Saturday, September 26, 2009

Va La site gets a new look, but old charm remains

Looks like Va La Vineyards in Avondale, Pa., recently made some improvements to its Web site. The winery is a must-visit if you're anywhere in the mid-Atlantic looking for good wine to sample, as is Chaddsford and Pinnacle Ridge and Allegro in Pennsylvania and Black Ankle in Maryland.

The wines at Va La are superior, using a number of grapes you won't see made into juice at other regional wineries. And it's a comfy atmosphere, either out in front of the main tasting bar downstairs or relaxing at a small table upstairs amid the brights colors and vivid shapes of whichever local artist's work is being featured. And I could listen to owner Anthony Vietri talk baseball for hours (while sipping the Silk or Mahongany or Castana or other unique names that grace his labels).

Why else do I like the place? The sense of humor, found in large doses either in person or on the Web site. To wit, on the page under TO CONTACT:

Your suffering shall be legendary...

Attempting to contact Va La has been likened to attempting to contact the dead.
We can not lie. We are farmers who actively avoid electronic devices. For the latest info on hours, etc, we usually make a telephone recording of our voices for people to listen to. Hopefully, the info on the recording is somewhat accurate. Occasionally, people have been known to leave a message on the offhand chance that one of us accidentally wanders by the answering machine.

610 268 2702


We can accommodate groups of six or more persons by reservation only. We regretfully cannot accommodate buses, stretch limousines, wedding parties, professional tour groups, or ocean liners during our regular weekend hours. For reservations, info, pricing, private events, life counseling, root canals, etc, please leave a message for Ms Kelly at 610 742 3981, or by computer device:

Birds helping themselves in NY; state expects to top 300 producers by sometime next year

Saw a few notes in the latest weekly e-letter from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, courtesy of executive director Jim Trezise, that warrented passing along.

2009 GRAPE HARVEST is slowly getting under way, with both similarities and some differences among the various regions. Every region is late in terms of ripening, but recent decent weather has helped, and flavors seem to be developing well, a key component in wine quality.

Each region has unique challenges, and one of those for Long Island is birds, which migrate annually and feast off the great grapes. Many growers have responded by covering their vineyards with huge nets—but now the birds have figured out how to eat the grapes through the nets!

Keep up with the harvest through Cornell Cooperative Extension’s great “Veraison to Harvest” newsletter at

NEW WINERIES just keep popping up all over the state, confirming that the wine industry is about the only growth industry in New York State. Today there are 273 fully licensed wine producers, 33 satellite stores (linked to wineries but in other locations), and 15 pending winery licenses, meaning we’ll probably top 300 actual producers next year if not sooner.


While some of the pending licenses are in traditional wine regions, an increasing number are elsewhere, like The Saratoga Winery ( in that tony horse-racing and spa city north of Albany; and Elfs Farm (, a combination cider mill, farm stand, and now farm winery in the Lake Champlain region bordering Vermont, which has an increasing number of grape growers and wineries.


We commissioned the New York State Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to conduct an updated New York Winery Survey using 2008 data (vs. 2003, the last survey), which should appear sometime in October. But even that will be outdated, given the way the industry keeps growing.


(Vigna note: A story on the site in February 2009 showed New York with 232 bonded wineries in operation, fourth highest in the country and the most outside the West Coast triumverate of California, Washington and Oregon. Virginia was sixth with 152, Pennsylvania was next with 127, and Maryland was tied with Arizona for 20th with 37).


RIESLING keeps growing in acreage, according to NASS, which every five years conducts a vineyards survey (different from the winery survey). In 2001, there were 461 bearing acres, and another 30 planned; in 2006 there were 683 bearing with 103 planned; and based on my own anecdotal evidence, I would estimate there are now about 1,000 acres of Riesling, with 90% in the Finger Lakes region.

Serpent Ridge among 3 MD wineries pouring at tasting/workshop fund-raiser with VA wineries

I don't think when I posted about the Maryland/Virginia "pourdown" sponsored by Marylanders for Better Wine & Beers Laws that I mentioned the price to attend the seminar/tasting. Was reminded of that by an e-letter that came from one of Maryland's bet new wineries, Serpent Ridge Vineyards in Westminster.

Serpent Ridge will join Black Ankle Vineyard and Bordeleau Vineyards as represeentatives of Maryland wineries. Michael Shaps Wines, Chrysalis Vineyards and Barboursville Vineyards,, all from Virginia, will share their wines at the function on Thursday, Oct. 8, at the Whittemore House, Dupont Circle, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. The wine and cheese tasting will last from 6 to 9 p.m. and will cost $59. You can register at A portion of the proceeds will go toward the fight to legalize wine shipping in Maryland.

The events also will include workshops on understanding the terroirs in both states and on the politics of wine in both states.

Also wanted to note that Serpent Ridge is planning to hold a second wine dinner/demonstration with L'Ecole Culinaire School of Cooking sometime in late October. The first time they teamed up, the event sold out quickly.

This dinner will be centered around preparing dishes for your holiday meals paired with Serpent Ridge wines. Reservations will be capped at 20 settings. The announcement on the date should be released soon. And if you don't want to hear it from me, just reach out to them and get on their e-mail list.

The winery has justifiably been touting its recent awards in the 2009 Governor's Cup competition, including a gold medal for a 2007 vintage of a red blend it produces called Basilisk.