Cape Gazette


Nassau Valley Vineyards pioneered state's wine industry

Family business celebrating 20th anniversary this year
By Ron MacArthur | Jan 02, 2014
Photo by: Ron MacArthur Chardonnay grapes – one of four types of grapes grown at Nassau Valley – glisten in the sun.

Late each summer and early fall, something magical is set into motion on a 6-1/2-acre plot of land near Lewes. It's during this time that Nassau Valley Vineyards harvests vinifera grapes for some of its 15 different wines.

As the only vineyards in Sussex County, Nassau Valley is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It was two decades ago that Peggy Raley-Ward talked her father, Bob, into getting into the wine business on their family farm.

It was the Raleys who pioneered Delaware's wine industry in 1991 by lobbying to change state law to allow for wine production. Two years later, the Raley's winery opened for business.

They grow Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

NVV has received more than 190 medals from international wine competitions and has been featured in numerous national magazines, newspapers and TV shows.

Peggy Raley-Ward, co-owner of the vineyards, works picking grapes during the late-summer harvest. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Nick Verderame helps with the harvest of Merlot grapes. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Crates are stacked and ready for another harvest day. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
George Kachnovitz Jr. loads crates of Chardonnay grapes into a waiting truck for transport to the nearby winery. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Nassau Valley Vineyards is celebrating its 20th anniversary. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Shane Kelley, left, and Mike Reese unload grapes to weigh them before the wine-making process gets underway. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Nelson Ayala pours grapes into a masher to drain out the juice. The machine also separates out stems and leaves. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Nassau Valley's winery comes to life during harvest time. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Peggy Raley-Ward and her sister, Suzette Hopkins, are co-owners of Nassau Valley Vineyards. (Source: Submitted)
Wine-maker Mike Reese stirs wine juice in the first step of the process. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Several large stainless steel tanks store wine as it ages. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Merlot grapes sit in a crate after being picked. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Nassau Valley Vineyards resembles wineries in other locales of the country. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Shane Raley and George Kachnovitz Jr. unload crates into the winery. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
A stained-glass window contains the initials of the vineyards, celebrating its 20th anniversary. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Many buildings make up the Nassau Valley winery and events center. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Some of the 15 different types of Nassau Valley wines are on display in the vineyard's shop. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Anyone who knew the late Bob Raley, knows who this wine is named for. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The vineyard's facilities also include a museum devoted to the history of wine. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Over the years, Nassau Valley Vineyards has won dozens of medals for its wines. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The vineyards has grown to include venues for weddings and other special events. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Bottles are lined up for sale in the winery. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Nassau Valley offers room for art and photography exhibits. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Mike Reese uses a pump and vacuum to transfer wine from one tank to another to clean out sediment in a process called racking. The process is done four or five times depending on the type of wine. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
All of the wine juice from the 2013 harvest is stored in 300- to 500-gallon stainless steel fermentation tanks. Bottling will start in early spring of 2014 for most types of wine. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Wine-maker Mike Reese, who has been at Nassau Valley for five years, stands in the middle of French oak barrels containing Indian River Red Vintner's Blend wine. Wine ages up to 14 months in the barrels. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Wine-maker Mike Reese makes adjustments to the vineyard's filtering machine. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The vineyard's bottling machine is old-school, but very effective. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
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