggy Raley-Ward and her staff grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, and supplement their production with high quality regionally grown fruit.
Nassau Valley has also become a popular backdrop in recent years for visitors partaking in so-called “destination weddings.” With several facilities and packages available, this relatively new facet of their business has also had a significant impact on the local economy.
In addition to the many awards won by the winery over the years, Raley-Ward was also named the 2007 Delaware Travel & Tourism Person of the Year for her work in promoting tourism in the state. She is also an accomplished jazz musician, when she’s not working in the vineyards.
“Peggy and her work in the wine business has certainly helped promote, not only tourism in general, but also in growing our culinary tourism initiatives,” says Thomas. “We are very happy to add her to our list of past winners, all of whom have been great friends to the tourism industry through the years. She’s done a great job for a long time, and is very deserving of this recognition.”
Each year, the staff and board of directors of Southern Delaware Tourism, the convention and visitors bureau for Sussex County, has recognized a person or group that has contributed to promoting visitation in the area. Recognizing how important the industry is to the financial well being of southern Delaware, this “friend of tourism” is honored during a special ceremony held each December.
Past recipients of the annual award include the Apple Scrapple Festival, Dogfish Head Brewery Tours, the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival and the Lewes Maritime History Trail. Last year’s winner was the Ocean to Bay Bike Tour, organized by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.
Southern Delaware Tourism supports and encourages the identification, development and promotion of sustainable, year-round tourism in Southern Delaware that contributes to economic growth and improves the quality of life. For more information, call Southern Delaware Tourism at 302-856-1818 or go to www.visitsoutherndelaware.com.