Nassau Valley Vineyards completes 30th harvest

Delaware’s first and largest winery has grown into a Lewes-area destination
October 12, 2021

Story Location:
32165 Winery Way
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

Now it's time for Nassau Valley Vineyards winemaker Mike Reese to work his magic.

A crew harvested Cabernet Sauvignon grapes Oct. 5, completing the Lewes-area vineyard's 30th harvest season.

Reese, who joined the vineyards in 2008, said nearly ideal weather conditions – lots of heat and low humidity – have combined for an abundant crop.

Besides the red-wine grapes, the harvest included Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes, which, supplemented with other regional fruit, will be used to create up to 15 wines. The winery has won more than 200 awards.

It was international wine writer and jazz singer Peggy Raley-Ward who talked her late father, Bob Raley, into turning part of the family farm into a winery. However, at the time, Delaware law did not allow farm wineries. That didn't deter Peggy, who drafted legislation, lobbied General Assembly members and got a law enacted in 1991.

In October 1993, she and her father started the wine operation.

Over the years, Nassau Valley Vineyards has grown into a destination location with a wine shop, wine tastings, an art galley, a Sunday farmers market from mid-May to mid-October, and several rental options for events venues specializing in weddings.

Nassau Valley, nestled on more than 6 acres between Route 9 and Route 1 just outside Lewes, is Delaware's first and largest winery.

Reese said the crop was spared this year from the annual onslaught of fruit-eating birds. “For whatever reason, this is the best it's been in 10 years,” he said. “We've had no bird damage, which has led to a quality and great-quantity harvest with a great yield.”

The vineyards areas have a number of bird deterrent measures in place, including netting and broadcast bird sounds to scare away the marauders.

Among those helping with this year's harvest was Steve Burman, who recently moved to the area, but retains ownership in the 3 Steves Winery in Livermore, Calif. “It gets in your blood, so I'm here helping Mike,” he said.

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