Thursday, February 26, 2009

Past meets present at Naylor Tour stop

Wander into Naylor Wine Cellars in Stewartstown during the Tour de Tanks event that begins Saturday and you're likely to get more than a sip of the present. You'll also receive a taste of the past.

“That’s what I'm trying to do, let them try to take something home with them besides the wine,” owner Dick Naylor said by phone on Wednesday. “Let them take some knowledge home, some history, so they get some feel of what the wine industry is all about.”

Tour de Tanks will begin its fourth year this weekend, incorporating 12 wineries that come together once a year as the Uncork York wine trail for this event. Passports cost $15 per person and entitle holders to stop in at each winery and sample some of their goods while learning a few of the basics of how the wine is produced. Each winery lays out a spread of food, some catered and others prepared in the kitchen of the adjoining home. The idea, one shared by other wine trails in the region, has mushroomed into something grander than anyone could have imagined.

“It’s great. Last year we had 1,014 [come in for Tour de Tanks],” Naylor said, noting they had around 200 the first year. “Each year it has jumped. Last year it really jumped. And the nice thing about it . . . we get people who hear about it and come in from northern Virginia, from Maryland, from Jersey, from Delaware. Some come down from New York even. The B&Bs are making out like crazy, same with the hotels. So it’s a win-win for everybody. We're really looking forward to it.”

Naylor said he'll go through around 100 bottles of wine that visitors will try as samples during the four weekends that the event runs. He'll also dole out some history lessons, maybe noting that while his winery was the first one in York County when it opened in 1975, it actually has a predecessor who was picking grapes and making wine early in the 19th century along the banks of the Susquehanna River in Wrightsville. And, if you really want to dig deeper, you can research the early work done by William Penn, who planted a vineyard of French vinifera in 1683 around Philadelphia.

That's well before Naylor was scouting York County for a place to grow grapes, lured by the adage that wherever peaches grow, grapes can grow. Others have followed; indeed the 14 wineries in York County, Naylor said, is the most in any one county in the state.

“It's because we have a fantastic area to grow grapes,” he said. “Our high plateau . . . we're at 1,000-foot elevation here, we have everything going for us. Good air and drainage, just enough breeze to keep the vines dried off. The soil is such that the grapes don’t have wet feet, they call it, because it drains so well. We’ve been growing grapes for 34 years and we've never had frost damage on a bud in the springtime nor in the fall while we had fruit in the vine. Hardly any place in the United States can make that statement. So we’ve been blessed [here].”

Tour de Tanks, in essence, becomes a chance for Naylor and the other 11 winery proprietors to share their stories of a fraternity, he said, that's worldwide. “My wife and I have had the good fortune of traveling all over Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and wherever we go we bring our wine along and brochures," he said. "And we’ll see some people out in the vineyards in Italy or Germany working and we’ll go up and try to converse with them. And once we let them know that we’re a winery owner in America, you’re like a brother that's come home. We have a couple of German families that we wouldn’t dare go over there unless we stayed a couple nights at their home. I think all of agriculture has a little of that, but I think wine, because Mother Nature is a little tougher to work with than when growing corn or wheat, so we’re at it 12 months a year. That’s the way the wine business is.”