Friday, January 30, 2009

Wine Society pours heart, soul into education

It was the wine excellence awards held Jan. 18 at the Harrisburg Hilton that first got me to look at the Pennsylvania Wine Society
Web site. Now, I'm a regular, at least as an observer of what this more than 21-year-old organization is educate those who want to understand and appreciate fine wines. It's a group of around 155 strong that holds events at least once a month, primarily at the Harrisburg Hilton. Club president Paul Seymour said by phone the other day that they've brought in a number of distinguished speakers during the history of the organization, from Robert Parker (“although I don't think I could get him today,” he said, laughing) to importer Bobby Kacher to Best Cellars owner Joshua Wesson.

“For the most part, we try and bring in outside speakers who are recognized experts, producers, importers, educators, people from the restaurant industry,” Seymour said. “We've had quite a few well- known people in the wine industry who are speakers.”

They generally meet at the Harrisburg Hilton, although Seymour noted they held their 20-year anniversary gala at the Country Club of Harrisburg and have held several other events at the National Civil War Museum. Events usually draw around 50 or 60 people, although some have lured up to 100.

Membership costs $30 annual for an individual and $50 for two persons living at the same address. It's a little higher for anyone wanting the perks of a patron membership. “Our mailing list goes beyond Harrisburg,” Seymour said. “It's primarily the Harrisburg area, but some from Lancaster, some from York, some from as far as State College, Reading.”

While the organization draws people often with national recognition, it tries not to stray too far from its roots. The excellence awards, recognizing the 10 best wines in the state, were held for the seventh time. Among the speakers have been Lee and Eric Miller from Chaddsford Winery in Chester County, and twice York County's Allegro Vineyards has been represented.

“We reach out somewhat,” Seymour said, when asked about how much they showcase wines and wineries in Pennsylvania. “I'd say primarily Old World, although we do some New World. In addition to Pennsylvania wine excellence event, which is every January, usually we'll have at least an East Coast if not a Pennsylvania winery at least once every other year, I would say.”

Black Walnut to roll out Plan B for Barrels

One note about the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail's Barrels on the Brandywine in March. Black Walnut Winery in Sadsburyville has been pushing to get its tasting room opened; it just won't happen in time for the annual wine trail event. But Lance Castle, one of the proprietors, wrote in an e-mail that there will be wine there for the tasting.

"We cannot let people in the building but we are putting up a tent with heaters," he wrote. "It won't be ideal but I think we will have a lot of fun."

You need passports to visit any of trail's wineries during weekends in March. That entitles you to tastings and whatever goodies they have laying about. Go to any of the wineries or the trail site to purchase a passport.

So who's gonna wait on Woodhall's Morris?

Wanted to give a shout out to Debbie Morris, the "wine goddess" at Woodhall Wine Cellars in Parkton, Md. It has been our experience that at almost every winery that are regulars who work behind the tasting bar and whose personality give the place a "Cheers like" setting. You know, they know everybody by their first name. Offer a warm greeting. Add some laughs. And know a thing or two or three about their wines.

That has been Debbie's role for longer than the four years or so we've been driving down I-83 to the winery. But she has been temporarily shelved because of knee-replacement surgery. Having now seen the announcement in the February e-letter, I feel like we can share it with the rest of the regional wine community.

THE BIGGEST Woodhall news this month is that Debbie Morris, stalwart provider of Woodhall wine to retail stores and restaurants and she who remembers everyone’s name in the Tasting Room, now has new knees – two of them. She entered GBMC [Greater Baltimore Medical Center] on January 13 and expects to come home on the 28th. As part of physical therapy in the hospital, the nurses observed the way she handled herself in a kitchen. We wonder whether they tested her behind a wine bar? Seriously, she is diligent in her therapy, uncomplaining of her pain and will be back among us sooner rather than later.

We add our best wishes and hope to see her back where she belongs by spring.

While we're talking about Woodhall, let me add this entry on the barrel tasting, which will begin Valentine's Day weekend.

Winemaker Chris Kent can’t wait to show you the wines from the 2008 vintage. They are stunning.

Beginning February 14 and extending through Sunday, March 29, we will be conducting public barrel tastings of the wines of 2008 and some reds from 2007 between the hours of 2 pm and 4 pm each Saturday and Sunday. All wines tasted will be available by the case (which may be mixed with two different varieties) at a discounted price on a futures basis. After the barrel tasting, we retire to the Tasting Room where you can put your order together while you enjoy the best of Kirchmayr chocolates and a glass of Woodhall red wine. The event costs $15, which is rebated with the purchase of your first case of wine. All you need to do is assemble your group, pick the Saturday or Sunday of your visit and call 410 357 8644 or email us ( to let us know the size of your group and the date of your visit. Remember that the first couple of weekends are heavily attended, so if you have a large group or intend to bring food, we can serve you better if you select one of the later weekends.