When you’re considering a gift for your dog sitter or a souvenir for yourself, think outside the taffy box. Coastal-area wineries provide both a distinctive product and a memorable experience.
Nassau Valley Vineyards, the state’s first winery, is located a few minutes from the Five Points intersection between routes 1 and 9. Although a short ride from downtown Lewes, you’ll feel as though you’ve arrived in a pastoral paradise, complete with mature leafy trees and buildings that resemble structures in Europe or California wine country.
Sussex County native Peggy Raley-Ward started the business in 1993 after she successfully battled the Legislature to allow farm wineries in the state. Today, the award-winning winery offers Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Some wines are named for area landmarks, and the labels feature the work of local artists. You’ll also find original art throughout the winery. Raley-Ward is a blues and jazz performer, and supporting the arts-and-culture scene is part of her mission.
The winery is the perfect setting for a Sunday farmers market, which is held noon to 3 p.m. through Labor Day. During the winery’s operating hours, you’ll find fun gifts with local flair—including wine—in the gift shop.
32165 Winery Way, Lewes • 302-645-9463
Just a few miles inland on Route 9, Brimming Horn Meadery recently opened its doors to introduce the wine-curious to honey wine, which also includes water and yeast. Located in the Milton zip code, it’s also close to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s headquarters, creating a trio of good tastes. You can sip, savor and move to the next site.
Brimming Horn was started by Jon Talkington and Robert Walker Jr., who together have more than 15 years of experience in the craft brewing industry. They also share a passion for mead, which can also include spices, grain, fruit and hops. The partners picked the location for their meadery largely because there are so many area farmers and beekeepers. The interest in agritourism and craft brews is also a bonus.
Mead is an ancient beverage, hence Brimming Horn’s décor, which takes its cue from Nordic lore. Try Freya’s Kiss—a semi-sweet traditional honey mead—and Bjornbar, a dry blackberry mead made with locally grown berries and wildflower honey.
28615 Lewes-Georgetown Highway, Milton • 302-664-1188
Farther south, Salted Vines Vineyard & Winery might seem like the newest of the group, but it’s the evolution of an existing business. For six years, Adrian and Jessica Mobilia owned Fenwick Wine Cellars. They purchased a 26-acre farm farther inland to expand the winery, which resulted in the name change.
The winery, located near Ocean View and Millville, holds regular events, including a summer concert series and Thursday night happy hours for retirees.
32512 Blackwater Road, Frankford • 302-436-1500
Food trucks are often on site at some of these establishments during peak hours but call in advance if you’re looking for a libation with lunch or dinner. Some encourage you to bring your own food. Pay for a tasting, bring a blanket to sit on and sit a spell. You don’t need sand to enjoy a day near the beach.