Fall Grape Harvest in Cape May 2016

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Cape May, NJ – For Cape May grape growers, 2016 could turn out to be a very good year.

While this year’s summer long drought hurt other crops, it intensified the flavor of local grapes, according to the manager of the Willow Creek Winery’s vineyard.

In mid September, the vineyard’s white Malvasia Bianca grapes were at their peak.

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An unusual assortment of grape pickers showed up one Sunday morning, ready to take scissors to vines.

Volunteers came from Cape May, North Wildwood, even from West Chester, Pennsylvania, ready to spend three hours in the field. Most were wine lovers who relished the chance to harvest the grapes. Some were old hands at the job.

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After some basic instructions, they got down to business, cutting the plump clumps of white grapes from the vines and gently depositing them in plastic containers.¬† (In an email, the Winery says that all volunteers who contribute three hours hours in the field get a ticket to the vineyard’s black tie Harvest Ball.

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Vineyard manager Francisco Maldonado (above) was ecstatic that the weather was sunny. His white grapes were ripe and ready. He knew rain was coming and wanted the grapes picked before the rains could cause havoc in the field.

There were three separate back to back crews of volunteers and vineyard workers scheduled to pick grapes that day. Maldonado estimated that about 20,00 pounds of grapes would be harvested by day’s end.

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The vineyard stretches back from Stevens Street in West Cape May for about 50 acres. Another chunk of land could go into cultivation as early as next year. Willow Creek recently bought the old LeGates Farm in North Cape May.

When would this year’s bumper crop of¬†Malvasia Bianca grapes be ready to drink? Maldonado smiled and said, “Come back in seven months.”

That’s when we’ll find out for sure if 2016 really will go down as a very good year for Cape May wines.

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About Jane Kashlak

Jane Kashlak is a journalist, a gardener and a Cape Island resident. She's also Cape May Times' photographer. She founded Cape May Times after a long and lively career in TV news.