This has been a good year for New Jersey reds, says Cape May Winery owner Toby Craig.

The dry weather during harvest season has yielded a crop of cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes with a high sugar content, which produces a fuller flavor, he reports.

"The problem is a lot of water during harvest," he says. "You don't want a lot of rain because that water sucks up all the sugar content and you don't have that high quality flavor. Growers came up to high standards this year; so in two years, the reds should be really good."

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You can taste this year's vintages at the 2014 Cape May Wine Festival, after they've sat for two years. But this weekend, you can judge for yourself whether 2010 was a good year for locally-grown reds - or last year's whites, or this year's blueberries - at the sixth annual Cape May Wine Festival.

Jingo Jive will provide music Saturday while the Funktion Band entertains Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at the historic Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal. Guests may purchase a souvenir wine tasting glass and use it to try a variety of offerings from 23 New Jersey wineries.

Craig, who bought Cape May Winery eight years ago when it was just a small operation in someone's garage, said he quickly sells out of his port - which won the governor's award this year - and reserve wine by the time the festival rolls around. But he'll have cases of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, as he's enchanted by those reds right now.

Natali Vineyards, a relative newcomer in Cape May Court House, has a name to make after a few years away from the festival, says Elizabeth Franco, the winery's director of marketing and events.

The event is sponsored by the Garden State Growers Association, which requires all the wines sampled be made from fruit grown within the state. That means winemaker Al Natali's star fruit wine, a banana flavor usually paired with peanuts, won't be available for tastings.

"Our fruit wines are very popular because we're one of the only wineries that don't use concentrate, it's 100 percent real fruit," Franco says. "So we do offer pairings; maybe chocolate with the merlot, wasabi peas with the pinot grigio."

But the vineyard will offer wines made from Hammonton blueberries and Mullica cranberries, alongside Natali's 2011 yield of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, moscato, and all those rich reds from 2010.

Contact Felicia Compian:


Cape May Wine Festival

Held noon to 5 p.m. at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal on Saturday and Sunday. Cost is $25 per day or $40 for a weekend pass. Advance tickets for $20 are available at Free shuttles will be available from alternate lot at Ferry Road, Lincoln Boulevard and Shun Pike Road from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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