Friday, October 31, 2008

Event Grapevine: Oct. 31-Nov. 2 (and beyond)


Blue Mountain Vineyards, New Tripoli: Fall Foliage Tasting ($$), every Sunday through the end of November, with the exception of Nov. 9, 2 to 5 p.m.,

Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford: Reserve tastings ($$), Saturday, sittings at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m.; Sommelier’s Secrets of Holiday Wine and Food Pairings ($$), Friday, Nov. 7, 7 to 9 p.m., taught by wine educator Marnie Old, reservations at 610.388.6221; Brandywine Valley Wine Trail Vintners’ Dinner ($$),. Longwood Gardens, 6:30 to 11:30 p.m., special guest and speaker is Joel Peterson, winemaker/president and founder of Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, Calif., make online reservations for $135 per person at or call 610.444.3842 or 866.390.4367,

Clover Hill, Breinigsville: Beginner wine tasting class ($$), Saturday, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., reservations required at 1-800-CLOVERHILL,

Clover Mill Farm Vineyards & Winery, Chester Springs: Open again, Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.,

Country Creek Winery, Telford: Country Creek Winery in the Barn ($$), Saturday, Nov. 8, 6 to 9 p.m., Squirrel Tail Breakfast,

Hauser Estate Winery, Biglerville: New winery open, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; Friday Spooktacular, today, 31, 5 to 7 p.m., Happy Hour with live music,

Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery, Andreas: Winter Wine Release, Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2,

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Wrightsville: Music every Saturday (2 to 5 p.m.) and Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.; Halloween party, tonight, 6 to 9 o'clock, with music by A.D. Chandler, best costume wins a prize, bring your scariest food; Vineyard Hike & Mulled Wine ($$), Saturday, Nov. 8, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.,

Naylor Wine Cellars, Stewartstown: Home for the Holidays dinner ($$), Saturday, Nov. 8, 3 to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 9, 2 to 5 p.m., reservations required,


Black Ankle Winery, Mt. Airy: Open for business, winner of Maryland Governor’s Cup in 2008; hours: Wednesday - Friday: noon to 5 p.m., Saturday: noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.,
information on winery at this link

Frederick Wine Cellars, Frederick: Hallo”wine” party, tonight, 7 to 11 o'clock, information
at this link

Other MARYLAND winery events can be found at this link, VIRGINIA events at this link and New York events at this link

$$ – Admission charge

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fall tour: Adams County Winery

Harvest admittedly is the busiest time of the year for wineries, lasting several weeks to more than a month. So now what, John Kramb of Adams County Winery in Orrtanna, Pa., was asked yesterday?

Kramb said he’ll turn his attention to strategic planning. And he’ll certainly keep an eye on what’s going on elsewhere in the operation as we get ready to tear off another calendar sheet and suddenly come face to face with November.

“We are preparing, of course, for Thanksgiving and the holidays,” he said, “getting items in for that, for gifts and stuff. [And] all those grapes we got have to be processed and that includes the crushing, the destemming, the pressing, transferring from tank to tank or what we call racking. That’s the grapes we process this year, and for last year’s grapes we’re doing lots of bottling.”

There is some urgency to getting that done, Kramb said, “because we’re running out of things . . . running out of space and wine. Like, let’s see, so far we’ve done some
Rebel Red and Tears of Gettysburg. T
his month they’re setting up to do our sweet Catawba for bottling. We need to get our apple ready and our Fireside Memories for the holidays. So all of that takes time.”

Kramb said some shoppers will use the bottles for gift baskets. Other will come looking for specific wines because of the time of the year. “Especially with the cold air coming, they’ll like the apple wine mulled,” he said. “The Fireside Memories is good for holiday meals. We also have some new products this year. We have some blackberry wine . . . we have ice wine in limited quantities. So, yes, we’re finding stuff to do.”

That’s the primary reason they take a hiatus from the classes and entertainment that runs primarily from spring into fall. They will welcome a few small tours and plenty of customers through December. In January, Kramb said, they’ll crank up the classes again and begin the cycle anew.

But that’s getting ahead of things, especially in a euphoria of what Kramb called a very good year in the vineyard. “We tried some different growing techniques, which resulted in not only a better crop as far as tonnage but as far as wine quality.” he said. “The sugars, the acids, the pH were all much better. You know, we’ve had some good years, but this one turned out very nicely.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First stop on fall tour: Md.'s Mt. Felix

With harvest now finished and the season starting to wind down, I’d really like over the next month or two to touch base with every winery in my coverage area. And The Vineyards at Mt. Felix Manor is as good as any place to start. Mary and Peter Ianniello opened their winery in Havre de Grace, about a mile off I-95, at the beginning of September.

Peter said earlier today that overall they’ve been happy with how it has gone. “I want to focus on whether or not we’ve been able to service our customers," he said. "And our customers are pleased with our product. So in that sense we feel like we’ve delivered a fine product to the market."

That product includes seven wines: dry red; medium-bodied red; semisweet red; blush; dry white with oak; dry white without oak; and semisweet white. Peter says the full-bodied red, called Adlum's First, has received great feedback. So has the semisweet redm called O'Neal's Bravado.

The winery is open Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 8 p.m., and on Tuesdays by appointment.

He said he feels like this was an outstanding year, in that there were two storms in early September and then “after that had 2 ½ to 3 weeks of dry weather. So what we did was put off our harvest and actually harvested late. Those three weeks were just fantastic. Other than those two storm events, I’d say the local growers had plenty of time to allow their fruit to hang.”

Disappeared? Well, not intentionally

Wow. Who turned the lights out? I deeply apologize for falling off the pace a bit, but the work involved for the Daily News regarding the Phillies and their World Series games, plus the time spent updating my other blog, has robbed me of all my time to track down copy for this one. Oh, and it was midterm week at Temple, and we wouldn't want to see student go without their midterms, would we?

Plan to being making calls again this afternoon and returning to a normal pace. Harvest should be over everywhere, so it's my hope that winemakers and proprietors can find a little more time to talk.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

NY updates on harvest, Web site

Two items from the weekly New York Wine & Grape Foundation e-letter that I'd like to share with you. The latter talks about upgrades to the Foundation's already excellent Web site. If you are looking for states sites that are in-depth, you'll certainly find them not only at the New York site but also for the states of Maryland and Virginia.

From New York director Jim Trezsie comes the following:

KILLING FROST has basically put an end to the 2008 grape harvest in all regions except Long Island, but in most cases that didn’t cause a problem since the season was already winding down. In the Lake Erie, Finger Lakes and Hudson Valley regions, hard frosts last weekend killed the leaves, which halted any further ripening. Galileo described grapes as “sunlight held together by water”, and what ripens the grapes is the sunlight gathered by the leaves, leading to the magic of photosynthesis that we all learned in high school biology. When the leaves are shut down by a killing frost, so is the ripening process. Due to the large bodies of water surrounding it, Long Island has a longer growing season than New York’s other regions, which is a good thing since there are also more late ripening varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. At the other end of the state in the Lake Erie grape belt, Concord grapes (for grape juice) still have some ripening to do (in vineyards not affected by the hard frost) in order to meet required quality levels. In most regions, the crop was larger than expected, and over the quality was very good to excellent. A significant concern, however, was the surplus of some grape varieties which in the past have had strong demand.


WWW.NEWYORKWINES.ORG now has a new look, several new features, and enhanced navigational tools to get you where you want to go faster, thanks to months of work by our own Susan Spence. The home page is designed to help you find the information you’re looking for as quickly as possible through a new “Search” option, a continually updated listing of special events, a place to sign up for the Wine Press, and ways to quickly reach other parts of the site like wine regions or award-winning wines. The Search feature allows you to type in the name of a winery (or restaurant or retailer) and get the contact information directly, along with restaurants and retailers we know have carried their wines in the past (and we hope still do). The major sections remain the same, but with new graphics updated content: Wine Country lets you go right to the various regions, and includes maps and direct links; Information Station includes a wealth of information about our industry; Wine Locator helps you identify stores and restaurants in your area which carry New York wines; New York Gold includes a continually updated listing of award winning wines searchable by wine type or wine competition; Corkboard invites postings, Wineline lets you sign up for the Wine Press, and the Contact Us is for correspondence (which we read and respond to when we can).

Wine Grapevine: Oct. 25-Nov. 2 (& beyond)


Adams County Winery, Ortanna: Halloween at the Winery, today, noon to 4 p.m.,

Blue Mountain Vineyards, New Tripoli: 11th annual Hallowine Tasting ($$), tonight, 5 to 9 o’clock; Fall Foliage Tasting ($$), every Sunday through the end of November, with the exception of Nov. 9, 2 to 5 p.m.,

Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford: Reserve tastings ($$), Saturday, sittings at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m., Spiced Apple Sunday ($$), Oct. 26, noon to 5 p.m., picnic on the grounds, music from 2 to 5 p.m., tours and tastings, fee is for hot mulled wine tastings; Sommelier’s Secrets of Holiday Wine and Food Pairings ($$), Friday, Nov. 7, 7 to 9 p.m., taught by wine educator Marnie Old, reservations at 610.388..6221,

Clover Hill, Breinigsville: Beginner wine tasting class ($$), Saturday, Nov. 1, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., reservations required at 1-800-CLOVERHILL,

Clover Mill Farm Vineyards & Winery, Chester Springs: Open again, Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.,

Country Creek Winery, Telford: Country Creek Winery in the Barn ($$), tonight, 6 to 9 p.m., Hank’s Cadillac; next one is Nov. 8,

Crossing Vineyards & Winery, Washington Crossing: Harvest Winemaker’s Dinner ($$), tonight, starting at 7:30, five-course dinner with Crossing’s award-winning reds; Wine Tasting for Dummies ($$), Sunday, Oct. 26, 2 p.m., at East Falls classroom,

Hauser Estate Winery, Biglerville: New winery open, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; October Onward, Friday, Oct. 31, 5 to 7 p.m., Happy Hour with live music,

Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery, Andreas: Winter Wine Release, Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2,

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Wrightsville: Music every Saturday (2 to 5 p.m.) and Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.; Halloween party, Friday, Oct. 31, 6 to 9 p.m., with music by A.D. Chandler,

Mount Hope Estate and Winery, Manheim: Annual Mount Hope Wine Sale, 25 percent discount mix and match, goes through the end of October,

Naylor Wine Cellars, Stewartstown: Home for the Holidays dinner ($$), Saturday, Nov. 8, 3 to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 9, 2 to 5 p.m., reservations required,


Black Ankle Winery, Mt. Airy: Open for business, winner of Maryland Governor’s Cup in 2008; hours: Wednesday - Friday: noon to 5 p.m., Saturday: noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.,
information on winery at this link

Frederick Wine Cellars, Frederick: Hallo”wine” party, Friday, Oct. 31, 7 to 11 p.m., information
at this link

Other MARYLAND winery events can be found at this link, VIRGINIA events at this link and New York events at this link

$$ – Admission charge

Friday, October 24, 2008

At Twin Brook, another harvest is over

Passing along my sincere thanks to winemaker Jason Price at Twin Brook Winery in Gap, Pa. He was kind enough to respond to a question about what’s going at his winery.

He wrote: “harvest is officially over. cab sauv was picked on wed and that emptiedthe vineyard. the frost sunday into monday turned all the leaves brown and that pretty much means pick what remains. luckily cab franc was ripe andready, so we got all the franc off on monday. we would have wanted to leave sauv on a bit longer, but nature dictated the schedule. fortunately the sauv fruit was acceptable and with some fastidious winemaking we will be ableto produce an excellent sauv for 2008. we looked ahead and did a green harvest in august, so that helped. also, with bleeding and other tricks we should get the hearty sauv we all love to drink. overall, 2008 was challenging. a lot of rain meant worrisome sleep and extended hours. the early cold forced us to pick the cabs a little early. but believe it or not, I am more excited about the 2008 wines than the 2007. there is a little more challenge, but so far the fruit has produced some awesome early wines. i just racked the 08 vignoles the other day and the whole place smelled of tropical fruits. good enough for me."

A few notes from Sand Castle Winery

Let me post these entries from the newsletter of Sand Castle Winery in Erwinna, Pa., a member of the Bucks County Wine Trail.

* Pinot Noir was harvested after foggy mornings and dry sunny days and it is showing its superior quality in the freshly made wine. Chardonnay harvest was like a dream. The grapes falling off the stems with minimum shaking during the harvest with the mechanical harvester. Riesling held its own until October and we will have great Late Harvest. We will finish harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon this week and the vineyards will start a new season with pruning, tying, hedging, cultivating etc.

* We just finished harvest. Come and help yourself. You are welcome to pick grapes which are left in vineyard and make yourself the Late Late Harvest wine.

* Sand Castle will have a kiosk this holiday season at Montgomery Mall in North Wales, PA . We will be centrally located on the first floor. Look for the Sand Castle Banner. Stop by and taste our famous hot Alpine Spice Wine.

* Route 32 River Road will be open Friday, Oct. 25 and FINALLY you can go from the
winery north on Rt. 32 to Rt. 611 and vise versa!

* What wine should you serve with Thanksgiving dinner? This is a popular question this time of the year. Let’s break down what makes up a typical Thanksgiving Dinner: some appetizers before dinner, turkey both white and dark meat, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, squash, and dessert.

Before dinner to accompany appetizers two wines work very well Sand Castle Classic Chardonnay, for the dry wine lovers and Sand Castle Cuvee Blush, for the semi-sweet wine drinkers. Both wines do not over power appetizers and will stimulate the taste buds. Also both wines are medium in body; the last thing that is needed is a big red, with such a filling dinner planned.

The perfect wine for dinner would be Sand Castle Pinot Noir, most wines do not have the ability to accompany such a variation of flavors presented at a Thanksgiving dinner. The wine must be
able to pair with turkey that is not overly powerful, gravy that is rich and fatty, dressing that is powerful with loads of herbs, cranberry sauce that is sharp tangy. Pinot Noir does all that and
remember when your drink wine with food the wine does not taste as dry as when you drink wine without food.

Sand Castle Late Harvest Johannisburg Riesling is the wine to complete the perfect meal. It pairs wonderfully with sweet desserts be it pumpkin pie, rich chocolate or cream covered
dishes. We hope your holiday is a wonderful and thankful event.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pa. sets sites for Beaujolais tastings Nov. 20

One of my favorite times of the wine calendar, the middle of November when the first wine of the new season is released, is celebrated in a number of ways across the region. Beaujolais Nouveau Day officially comes around the third Thursday in November and it's a chance to see and taste what was ust on the vine five or six weeks ago.

Several wineries and trails, such as the Bucks County Wine Trail, celebrate a Nouveau Release, just in time for the holiodays. Personally, there's nothing that adds as much to the Thanksgiving table than a few bottles of Beaujolais . . . oh, except maybe for that apple pie that follows two hours later.

The folks who run the state stores in Pennsylvania have also gotten on board, and who can blame them. Among the first of the French Boujolias tastings, free to the public, will occur on Nov. 20 in three locations:

* in Harrisburg, at the Harrisburg Hilton, One North Second St., from 5 to 7 p.m.

* in Philly, at the Sofitel Philadelphia, 107 S. 17th St., from 5 to 7 p.m.

* and in Pittsburgh, at the Renaissance Hotel, 107 Sixth St., from 5 to 7 p.m.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Serendipity, indeed, at Loew Vineyards

Based on the number of wineries in the vicinity of Mt. Airy, Md., you might think that you’re somewhere in the middle of Napa instead of eastern Frederick County.

There are four located to the north and south of Maryland Route 26, all members of the
Frederick Wine Trail and all within a 10- or 15-minute drive from each other. One is Loew Vineyards, owned by Bill and wife Lois, who bought their 37-acre farm and planted their first vines in 1982. By 1986, they were bottling their first wine.

In all, they produce 17 wines, a combination of appealing to varied palates and Bill’s candidly admitting that “whenever I come up with a new wine my wife wouldn’t let me terminate any other wines.” They offer types that most would recognize: a Caernet, Riesling and Chardonnay. And others called Celebration, Twilight and Classic Red that virtually no one would recognize without a bit of an introduction. But Bill said last night that he doesn’t think unfamiliarity is such a bad thing. “You know, people do like something different to taste and to take home rather than the stuff they recognize,” he said. “So we have different wines.” One is called Country Classic that, he said, “is a very nice red wine blended with blackberries. It’s a delightful drink. I came up with that wine five or six years ago, and it has been very successful.”

So have what he calls his two signature wines, one called Serendipity and the other called Raspberry in Grape. Serendipity is made out of a grape called
Reliance, which is seedless and pink when fully mature. Released in Arkansas in 1982, Bill Loew said he was communicating with the grape’s developer the following year. “You know, I got maybe like 30 vines at that time and I planted it and, I tell you, after three years we had really nice grapes. That grapes was so wonderful by itself that I just had to make some wine out of it. Since that time I’ve planted more than an acre of that grape . . . it really has a lovely taste . . . a grapefruit aftertone and maybe some melon. Very nice, very palatable. Just nice sipping wine.”

That’s what he also calls the Raspberry in Grape, which blends Vidal Blanc with raspberries into a sweet and tasty mix.”

Meanwhile, what was a “count-em-on-one-hand group” of wineries for many years has turned blossomed into a list in the mid 30s across Maryland. Yet it doesn’t seem to be crimping business. A ride down to Black Ankle Winery a couple Saturdays ago, for instance, took us past Elk Run Vineyards, which at a glance appeared quite crowded. A couple miles away, the same was the case as just-opened Black Ankle.

“I attend two wine festivals,” Bill said, “and of course when we started we had like seven or eight wineries. All of a sudden [that has] mushroomed to 22 wineries at one wine festival. So, yes, we do have more competition and I suppose things will kind of adjust itself as it goes along. I cannot tell you with any prediction how things will end, but so far it’s working pretty well.”

Monday, October 20, 2008

Black Walnut plowing toward opening

Posted a story last month on Black Walnut Winery in Sadburyville, Chester County, a hop, skip and a jump off Route 30 as it heads east onto the bypass toward Coatesville and Downingtown.

Co-owner Lance Castle talked then about opening in a month or so. Well, that month flew by in a blur, as it usually does for anyone trying to tie all the final loose ends and open the doors. Castle said earlier today that the opening “probably is going to be closer to mid- to late December than late November, which is what I was hoping for.”

Castle said he just received approval on all of his labels and brought them to the printer last Friday. Meanwhile, the last bit of work continues on his 198-year-old bank barn that will serve as the tasting room. “We put in an underfloor,” Castle said, “to support it up. It was an antique shop and a residence, so they wanted us to bring the grade of the building up . . . so we had to rip out the old floor and put in a new sub-floor. And I have to put in the new tongue and groove floor and get it sanded and finished. But the ceilings are done, the walls are done … the fireplace is almost all stripped and ready to go. So I’ve made a lot of progress.”

Once it open, the winery will become the seventh member of the
Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, which recently completed its Harvest Fest Celebration and now turns its attention toward the annual Vintners’ Dinner Celebration on Saturday night, Nov. 8, at Longwood Gardens.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The view from NY: Biz booming this fall

Saw these two items in the weekly New York e-letter and thought I'd share them. From what I've seen, business indeed does seem to be good at most wineries despite the economy, although we'll see over the next couple of weeks if we can't get more concrete evidence of that.

2008 GRAPE HARVEST is moving right along, with another week of cooperative weather ripening the grapes so vineyard crews and winemakers can get them into presses, tanks and barrels. Cornell Cooperative Extension’s weekly “Veraison to Harvest” e-letter reported basically good news from all regions of the state in terms of both quantity and quality. Cash registers also are humming along, according to several winery owners I spoke with this week, with Columbus Day weekend bringing record visitors and sales to some despite (or maybe because of) the country’s dreary financial climate. The harvest should be pretty much over by Halloween except on Long Island where some of the late-ripening red varieties are left hanging into November.

FRESH TABLE GRAPES are a very small and fleeting but delightful part of our industry, and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle did a great job reminding people of the tasteful treats all around them this time of year. As with wine grapes, New York grows a wide variety of table grapes—some seeded like Concord, Catawba and Niagara and others seedless like Himrod, Marquis and Vanessa which were developed by Cornell University scientist Bruce Reisch. They are truly nature’s candy: sweet and tempting, but with natural sugar and other substances that are good for you. Since supply is limited, many of the grapes are available only at U-pick farms and roadside farmers’ markets, but they’re definitely worth seeking out. The same edition of the paper had a great article about the many wineries which will soon host winemakers’ dinners to celebrate the end of the harvest.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Event Grapevine: Oct. 17-19

Sugarloaf Winery, Dickerson, Md.
Grape Stomp
Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

One of the great joys of updating this blog is having the excuse to call Jim McKenna, co-owner of
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard in Dickerson, Md. There isn’t a story he hasn’t seen fit to tell, including where he got the idea for the Grape Stomp, which will be held for the second time this weekend at his Frederick County winery after a successful debut last year.

“My wife and I used to own a house down in Virginia, in the northern neck of Virginia,” he said the other day, “and a guy down there who’s a heck of a promoter put in a vineyard and he had a stomp and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really sounds kind of cool, and it went over very, very well. Bill Westbrook, I think his name is. . . . He was up in New York and he was a real maker and a shaker, but he loved it down in northern neck, and in this little town, and so he decided he’d put in this vineyard. He didn’t build a winery. Not yet anyway. He may some day. And he had this stomp and I thought, now, the reason why I thought it would be a success is because he actually pulled a Tom Sawyer on the townsfolk. You have to guess what he did. His place is called White Fences, and he literally managed to snooker about 60 people to come in and to pay 10 dollars apiece to have the privilege of painting his fence, and they came in. And I thought, if this guy can pull this thing off, then he knows what he’s doing. So I followed his lead on the stomp . . . we decided to go ahead and do it, and we really were playing it off the seat of our pants, and we got a couple of bands, one on a Saturday and one on a Sunday, and then we stole the idea of how to try to do this thing. We took half a barrel, three half-barrels, and put them up on a platform. Now we didn’t get as elaborate as he did; I mean he got the thing to be on springs and do all sorts of stuff. But we decided that could just simply put it on tilt and we could have little contests.

So we put them up on the platform and we have the three half-barrels and we have a little contest of 30 seconds you stomp away, and I play the
tarantella, cause I kind of like that … dat-da-dat-da-dat-da-da . . . that kind of thing . . . I have a little boombox, and they really got into it. Mostly it was little kids and women of any age. The men they’re too machismo, nahhh, that’s beneath their dignity. But the women loved it and so when the band takes a break for about 20 minutes or a half-hour, I have a bullhorn and I say whatever comes into my head and get them going. And whoever gets the most juice out of the there gets a free glass of wine. And if it’s a kid we give them a chocolate bar or something like that. And so it’s been a great attraction. We had had about a thousand people or more last years and we expect maybe twice as many this year. We’ve had a lot of interest.”

McKenna said the grapes of choice for the stomp are brought in from other vineyards; last year they were a mix of 60 percent Chambourcin from Pennsylvania and 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Virginia. And, no, the juice did not go into a bottle, although indirectly the stomp provided the impetus for a new wine by the same name.

“We weren’t searching out the finest wine grapes,” McKenna said, continuing his story. We were looking to find something that people would go stomping on. But the funny part of it is, once we finished with the stomp after the two days . . . we had all these grapes left over, and we said, ‘Well, what are we going to do with them?’ And decided, let’s make some wine. That’s the
Stomp wine. Now some people look at you kind of funny and think, ‘Am I drinking wine that somebody’s feet have been on?’ And we have to tell them, ‘No, no, no, don’t be worried about that.’ It’s regular grapes that were left over and then we put a lot of sugar in it. Let me just tell you. It’s our fun wine, but it sells.”

One other note. The winery has been looking for volunteers to work the stomp, essentially pouring wine samples. For doing that, you would receive free admission, a complimentary bottle of Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard wine, and a chance to hear Jim orchestrate the tarantella. In other words, a pretty doggone good time. Training is provided. Contact Kathy O'Donoghue at or 30.-365.5044 or call Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard at 301.605.0130.

As for what else is on the docket this weekend, take a look:


Adams County Winery, Ortanna: Saturday, home winemaking class with John, the vintner; 1 to 3 p.m., tuition is $25 and reservations are required. You’ll learn tricks of the trade and how to get the best product from a kit,

Amore Vnieyards, Bath: Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday,

Big Creek Vineyard, Kunkletown: Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday,

Blue Mountain Vineyards, New Tripoli: Fall Foliage Tasting ($$), Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.; Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday,

Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford: Reserve tastings ($$), Saturday, sittings at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m., Spiced Apple Sundays ($$), Oct. 19 and 25, noon to 5 p.m., picnic on the grounds, music from 2 to 5 p.m., tours and tastings, fee is for hot mulled wine tastings; Wine 101: The Basics ($$), Thursday, Oct. 23, 7 to 9 p.m., learn how to taste, how to identify basic wine types & styles and how to order and buy the wines you like successfully and confidently. Reservations at 610.388.6221,

Cherry Valley Vineyards, Saylorsburg: Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday,

Clover Hill, Breinigsville: Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., wine pairings and cooking demonstrations,

Clover Mill Farm Vineyards & Winery, Chester Springs: Open again, Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.,

Country Creek Winery, Telford: Country Creek Winery in the Barn, Saturday, 6 to 9 p.m., the Britton Brothers,

Crossing Vineyards & Winery, Washington Crossing: Wine Tasting for Singles ($$), Friday, 7 to 9 p.m.; Wine Tasting for Dummies ($$), Sunday, 2 p.m.; Harvest Winemaker’s Dinner ($$), Saturday, Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m., five-course dinner with Crossing’s award-winning reds,

Hauser Estate Winery, Biglerville: New winery open, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.,

Franklin Hill Vineyards, Bangor: Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday,

Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery, Andreas: Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday,

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Wrightsville: Music Friday (6 to 9 p.m.) and Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.; Meet the Artist Reception, Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m., Jim Sullenberger, with original music by A.D. Chandler and his Imaginary Band,
Mount Hope Estate and Winery, Manheim: Annual Mount Hope Wine Sale, 25 percent discount mix and match, goes through the end of October,

Naylor Wine Cellars, Stewartstown: Home for the Holidays dinner ($$), Saturday, Nov. 8, 3 to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 9, 2 to 5 p.m., reservations required,

Pinnacle Ridge, Kutztown: Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday,

Sand Castle Winery, Erwinna: Harvest Festival, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Cabot Cheese will be there Saturday, noon to 4 p.m., for wine and cheese pairings, cellar tours, $5, tastings of nine wines, $5, you can also be there as they crush the Cabernet grapes, see how that’s done and be afford ed a taste,

Vynecrest Winery, Breinigsville: Chambourcin Weekend on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, Saturday and Sunday,

Va La Vineyards, Avondale: The Last Little Vineyard Concert of the Summer, Saturday, Far Cat Bar B Q, The Fat Cat Jazz Trio, open 12:01 to 5:54 p.m. Saturday and Sundays (no, this is not a misprint),


Black Ankle Winery, Mt. Airy: Open for business, winner of Maryland Governor’s Cup in 2008; hours: Wednesday - Friday: noon to 5 p.m., Saturday: noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.,
information on winery at this link

Linganore Wine Cellars, Mt. Airy:
Vintage Jazz Wine Festival ($$), Saturday and Sunday,
information at this link

Other MARYLAND winery events can be found at
this link, VIRGINIA events at this link and New York events at this link


Shrewsbury Fall Fest, Shrewsbury, Pa., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Shrewsbury Historic Village, Seven Valleys Vineyard & Winery will be offering tastings and light appetizers in their Shrewsbury shop,
information at this link

Autumn Wine Festival ($$), Salisbury, Md., Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 12:30 to 6 p.m., $20 in advance, $25 at the gate, includes glass and tastings,
information at this link

$$ – Admission charge

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lots to like about trip to Black Ankle

Even Sarah O’Herron looked a wee bit surprised last Saturday afternoon at the number of visitors buzzing around the bar in the Black Ankle Vineyards tasting room in Mt. Airy, Md.

Having been forced to push back the opening a couple of months, she and husband Ed Boyce had finally cleared the final hurdle and turned the lights on at noon the previous Saturday, Oct. 4. But you wouldn’t have known that the estate winery, one that uses only grapes it grows on the 146-acre farm in Frederick County, had just opened for business by the size of the crowds that kept O’Herron and two others jumping from one end of the bar to the other, greeting people, pouring samples of a few of the wines that Black Ankle produces, and then stepping over to the cash register to ring someone else out.

While the delay might have been agonizing, it probably was a blessing. Black Ankle already had started to reap the benefits of positive publicity from those who had visited the winery and saw firsthand the investment and energy of the couple. Then came the Maryland Governor’s Cup competition in September and, lo and behold, the winery that hadn’t officially opened for business yet was seeing its top-of-the-line red, a blend called
Crumbling Rock ($40), finish atop the list as the grand-prize winner. Indeed, look up on a shelf above the bar and there’s the Cup, standing amid bottles of Black Ankle wine.

Tastings were $5 apiece, and we were served several splashes of three reds -- the Passeggiata ($22), the Syrah ($26) and the Cosecha ($26) – and three whites – the Gruner Veltliner ($30), the Chardonnay ($22) and the Bedlam 2006 ($22). We followed up by purchasing glasses of the Albarino ($30) and
Bedlam 2007, ($30, winner of the 2008 Winemasters’ Tasters Choice Award) just to sample a couple more whites.

We had the choice of finding a seat inside the cozy, high-ceilinged tasting room that was built primarily of materials found on the farm, or in an adjacent breezeway that is designed to cool guests in the summer and warm them in the winter, or at one of the outdoor tables, where we could admire the rolling countryside that stretches out in every direction from the tasting room. On a cloudless day with temperatures in the 70s, outside seemed like the perfect choice. And it was.

From York it took a little over an hour, zipping down 83 and west on Mt. Carmel Road and into Westminster, then south on Route 27 and, after a few twists and turns that included driving past 25-year-old
Elk Run Vineyards, we drove up Black Ankle Lane and turned right onto the long driveway that leads to the winery. It's one of four wineries with a Mt. Airy address that sit within a few miles of each other, and all should benefit as Black Ankle continues to gain more regional and national exposure.

And as that coverage expands, expect more days like we had there: enjoying not only the wine and the view but the joy of people-watching as they made themselves at home in a room that has a passive solar design and a masonry fireplace that should add a capital "C" to the word comfortable when folks visit through the winter months.

Posting a few photos with this account of both outside and inside the tasting room. If you’re interested in seeing the various stages of construction, click
Oh, what did we take home? Well, it was hard to quibble with any of the samples. Determined to take along a white and a red, we settled on the Albarino -- as much because of the uniqueness of finding an East Coast winery that even makes it in addition to how good it tasted (the Gruner Veltliner was a very close second) -- and the Passeggiata, a wine that's 100 percent Syrah and 110 percent delicious.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

MD's Woodhall announces fall wine dinners

The lovely and hospitable folks at Woodhall Wine Cellars in Parkton, Md., just off I-83 on the way south to Baltimore, have just announced plans for four fall wine dinners. They will be served on each of the first four Saturdays in November at Patricia Della Casual Fine Dining, located just out the front door of the tasting room. The "gourmet, five-course wine dinner" will cost $60 per person, not including tax and gratuity, using wines selected by the owners and winemaker (Chris Kent) of Woodhall.

Reservations are required. Seatings will be 6 and 8 p.m. each evening. Call 410.357.5078 to make your reservation.

Here's what the menu looks like:

Nov. 1 and 15

A panned seared scallop with a blood orange gastrique and
A filet mignon rosette with an agave nectar wasabi crème fraiche

Butternut Squash and roasted red pepper bisque

Baby spinach, red onion and dried apricot salad
with a maple tarragon dressing

Striped Bass with a white wine sauce featuring
limes, shallots and picholines

Blood orange sorbet

Nov. 8 and 22

A jumbo prawn with persimmon coulis and a lamb chop encrusted
With macadamia nuts served with a sweet pineapple BBQ sauce

Roasted tomato and basil soup

Mixed green, apple slices and candied pecans
with a maple tarragon dressing

Filet mignon filled with herb encrusted goat cheese served
with a balsamic reduction

Praline semifreddo

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Squeezing out news across the region

Wycombe Vineyard in Furlong, Pa., has announced that beginning Oct. 17 it will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.

The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail still has openings for its Vintners' Dinner Celebration on Saturday, Nov. 8, at Longwood Gardens, Pa. Joel Peterson, the winemaker and president of Ravenswood Winery, in California, will be the guest speaker. Dinner, wine pairing and dancing to the Brass Ensemble of the Kennett Symphony of Chester County is all included. The event will run from 6:30 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $135 per person. Black tie is optional. You can sign up by calling 866. 390.4367 or 610.444.3842 or fill out the online form.

Wine writer
Dave McIntyre, one of the creators of the Regional Wine Week that ran through last week, said by e-mail today that "we averaged well over 100 hits each day last week . . . plus 150 yesterday after Robin Garr plugged Kentucky wines to his mailing list." To catch up on everything that was written during Regional Wine Week, visit

Oct. 25 Harvest Dinner still has openings

Some seats remain for the Harvest Winemaker's Dinner Oct. 25 at Crossing Vineyards and Winery in Washington Crossing, Pa.

Vintner Tom Carroll Jr. will share with guests Crossing’s new focus on its red varietals during a five-course gourmet dinner and wine pairing beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the winery, 1853 Wrightstown Road. The meal will feature the winery’s latest award-winning reds, Cabernet Franc ’06 and Cabernet Sauvignon ’06.

Cost of the dinner is $89, plus tax and gratuity. Entrée substitutions may be arranged in advance. Seating is limited. Reservations may be made by calling 215.493.6500, ext. 19, or online at the winery's Web site. Directions to the winery also may be found there.

We just posted about Crossing and its five-year anniversary as part of last week's Regional Wine Week series. While it has earned plenty of attention for its whites - its 2005 Chardonnay won “Best of Class – Top Gold” in the 2006 Starwine International Wine Competition – producing world-class reds in Pennsylvania’s short growing season is more challenging, says Carroll, who, with his parents owns the winery. “It’s hard for East Coast wineries to be respected for their later-ripening varietals,” he said, but Crossing has embraced the challenge. And it has met with success, he said. The Cabernet Franc ’06 earned a Critic’s Gold in May at the Critics Challenge International Wine Competition in San Diego and the Cabernet Sauvignon ’06 won a Critic’s Silver in that competition, as well as bronze medals this year at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in Rochester, N. Y. and the Keystone Wine Competition in Mystic, Conn.

Crossing’s wines will be paired with each dinner course, beginning with cornmeal cake with fig and walnut sauce, paired with Blanc de Blancs (NV), followed by cream of butternut squash soup with roasted apples, paired with Vintner’s Select White (NV) and Blush (NV), then apple cider brined grilled pork chop served with golden raisin and sausage bread pudding and haricots verts, paired with Chardonnay ’07, Apple wine (NV) and the Cabernet Sauvignon ’06.

Dessert will be pumpkin caramel tart, paired with Late Harvest Vidal Blanc ’06, followed by a cheese course of Buche de Chevre, Dorothea, Mountain Gorgonzola with multigrain crackers, paired with the Cabernet Franc ’06.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Abruzzo is 'main course' at Berwyn on Thursday

Still looking for something to do this Thursday night?

One choice is the next in the series of five-course wine dinners at
Trattoria San Nicola Berwyn, 668 Lancaster Ave. This one will feature foods and wines from the Abruzzo region.

A call to the restaurant Monday afternoon found about 15 spots left to fill. Those who intend to register need to call 610.296.3141 and secure a spot by providing a credit card number. The restaurant accepts Visa and Mastercard only.

It’s a dinner series that has been ongoing for several years, each scheduled for a Thursday evening and pairing foods and wines from a region in Italy. The cost is $65 per person; tax and gratuity are not included. The ceiling usually is set at 90 guests.

The event will begin at 6:30 with Prosecco served at a welcome reception, with dinner to follow at 7. “Everyone really enjoys it,” a restaurant spokesperson said earlier. “Making new friends, finding out who your neighbors are. We usually get a lot returning guests and they will ask ‘Can we please sit with this other couple that we met last time?’”

menu will include Goat Cheese Truffles with Roasted Peppers over a bed of arugula as a first course, followed by Penne Amatriciana and Pan Seared Halibut with Artichoke Hearts and Saffron Broth. A fourth course will feature Capreto Cacio e Uova: Lamb with Cheese and Egg Sauce. Room for dessert? How about Parrozzo, traditional Abruzzo almond cake served with homemade Toasted Almond Gelato?

And what might wow the crowds during the wine series has found itself back on the menu as a seasonal special and occasionally never comes off. “Sometimes that’s how things make their way onto our menu,” the spokesperson said.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Regional Wine Week, Day 7: Allegro Vineyards

A few snapshots of life at Allegro Vineyards, located in The Brogue, Pa.

This is the last of a series of stories on Pennsylvania wineries, covering an area from Gettysburg east to Philly and up to Allentown. It has been done in conjunction with Regional Wine Week, an idea that originally was going to feature stories on regional wines by a few wine writers around the country. Instead, it blossomed into a project that involves coverage of wines in 16 states and Canada and a spot on the Internet where you can read all the blogs and stories.

My goal has been to write about at least one winery on each the five Pennsylvania wine trails that I cover. Certainly, these six I wrote about are just a small percentage of the many that exist in eastern Pennsylvania and Maryland and the others that are in the process of opening their doors. You can go through my archives and read about 25 or 30 others.

A few that I’ve written about are located in and around where I live in central Pennsylvania. They aren’t so much part of a particular trail, but they are connected to a March event called
Uncork York, where visitors pay a flat fee for a passport that gets them into all 11 wineries for a tasting during the month of March.

There’s no question that wine drinkers in York County and environs lean toward sweet. Just peruse the wine lists of
Naylor Wine Cellars, Adams County Winery and Marburg Estate Winery to get a sense of what sells. Allegro Vineyards of The Brogue produces its own share of sweet, semi-sweet and spiced wines along with its share of dry offerings, anchored by its Bordeaux-blend Cadenza.

Like most of the wineries in these parts, you have to find them; generally few are off the exits of any major highways. Such is the case with Allegro, almost an hour’s drive north from Baltimore and 25 minutes or so south of York, requiring a few miles that will challenge your confidence if you’ve never been there before. But the trip is worth it.

The first vines, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, were planted in 1973. Musician brothers John and Tim Crouch put up the winery building in 1980 and the tasting room opened a year later. Carl Helrich and Kris Miller, husband and wife, took over in 2000 with the goal of continuing the winery’s reputation of making delicious European-styled table wines that are reasonably priced.

They grow six varieties of grapes on five acres and maintain what would be comparatively a rustic feel to some of the newer wineries. It’s also distinguished by the fact that it holds no events other than to participate in Uncork. Carl said earlier this year that he decided to stop the food and wine pairing dinners they had hosted for several summers and focus on wine-making.

“The reason why I’m a winemaker is that I love great wine, and I think we can make great wine here,” he said by phone the other day. “I’ve tasted glimpses of great wine from this area, so I know it’s possible. We’ve just got to get a confluence of these parts to come together. We need to have the right vineyard site, the right root stock with the right variety with the right winemaker, the right vineyard manager with the right vintage. All come together and we can blow some minds with the wines we can make here.

“I remember talking to [viticulture extension educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County] Mark Chien at one point and he made some offhand comment that the most interesting wines come from marginal climates. Whether or not that’s true or not, I don’t know. I think there’s a greater truth in that, and I think we’re definitely in a marginal climate for some of these varieties. If you taste California wines, well they taste like sunshine basically. The Pinot Noir tastes like Merlot, it tastes like Cabernet. There are subtle differences, and if you like big fruit bombs, that’s great. But here, you know, our palate is much greater, artistically speaking palate. We end up having a wine that one year will taste one way and one year will taste the other way, just because of the climate or what’s happening in the soil that year. That’s really much more of a naked kind of wine making.

“And . . . [on the East Coast] our lows are pretty low and our highs are pretty high, and I think we’re still trying to figure out how high our highs can get. It’s kind of like life, you know. If you have a life where everything is about the same, your highs aren’t very high. I have two kids, and there’s nothing like when one of the kids does something great. But like today [we had to] take one to the hospital to get stitches, so it’s pretty low then. But you can’t have one without the other, and the same thing goes for winemaking. If everything tastes the same all the time, is that really great tasting, and is that really what a great wine is? I think a great wine for us has got to be a great wine that’s just unique. It’s not going to be a fruit bomb, but it’s just going to blow your mind because of the complexity.”

Should you make out your way to this part of southern York County, try these two wines.

2005 Cadenza
Winemaker’s note:
Our rare flagship red, true Bordeaux-style wine;aged two years in French oak barrels; bottled unfiltered and unfined

Carl Helrich:
“I came to Allegro because of a desire to make great wine, and the potential to make a great wine in Pennsylvania. And John and Tim crouch had this wonderful history of Cadenzas here, which then was a Cabernet-based wine. . . . I love French Bordeauxs. I think they’re wonderful wines. We’re making our third Cadenza from the ’07 vintage. Our ’05 is out right now. The ’06 is in bottles, and we’ll release next year probably. And these are Merlot-based wines. I’m a firm believer that the future of our wine industry is in making a name for ourselves with variety. You look at Long Island is pushing their Merlots. Oregon has Pinot, Napa, of course has Cabernet and Chardonnay and stuff. Every region has its own variety. We’ve got to find ours. Some people say diversity is our strength, and it is in terms of keeping a lot of small wineries together. But if we’re going to be a viable wine industry with any kind of notoriety, which is the kind I want to be involved in . . . that’s why I’m here. I’m not here to make nice wine, you know, that I had a nice little life and made some nice wine. That’s not the point what I’m doing here. I want us to be on the map because I know we can do it. So these days, this is very premature, but at this point Merlot looks to be one of our grapes. Whether it’s THE grape or not, I don’t know, but that’s the one I’m thinking had the most promise for us on the red side.”

2005 Reserve Chardonnay
Winemaker’s notes
: Rich, silky full-bodied Chardonnay; wild yeast-fermentedand barrel-aged in French oak for eleven months
Carl Helrich: “Here’s where I’m not best one [as far as what people are going to taste.] I’m a winemaker. I can’t control flavors and aromas. I don’t focus on them so much. I can tell you about things . . . but I’m looking more for balance. One of the keys for me in winemaking is balance. The flavors are purely secondary to what the wines feels like in your mouth and how you perceive it and if the wine is out of balance it doesn’t matter what the flavors are, you’re not going to like it. So, first I balance. We tend to harvest our Chard very late. Most times, in our good years that is, we’ll be picking it sometimes as late as the second week of October. We’ve got a field blend of seven clones, the original was planted in 1973, and there are a whole host of clones. Some are early ripeners, some later ripening. They have a whole host of flavors, they all contribute. We barrel ferment this wine in French oak barrels. And I’ve been using our native yeast population that we have here, too, which is kind of unique. I’m not sure if there’s anyone else in Pennsylvania using native yeasts for fermenting things, but we’re doing that with our Chardonnays.”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wycombe cancels Sunday picking

The public harvest scheduled for tomorrow at Wycombe Vineyards in Furlong, Pa., has been cancelled. They were out picking this morning in absolutely spectacular weather.

Actually, you couldn't ask for a better stretch of days for ripening across the region. Sunny, mild afternoond and cool nights. Despite some rough patches at times this summer, this wrap-up to the growing season can't help but give some extra bounce to this vintage.

Regional Wine Week, Day 6: Crossing Vineyards

Raising a glass to celebrate five years in business are Crossing Vineyards and Winery owners, from left: Christine Carroll; Tom Carroll Jr., the winery’s vintner; and Tom Carroll Sr.

They’ll be cutting sheet cake in a couple of hours at Crossing Vineyards & Winery, about an hour’s drive out of downtown Philly. It will be a cake with a modest numbers of candles – five – at a winery that already has developed a rich legacy among Bucks County wineries.

It’s one of eight wineries on the
trail, one with all of them closer in proximity than any other area in the state outside of Erie. A few date back into the 1960s, Buckingham Valley comes to mind, and slowly others have staked their claim. One of those is Crossing, and it’s as much distinguished itself by what it offers educationally as the wine it puts on the shelves.

Christine Carroll noted that reaching this milepost is a big hurdle if you believe in the idea that the first five years of any business is the "acid test." She and husband Tom Sr. were off on the road again yesterday, the start of another busy weekend that will include the festivities at the winery and, oh yeah, all the work that accompanies harvest time. What has set Crossing Vineyards apart, she said, “is from the very, very beginning, before we planted Vine 1 in the ground, we had a one word mission statement and that was quality. . . . our goal was always to create as fine an East Coast winery as we could. We were well-capitalized, we purchased the finest equipment available. Every decision we have made, from Day 1, has been on quality, and those were difficult at time because some were expensive decisions.”

One of those priorities has been to embrace a “green” initiative; to that end they recently installed the first phase of a state-of-the-art solar energy system that ultimately will use solar power to supply 100 percent of the vineyard’s energy needs.

At the root of the business, of course, is the wide variety of wine; 20 at this count, an equal mix of red, white and specialty. Christine noted that their line “leans toward dry vinifera. We do have some sweets. You now, many people who are not experienced wine drinkers come to drink wine and their palate [is more geared toward sweet wines than dry vinifera]. We don’t want to lose those people. Our feeling is that we are going to come out to meet you. Maybe we can teach you about wine or maybe your palate will always enjoy sweet wines. Or maybe it won’t. Really, we just try to empower people. It’s why we charge for tastings, because we educate them as they taste. We want to meet them where they are and we want to open them up to a whole wonderful world of [wine and everything that accompanies it.]”

If you get a chance to stop, try these two wines:

2006 Cabernet Franc

Winemarker’s notes: This dry, full-bodied Cabernet Franc has a deep, garnet color and jammy, cherry-berry taste. Barrel aging adds to the complexity of the finish and brings out luscious, lingering accents of blackberry, bell pepper and toasty oak.
Christine Carroll: “We do what we call bench trials. Bring in six different blends, then all try them and make notes. And when we did the bench trial on this one, we all picked the same thing. We knew we had something special. We submitted it to the Critics Challenge in San Diego. Judging was the end of May. We won a gold medal for that wine. [See Challenge notes here]. To us, a gold medal in a California competition is significant.” Not generally released yet, she said they plan to release it very shortly.

2006 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc

Winemaker’s notes: This elegant dessert wine is rich and sweet with hints of honey, candied orange zests and apricots and a long, luxurious finish.
Christine Carroll: “This is maybe the finest wine we’ve ever made. . . . We let the whole block hang through November and into December. It was a warm December; it was warmer in December 2006 than it was Easter 2006. Once we saw the extended forecast we decided to pull the plug [and let the grapes hang]. Turned out unbelievably wonderful.
We won an award in the Finger Lakes for it, won awards [for it] all over the place. It’s a wonderful wine, the best one we currently have for sale.”

NY Wine director plugs Regional Wine Week

This item appeared among the entries in the New York Wine & Grape Foundation's weekly e-letter, which is written by longtime director Jim Trezise (whom I owe a debt of gratitude for his time on the phone a couple of weeks ago):

"New York Wine and Grape Foundation's REGIONAL WINE WEEK is a great new concept among many wine writers like Sandra Silfven of the Detroit News (who urged readers to visit Michigan and Ohio wineries) and Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post (Maryland and Virginia), along with many others who are encouraging consumers to discover the great wines right from their own backyard. Wine is now produced in all 50 states, and in most cases the industries are growing rapidly and increasing in quality.

A great example is North Carolina, where I judged this week, which still produces some wonderfully floral muscadine wines but also some other stunners like the Governor’s Cup winner (Cabernet Franc from Childress, where former Long Islander Mark Friszlowski is winemaker), a Riesling from Shelton, and a Nebbiolo Rosé from Iron Gate that amazingly had over 4% residual sugar but tasted dry because of the acid balance. Margo Metzger does a great job running the competition and the overall North Carolina program, and it’s inspiring to see the progress. Despite recent growth in consumption, the U.S. is still a long way from being a serious wine consuming country, so having good local products is vitally important to the industry’s future everywhere."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Birthday party all set at Crossing Vineyards

Since I'll be posting on Crossing Vineyards in a bit, figured I'd get tis up in case folks are looking for a destination this weekend.

Crossing Vineyards and Winery in Washington Crossing, Pa. has a lot to celebrate when it marks its fifth birthday tomorrow and Sunday with an open house, live music and a chance to win a private wine tasting for eight and a VIP tour.

The celebration, which will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. (live music 1-5 p.m.), both days at the winery, 1853 Wrightstown Road, will cap five years of achievement and growth for Crossing, which opened two new ventures this summer and, in the past year, expanded its summer concert series, added 18 medals to its trophy case, was listed in an international wine guide, featured in US Airways Magazine, and installed a solar energy system.

In June, Crossing opened a second retail location at the Marketplace at East Falls in Philadelphia and the following month launched “Crossing Vineyards Wine and Cheese Shop,” one of only six retail outlets selected for “Project Sunrise,” a $208 million, 300,000 square-foot gaming and entertainment complex at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Also this summer, the winery expanded its “Summer Under the Stars” outdoor concert series to 13 performances, adding newcomers like Opera New Jersey to old favorites which brought jazz, pop, classical music and Irish dance to the 200-year-old estate.

Awards in national and international wine competitions this past year brought Crossing’s five-year total to 68, including “Best of Class – Top Gold” in the 2006 Starwine International Wine Competition for its ’05 Chardonnay. The reputation of Crossing’s award-winning wines and its setting on 20 acres situated less than a mile from where Washington crossed the Delaware, earned the winery a spot on The Style Network’s popular destination wedding series “Married Away” and in US Airways Magazine’s September edition as a “must see” attraction in Bucks County. Tom Stevenson's 2008 Annual Wine Report, a well-respected international guide to the wines of the world, ranked Crossing Vineyards and Winery number five on its top 10 list of new, up-and-coming East Coast producers.

The decision of winery owners Tom and Christine Carroll and their son, Tom Jr. to “Go Green” marked another milestone in Crossing’s brief history. Wanting to protect the environment by reducing fossil fuel consumption, the family installed phase one of a state-of-the-art solar energy system and hopes eventually to use solar power to supply 100 percent of the vineyard’s energy needs.

Crossing continues to expand the offerings of its “Wine Institute,” which presents educational programs and workshops. In conjunction with a new series on “French Wine for Beginners,” the Carrolls in May hosted a private tour of The Rhône Valley and Provence. This fall, Philadelphia wine writer and blogger Collin Flatt joins the Wine Institute faculty, which includes Crossing’s French sommelier Eric Cavatore, and Marika Vida Arnold, sommelier at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia.

For more, visit or call 215.493.6500, ext. 19.

Regional Wine Week, Day 6: Pinnacle Ridge

Photos courtesy of

Before we forge ahead, let’s step back a moment. Regional Wine Week is an idea created by a couple of wine writers to acknowledge that winemaking exists in this country outside the West Coast and to bring exposure to a few of those great wines being produced.

I’m one of almost 20 writers and bloggers across the country who are producing original content this week. You can find the collection of stories at

Meanwhile, the tack I’ve taken with my contribution is to focus on at least one winery from the five wine trails in Pennsylvania that I cover. I can do the ol’ kill two birds with one store by recognizing
Pinnacle Ridge Winery outside Kutztown, about 95 minutes or so northwest of Philly and west of the Lehigh Valley. Its location makes it perfect to sit along two wine trails: the Lehigh Valley and Berks County. Indeed, the winery will be particularly busy these next two weekends because of its commitments to both wine trails. This weekend is an Artisan Cheese & Wine Pairing event that the Berks County wineries have planned; next week is the Lehigh Valley trail’s Chambourcin Weekend.

Brad Knapp and wife Christy Allen run the show here. As documented at
Wine Trail, who was kind enough to send me the photos that accompany this posting, Knapp “bought this land in 1990 and planted the vineyards in 1993. In 1995, he opened the winery to the public. He currently produces between nine and ten thousand gallons of wine (about 4,000) cases). Rather than increasing the quantity of wine, Brad wants to put his emphasis in the quality of his wine. Although Brad’s background is in chemistry, he approaches wine as an art. He believes that a winemakeer’s most important tool is his palette. His wife . . . designs the colorful, eye-catching wine labels.”

Knapp told me the other night that his winery is a cross between ‘doing what I want to do and doing what needs to be done. There’s certain things that I like to drink, wines that I enjoy . . . and they’re a passion and really a focal point. I’m also a person who has a business and has to run a business and I try to make every person who walks through our door happy. It’s just good business to do that..

“In my opinion,” he added, “where we are here in our location, you know, the reality is that we’re a destination but there are enough people that live in this area that we get all kinds of people who walk through this door who otherwise might not walk through a winery door in the middle of Washington state, for instance, or Oregon. Those wineries the people who go there make a real effort to go there. People that are touring in those areas are all about wine, where as in this are we’re more populated, so we get a pretty different demographic walking through our door, much broader. There’s a need to have wines on our portfolio that anybody who walks in off the street will find something they like. So we feel the need to have a wide range of products, but then there are those that are my passion, and those are very traditional in general.

Should you poke your head in, here are two wines you need to sample.


Winemaker’s notes: Double gold at 2008 Finger Lakes International, gold medal at 2008 PA Wine Association competition. This dry rose sparkling is made from 100 percent Pinot Noir via traditional Methode Champenoise. Shows beautiful bubbles and pink color; perfect with appetizers.

Brad Knapp: “I love sparkling wine, and it’s definitely one thing that sets us apart. This is kind of a prime example of business vs. what I want. I wish it was the only sparkling that I felt I need to make, frankly, but that’s not the way it works out. I don’t sell a lot of it, in reality. It’s gotten good critical reviews, does well in competition. It’s just a nice wine.”


Winemaker’s notes: This barrel-aged, dry red is soft and velvety and displays beautiful cherry fruit. We think Pinot Noir is one of the most fruit-friendly reds.

Brad Knapp:
“We’re more attuned to Pinot Noir, getting behind it more. And, nationally, it’s getting there. You’re right, the movie [Sideways] certainly changed things for Pinot Noir. It increased the attention dramatically. We’ve been learning how to make it better and better. We’re getting to release our ’07 at the end of this month.”