Saturday, December 6, 2008

Va La: Up on Zafferano, down on Viognier

Some snapshots taken outside and inside Va La Winery.
Brought a bottle of Zafferano from Va La Family Vineyards in Avon Grove, Pa., to dinner last night and shared it with several dining mates. Now this was outside Dallastown in York County, at an exquisite eatery called Tapenade Bistro (dinner is served there only on Friday nights). So people recognized Avon Grove ("mushroom country, yes?") but had never heard of the winery nor the unique names that make up its list of wines. Zafferano is a 100 percent cold-fermented Pinot Grigio that went beautifully with our meals; it also gave me the chance to spread the word about one of my favorite little regional wineries.

We stopped at Va La a few weeks ago on a Saturday and did the two-floor tour; several tastings on the main floor that were paired with cheeses and, in one case, chocolates from local farmers and merchants, and then a move upstairs to try several more. The place was bustling on both levels, bad news only for a tiny parking lot that requires some imagination to find a spot when the crowds fill up the place on the weekends. But between the grand bar that dominates the first level and the artwork you find heading upstairs, and the warmth and attention given by owner Anthony Vietri and his staff, and the stable of delicious wines that feature names unlike any others -- La Prima Donna, Mahogany, Cedar, Silk and Siranetta, to name most of them -- it's worth dropping by and tasting what's been squeezed out of the seven acres that the family cultivates.

One note for those who follow the business: Vietri said he's pulling out all of his Viognier and replacing it primarily with Petit Manseng. While you can't beat the Viognier for its fragrance -- just hold a glass of Va La's Fioretti under your note for a minute or two and slowly inhale a few times -- you can beat yourself up trying to nurture the grape because of its susceptiblity to diseases. Wake up one day, Vietri said, and half of what was thriving yesterday is suddenly kerplunk. So, it's time to move on, with few regrets.

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