Todd Wuerker, owner of Hawk Haven Winery and host of the Twilight Meeting in Cape May County, discusses growing wine grapes in Cape May County.

Todd Wuerker, owner of Hawk Haven Winery and host of the Twilight Meeting in Cape May County, discusses growing wine grapes in Cape May County.

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CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - Rutgers University professors, researches and specialists provide educational support to farmers throughout New Jersey year-round. This spring, expert speakers from Rutgers University provided wine grape growers with the latest updates on disease management, IPM, workers protection standards and more at Twilight Meetings held in South and North Jersey. In Cape May County, an informative session was held at Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery in Rio Grande. Local farmers attended this outdoor educational class to learn the latest helpful advances in the wine grape arena.

Jenny Carleo, County Agent, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, provided a hands-on demonstration of a tensioameter, an instrument that measures the amount of water in the soil, that can help farmers to know when to water young vines.

At the meeting, local wine grape growers also learned of the establishment of the Cape May Peninsula American Viticultural Area, encompassing parts of Cape May and Cumberland Counties designated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB designates American Viticultural Areas (AVA) so winemakers can better describe the origin and unique attributes of their wines. Wineries that fall within the new AVA and use at least 85 percent of Cape May Peninsula-grown grapes in their wine will now be able to label their bottles with the new AVA.  Wineries within the new AVA already are within the existing Outer Coastal Plain AVA, making the new viticultural area a sub-AVA, or sub-appellation. 

Todd Wuerker, owner of Hawk Haven Winery and host of the Twilight Meeting in Cape May County, said, “The new AVA is an excellent marketing tool that will bring about a greater demand for wine grapes from our area.” Wuerker knows first-hand of the growth of the wine industry in the region having planted his first grape vines here in 1997.  Today, Wuerker has over 16 acres of vines, creates award winning wines and operates a successful winery in Cape May County.

Kevin Celli, a local winemaker in the region, echoes the importance of the new AVA. “It will bring national and global attention to our region thus creating a need for more wine grape growers in the region.” Celli added, “This is when the resources that Rutgers’ experts have provided to wine grape growers from the beginning becomes even more vital to our future growth. They understand the challenges we face and provide indispensable knowledge and support to all farmers.”

Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station faculty and staff assist commercial farms with information, field research and consultation on various issues related to agriculture, the environment, natural resources management, and integrated pest management.

Jenny S. Carleo, County Agent, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County has been the County Agent and a faculty member of Rutgers University since 2006. She earned her B.S. degree in Agricultural Science from Cook College, Rutgers University in 1999. Following her undergraduate studies she earned a Master of Science in Plant Biology, also from Rutgers in 2003. Carleo is currently the state coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture “Ultra-Niche Crops for the Progressive, New Farmer” project and conducts scientific research on local farms.

Carleo said, “Rutgers has a wealth of valuable information available to farmers and the general public. County Agents are stationed in each County to educate the local people and help them solve problems from an objective viewpoint. This Twilight meeting is a great example of what the University has to offer to New Jersey farmers.”

For more information about the programs offered by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program of Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, please call (609) 465-5115 ext. 3607.

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