State Profile: Delaware Wine Country

“The First State” proudly adorns Delaware license plates, and Swedish settlers first made wine in 1638. But that small east coast state also has the fewest wineries of any state and, alas, is now one of only three which do not allow direct-to-consumer shipping. Nevertheless, its relatively mild maritime climate is conducive to grape production, as a handful of wineries have shown.

Harvest Ridge Winery & Vineyard, which made its first wines in 2011 and officially opened in 2013, is truly a family farm winery. Chuck and Chris Nunan started it, joined later by sons Chip, Christopher, and Chris, and the family now includes nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren  Located in Marydel, the farm actually straddles two states—Maryland and Delaware—and has witness stone and crown marker #47 certifying its location on the Mason Dixon line. They produce a range of wines including ATV (Aromella, Traminette, Vidal), and feature Rebel Seed Cider to celebrate the plentiful orchards in the area. Philanthropy is also a big part of their operation, particularly for military families, first responders, and children.

Pizzadili Vineyard and Winery, located at the end of Peach Basket Road in Felton, is “a pretty property off the beaten path”, with a pond, shrubs, and acres of vineyards surrounding the small tasting room. They produce about 20 different wines from 12 grape varieties.

Great Grapes: Delaware

The State of Delaware (the First State) was also the origin of the grape of the same name, first identified in 1849. An apparent cross of a Native American cultivar with a slight vitis vinifera component, it is used to make dry, sweet and sparkling white wines, as well as ice wines when the climate cooperates.