Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sale of Tour passes way ahead of 2008

With Tour de Tanks along the Uncork York trail set to begin Saturday, here's an update form Alison Smith of the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau:

"To date the York County CVB has sold 452 tickets online for the '09 Tour de Tanks Event," she wrote earlier today. "Through this date last year we had sold 177 '08 Tour de Tanks tickets. That equates to an increase of 155 percent from 08-09 in online pre-event tickets purchased online.

"Tickets are also on sale at area wineries (those numbers are not reflected in the above totals) and will continue to be available at the wineries and online throughout the month of March.

"Lodging properties have also indicated that packages are booking well this year, won't have hard numbers until end of event. Ticket sales for the NEW winemaker dinners are going well and we expect that to continue as people travel the trail, meet the winemakers and remain thirsty for more!"

Owner at peace with her wine lineup

It was an observation, not a criticism, that a majority of the wines that Peace Valley Winery in Chalfont, Pa., sells run from semi-dry to sweet. And while Susan Gross, the owner of the 25-year-old winery who first planted grapes there in 1968 admitted that she prefers very dry reds, many of her customers prefer the sweet wines.

And there’s nothing at all wrong with that, she said.

“My business partner [Robert Kolmus] likes the Merlot. I prefer the Excalibur [described on her Web site as full bodied, very dry, dark red wne, aged with a complex flavor and excellent with heavy meat dishes, all which sells for $14.49/bottle] and the wine of choice to take out to a BYOB/Italian restaurant is our New Britiain Red, and so it does well for us.

“But we are not snobbish about [carrying the semi-dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines]. When people come in and shyly say they love sweet wines, I say GREAT! Because we do, too, and [we tell them] don’t be intimidated. That’s our philosophy here.

“Dry wines sell very well, but my sweet wines sell very well, also. And we work hard at making very good sweet wines. We’re proud of our wines, and I think too many wineries don’t bother with the sweet wines, just buying cheap juice form brokers and throwing sugar in it and putting it in a bottle. We work hard at making at very good product and it sells well because of that.”

Gross said she originally developed the vineyard as a way to sell grapes to home winemakers. Meanwhile, she was working at a full-time job and, as she said, very happy with the way things were working. When her company moved out of the region in the early 1980s, that vineyard became something else: a lifeline.

“I had a huge vineyard of many different varieties,” she said. “I had enough time to prepare for this changeover, which gave me the opportunity to revamp my vineyard. There were a lot of varieties out there that I like very much that I wanted to keep, and I knew would work well in my selection of wines. Now, I’m a farmer. I wasn’t a wealthy doctor, lawyer, dilettante of some sort who was a wine connoisseur. I was trying to make a living and it means recognizing the fact that most of the people out there like sweet wines. and we make a very fine product.. I drink very dry reds, and some of my reds get a lot of attention, but it’s just part of my lineup as a business person.”

That business continues to thrive despite the recession. “We’ve had the best February we’ve had in along time,” she said. “The economy has never affected us one way or another except last December a year ago, 2007, when they first stated talking about bad news, and we were affected last December and so were a lot of other wineries. But since then people are rolling with the punches and we don’t have a problem.”

Peace Valley is one of eight members of the
Bucks County Wine Trail, which will celebrate a Spring Fling on March 14-15. While not ostentatious, the winery’s Web site certainly is informative with a few touches of home that lend some insight into the person who has run this winery for so many years. Note this entry in the newsletter section:

"For newcomers: Moe is our winery cat. He is the sole survivor of a litter of 4 that was born on the back porch in March 2001. The mother cat is feral but stays close to keep an eye on Moe and to share his food. She is addicted to Pounce catnip treats and shows up every day begging for treats. Moe is a fair weather cat and is eager to come in during bad weather. We are hoping that his Mommie Dearest will follow him in some night and stay warm. Maybe I should leave a trail of catnip.”

And the note on the schedule that lists the Christmas Eve hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Don’t even think of coming in after 4 P.M.!” it says, capped by the exclamation point.

Gross was asked how much of the everyday work was still fun. Dealing with her longtime customers and those strolling through her winery doors for the first time . . . yes, that’s fun. Watching the vineyard blossom and produce its annual yield. There’s plenty of satisfaction there. The rest? “I just finished all the government paperwork,” she said, pausing. “It’s old hat. I want to retire." Anytime soon, she was asked? "As soon as I can get out, although not with the way the economy is now.”