Thursday, January 22, 2009

Self-taught Knapp now a teacher for others

I keep playing phone tag with the folks from the Pennsylvania Wine Society, so let me use some written comments from state-wide wine grape educator Mark Chien to describe a bit of what he saw at the society's excellent award last Sunday in Harrisburg. What could be called the wine Oscars (hey, that description no more timely than today with the nominations being released), 10 wines were recognized during a program at the Harrisburg Hilton where Chien served as guest speaker.

Of the 10, four were produced by Brad Knapp of Pinnacle Ridge, which has a Kutztown mailing address but could be considered out in the middle of nowhere except for the fact that I-78 happens to be located adjacent to the vineyards and winery. It's no more than a minute's drive from the Krumsville exit.

Chien said in a phone conversation we had yesterday that Knapp and his winery have set themselves apart, and he didn't quibble with my suggestion that no wines in the state carries more value overall than his line right now. Here's what Chien wrote in a newsletter that came out Tuesday:

The results of the PA Farm Show and PA Wine Society wine competitions are in and there is one winery that has excelled in both, Pinnacle Ridge Vineyards in Kutztown. To me, it is no surprise. Owner and wine grower Brad Knapp is as meticulous a grower as you can find anywhere. He farms his vineyard on a south slope visible from I-78 and also maintains a textbook grower-winery relationship with Round Ridge Vineyards. Brad sends me during the harvest with cluster number and weight information as he monitors the crop until moments before harvest. His vines are well-maintained during the growing season with good canopy balance and fruit zone treatments. He is very fussy about the quality of his viticulture. Chambourcin, for example, is thinned to one cluster per shoot on VSP and yields wines of vinifera-like quality and character. Like many winegrowers Brad is self taught but he exemplifies the unique characteristics that can take a vineyard and its wines to the next level... an insatiable curiosity and desire to learn - he's always asking why and seeking knowledge that will provide answers, a keen sense of observation and ability to collect data and translate them into management practices, a willingness to bring in outside experts for advice and help, a great passion for wine growing and finally the ability to execute in the vineyard and cellar. I would encourage fellow wine growers to taste Brad's wines, they are setting benchmarks for quality for Pennsylvania. In the interest of full disclosure, most of the wines that made the final round in the PWS tasting, including those from Pinnacle Ridge, contained fruit grown by Jan and Kim Waltz in Manheim. Their reputation for high quality grapes is well known and the results here simply help to acknowledge their tremendous efforts in the vineyard.

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