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Introduction to the Southern Shore

The Southern Shore region consists of Atlantic and Cape May counties. While best known for famous beach resort towns like Atlantic City, Wildwood, and Cape May, the area also has hundreds of thousands of acres of pine forests interspersed with small farms. The climate of this region is similar to that of the winegrowing regions of France and Italy, and the acidic soil of the Pine Barrens is perfect for grapes. The area near Egg Harbor City has had vineyards since the 1860s, and in recent years Hammonton has become the epicenter of New Jersey wine production.

All of the wineries in this region are part of the Outer Coastal Plain Viticultural Area, which includes most of South Jersey. Because the Southern Shore has warmers winters than other parts of New Jersey, it's possible to grow Southern European vinifera varieties like Dolcetto or Tempranillo. Fruit wines are big business here, often made from locally-grown blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, and peaches, but also including more exotic crops such as beach plums and huckleberries. Most of these wineries are members of the Garden State Wine Growers Association.

I break this region into two road trips. The first seven wineries are in Atlantic County. Although I do not have a favorite winery, this is my favorite wine trail, and nobody that I have taken to these wineries has been disappointed. The Atlantic County wineries are the largest and oldest in the state, but at the same time they are all family-owned and give very personal service. While all the road trips in the book are scenic, this one is the most likely to make you feel as though you are in the French or Italian countryside.

The remaining six wineries are in Cape May County. Just fifteen years ago, Cape May County was a non-entity in the winery world which is surprising considering its good climate and soil. With easy access from the shore towns, today this is the most popular wine trail in the state. In order to avoid tourist crowds, visit when they first open in the morning or during the off-season. At the time of this book's writing, the Cape May wineries are trying to get the federal government to recognize a new viticultural area known as the Cape May Peninsula AVA.

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