A few weekends ago a whole group of my college girlfriends, along with some new friends, headed down to Cape May for a bachelorette party. We had rented a beautiful, and highly recommended, shore house from VRBO (If you have not used VRBO for a vacation rental…you should look into it, it’s a great service. Also, here is the link to the gorgeous rental we stayed in: http://www.vrbo.com/324247 ).
The big activity for our stay was an all afternoon wine tour and tasting trip. We booked through Tastings & Tours which offers exclusive winery tours in Cape May, NJ, Bucks County, PA and Lehigh/Berks County, PA. Our specific tour included our own private mini-bus and driver who hosted us around to each stop. We went to 3 wineries as well as a local BYOB for a pre-fixe lunch that was all included in our price. The bus we were provided with was equipped with baskets for wine bottle purchases and had a fully stocked cooler of water bottles. Our driver, Don, was friendly, pleasant and a great photographer (he became the group shot go-to guy).
Don escorted us to our first stop at Cape May Winery. Our tour guide from the vineyard was extremely knowledgeable. She was a former teacher whose love of wine turned into her new full time job. We had in-depth descriptions outside at the vineyard, in the barrel barn, the bottling room, and back in the main tasting room. While everything she had to say was very interesting it may have been a little lost on our group. The theme of our group outing (aka bachelorette) should imply why a classroom style learning session was not up everyone’s ally for that afternoon. We listened intently but, I know the group’s sentiment was to “get to the good stuff”. But, if you are ever in town and really want to learn more about New Jersey wines this is a great stop to go. It was the most informative of our stops and they let you explore all the facets of their facility.
We tried 3 wines throughout our walking tour and ended with a 4th and final sweet note of Port in the tasting room. We were then informed to stock up on some wine from their gift shop because our luncheon at the BYOB eatery would be next. Some of our group experienced some unpleasant customer service from one of the gift shop’s attendants however; I found that mine, a different individual, was helpful and even gracious letting me indulge in an additional tasting before making my purchase.
Tisha’s Fine Dining was our Lunch stop. It sat in a very quaint and cute set of shops. We were placed in a separate room and provided a limited Pre-Fixe menu with 4 items to choose from. Everyone was given Bruschetta to start. We had some food allergies in the group that were communicated to the wait staff but we were informed that they would not budge to make additions or modifications to the menu. Our friend made do with what was provided but that was a bit disappointing. The food was enjoyable and perfect for a quick lunch. I had a simple burger that hit the spot. After polishing off our meals and a few bottles of wine we were off to the next winery.
Hawk Haven Winery was our second location and it was a completely different experience from the first. We stayed in a small tasting room for the duration of our visit. We were given a sheet with 8 wines we would be tasting to write our tasting notes on. We were also given 3 different types of chocolates (chocolate covered almonds and espresso beans as well as plain milk chocolate) to pair with our wines. It was very casual and aside from a basic tasting note overview not much other information was provided unless asked for. I did enjoy some of the wines from this stop and even purchased a bottle. The winery didn’t have the aesthetic appeal that the first one did and had no seating but they delivered on their product.
Our last stop was Willow Creek Winery in West Cape May. When you drive up you pass an old estate house that looks like a grand plantation. You wind around a long road before pulling up to the actual winery. Upon walking into the tasting room you can’t help but look up. The high beamed ceiling adorned with massive chandeliers is hard to miss. This space was huge. It had sporadic little cul-de-sac’s of leather couches, a tasting bar and an outdoor area to choose from for seating. The winery already had us set up in our own little cluster of couches with a designated sommelier in training to go through our 6 wine tastings. The wine selections at this stop were distinctive from the others we had visited. Although they had some signature reds and whites they also had an apple wine and some sangrias. Our host also mentioned that in the summer they offer wine cocktails that they make from their wines for customers. We were provided with a fruit and cheese platter at this stop (it came after we were done tasting, thanks to a little help from Don from Tastings and Tours). This was my favorite of our stops. Not necessarily because of the wine itself but, it would be the winery I would most likely go back to just to sip and enjoy. It had a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere.
Overall, I think we all had a fantastic time. Our experience with Tastings and Tours was excellent and we were introduced to some great New Jersey wineries along the way. I would recommend using Tastings and Tours private trips for any large group. It made for such a fun and unique outing experience and I know our bachelorette really enjoyed herself!
If you want more information on Tasting and Tours you can go to their website: https://www.tastingsandtours.com/
Reach them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tastings-and-Tours/162705771324
Or follow them on Twitter: @tastingsntours
…all for the love of the dish