Monday, March 9, 2009

It's a week to trade info at annual show

Amid the activities on the calendar this week for Buckingham Valley Vineyard’s Jerry Forest, and probably most of the other winery owners in the region, will be a couple of trips to the Valley Forge Convention Center for the annual Wineries Unlimited show. It’s a combo trade show and conference, running from Tuesday through Friday. Scroll down through this link from my associate Carlo DeVito of East Coast Wineries, who documented his observations of last year’s Wineries Unlimited in his blog.

Forest said he’ll take away a number of ideas from this well-known show, including the seminars “on everything you can imagine [about] winemaking and vineyard growing.” I wondered how often the topic of screw caps came up. A phenomenon that is becoming more evident during visits to the state store, I can’t think of a regional winery I’ve visited yet that has switched from the traditional cork. Forest said there’s a good reason for that.

“The reason people don’t switch to it immediately,” he said, “is because the machinery is expensive. If you want to go manual, one bottle at a time, it’s about 10 grand. If you want to go automated you are going to wind up spending 100 [grand], I think.

“We spent on our last line about $200,000. Our new line will do both corks, synthetic closures and screw caps on the same line. But, you know, very few people can afford that . . . so that’s the reason you’re not going to be seeing too many small wineries going with it. Sandcastle just bought a screw cap machine. It’s a single head, one bottle at a time, maybe do five, 10 bottles a minute. It’s not the sort of thing a decent [sized] winery is gonna slow down that much. So that’s the reason. In this business, as you know, we do what we have to do and we make up a story to go along with it. So you ask somebody they’ll say ‘screw caps are bad, cheap wine and all that.’ Well, ask them if they can afford it.”

What Forest and the winery can afford, actually, is a continuation of sales that have gotten 2009 off to a rollicking start. Business, he said, is up almost 10 percent for the first two months of the year. “We were striving to bring in more business the last day of February, and we did,” he said. “Ten percent is not a bad growth figure; even in a big economy it’s fantastic.”

Regarding what’s ahead at the winery, Forest noted they’ll release a spring wine in May. This coming weekend they’ll join their comrades along the Bucks County Wine Trail for an arts show. “We get all kinds of sculptures out on the front lawn and everyplace,” he said. “Everybody [on the trail] is going to have something going.”

Hit a winery this weekend? What did you think?

If any of you were on any of the eastern or central Pennsylvania wine trails this past weekend, either Tour de Tanks (Uncork York!) or Barrels on the Brandywine (Brandywine Valley Wine Trail) or March Madness (Lehigh Valley Wine Trail), and care to add you insight on a particular winery or wine you visited, comment here or send along your thoughts to

XIX sets schedule for Cellar Selection, dinners

Happy Monday all. Let me do one posting off a release, then transcribe and post at least one of the interviews I did last week with a Philly burbs winemaker. If any of you read this release and know of other connections I can make that will advertise regional restaurants and any wine events, please let me know. Either add a comment or send me an e-mail at -- Paul

Wine lovers will feel right at home at Broad Street’s premiere sky-high dining destination, NINETEEN (XIX) at Park Hyatt at the Bellevue (200 S. Broad St., 215.790.1919). Beginning April 1, sommelier Richard Slutter will introduce weekly Cellar Selection Wednesdays and a monthly Perfect Pairings Wine Dinner, wine-centric events meant to educate and delight both novice and expert oenophiles.

Every Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Slutter will guide guests through a themed tasting of five to six wines for $20. Cellar Selection Wednesdays will also include light fare from XIX Chef Marc Plessis and each week, one person will take away of bottle of one of the nights featured wines.

Planned Cellar Selections include:
* April 1: Pinot Noir from around the world
* April 8: Old World vs. New World
* April 15: Summer white wines
* April 22: California Zinfandel

XIX’s Perfect Pairings Wine Dinners will be a monthly event. The first will take place on Wednesday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m. For $55 per person, plus tax and gratuity, diners will enjoy a meal guided by Slutter, featuring such dazzling libations as Moet Chandon Rose Nectar Imperial, Argyle Pinot Noir Reserve and Santa Julia Torrontes. A special tasting menu will highlight the qualities of each wine.

Conveniently located at Broad and Walnut Streets on Philadelphia’s beautiful Avenue of the Arts, XIX has fast become one of the city’s premiere destination restaurants thanks to its seasonally-conscious New American menu and spectacular decor – not to mention the sweeping views of downtown from its premier location. Formal but never stuffy, it is an ideal place to celebrate great wine and great food. For more information on Perfect Pairings or Cellar Selections, or to make a reservation, please call 215.790.1919 or visit the Web site at