Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fall tour: Clover Hill Winery

The famous Turtle Rock at Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery

Nouveau Weekend will begin in two days at wineries on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, and that means another crazy and frantic couple of days that follow on the heels of several months of harvesting.

Kari Scrip of
Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery in Breinigsville said a few days ago that where the trail used to heavily advertise this event, now they just let the attendance run its course. These days, it’s a course with many people.

“People really gear up for this weekend,” she said. “I’m not sure why, if that it’s a long-standing tradition in the Lehigh Valley that people have been coming out for this weekend. Some people come out just to make sure they get their Passports, because that program has become busy as well, the March program. So it’s generally been a very busy weekend. We actually don’t even do any advertising or promotions for it [anymore] because it’s gotten really crazy busy.”

Most people who drink wine have probably found themselves at least aware of the nouveau release, which pushes the wine that just came off the vine into a bottle and onto the shelves before Thanksgiving. As you might guess, nouveau is French for new. That could mean a white or red wine, although generally it’s considered to be red. While they can age for up to a couple of years, they’re designed to open now and inhale seemingly a basketful of fruit. The wines are soft, the colors bright; there is no complexity to speak of. It’s a wine that has become more accepted as the perfect companion for whatever serves as the main course for your holiday meal. Even people who favor white fan can find the nouveau red palatable, and with what’s generally a fairly low alcohol content you can refill your glass without worrying about your legs turning to . . . cranberry sauce.

Nouveau Weekend has been on the trail’s calendar for 10 or 11 years, Scrip said. And the last few years that has meant dusting off the popular Turtle Rock Red, which has become one of the signature wines on the lengthy list. A silver medal winner in the 2008 Finger Lakes International Wine and International Eastern Wine competitions, Turtle Rock has found a spot on Clover Hill’s list for 15 of the winery’s 23 years of existence, and has serve as the nouveau for the past four or five years, Scrip said.

“It’s a 100 percent Chambourcin, made in a true nouveau style,” she said. “It’s a lighter, fruitier style wine. It has just happened to the the nouveau [recently], although it’s always sort of been made in that style. Some years we have done a small lot of something else for Nouveau Weekend. Now, we’re always trying to work toward getting the Turtle Rock ready [in time]. People are attracted to the name, and also seek out Chambourcin in this area. So it has been an interesting wine for people to try and it’s one they always enjoy.”

Interesting? That’s a good description for the story of how the wine got its name.

“My dad previously was in construction before he got into the wine business,” said Kari, who serves in a number of roles, most notably marketing. “When he was at a job site about five miles from where the winery currently is. He found this rock, about a 60,000-pound limestone rock, that looked just like a turtle. My dad’s got an odd taste for rocks, he likes to use them for landscaping. So he loaded this rock up with a crane and brought it back to the property where the winery is now. And, actually, if you pull into our winery its right out front, you can’t miss it.

“It looks just like a turtle,” she said. “So we’ve become fond of Turtle Rock.”

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