The rows of grapes stretch along the gravel driveway leading into Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery, a Cape May County winery that produces 42,000 bottles per year.
The winery is open every day, but Sundays are different because of “Sangria Sundays,” when it brings in live music, invites guests to sit underneath tents on the lawn, and offers three varieties of the wine-and-juice mixture.
Wineries throughout the state’s blossoming industry have been using special events such as these to draw people to sample their varietals and hopefully develop a loyal following — by promoting picnics, playing jazz music, offering brick-oven pizzas and even hosting movie nights.
Now, a newly enacted state law may make the events even more important for winegrowers, who can now ship their product directly to some consumers.
A weekend visitor or vacationer can now become a repeat customer all year.
“Every time you get a new customer in, you get a better chance of being able to ship to somebody,” said Todd Wuerker, an owner of Hawk Haven whose grandfather bought the land in 1940 as a dairy farm. “The event’s a good thing. It gets some draw, gets the name of the winery out, gets that customer aware of the product.”
The winery, which has been open for three years, several weeks ago started another special event on Saturdays, with live music and food.
New Jersey’s wine industry has grown in the past decade and the state is now home to more than 40 wineries, including many in southern New Jersey, according to the Garden State Winegrowers Association.
Last month, a new law took effect that opened markets for New Jersey wineries to ship their products directly to consumers, something that had been banned.
The law allowed state wineries to ship as many as 12 cases of wine per year to a New Jersey resident.
Wineries can also apply for licenses in the 38 other states that permit direct shipping of wine, according to the Garden State Winegrowers Association.
At Natali Vineyards in Middle Township, agro-tourism is drawing visitors to the winery, particularly for those who take a wine trail for local wineries, said Elizabeth Franco, Natali Vineyards’ director of marketing.
The vineyard hosts “Wine Down Wednesdays,” featuring music, horseshoes and bocce while it sells wine by the bottle or for tasting.
With the new wine law, customers — particularly those on vacation — who drop by in the summer for winery tours and events can now become customers later in the year.
“That’s the most important part of our events this summer, getting those repeat customers. The vineyard is sometimes the experience you won’t do every time, but if you like the wine, you can have it shipped,” Franco said.
Meanwhile, the impact of the new law is yet to be determined, although it has already become a part of the business plans of some wineries.
Wuerker said he shipped a few orders already, with plans to ship more.
“We’re going to gear our business to taking advantage of the shipping through different wine clubs, wine-of-the-month kinds of things, and that will be what makes the shipping work,” he said.
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