Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2 days and counting to Sand Castle's store opening

How 'bout some news you can use out of Sand Castle Winery in Erwinna, in suburban Philly. A member of the Bucks County Wine Trail, the winery's latest e-letter noted that it will be opening its new store called Taste this Saturday, Oct. 24. Hours that day will be noon to 6 p.m. Among the items for sale will be Sand Castle wines and olive oil, and cheese, chocolates and gourmet food from local producers.

Haven't had any of their wines yet. The distinctive mix of 12 wines using four varietals -- Riesling, Chardonnary, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir -- are certainly priced well. It's an interesting mix, with many of the wines having a vintage from the early part of the decade back to 1999. I do like how they pair up foods on the wine list located on their site. Very helpful.

As for this year, the difficult harvest is almost finished, with only Cabernet Sauvignon left on the vine. The e-letter noted (lamented) that it was "the worst year for rain and weeds. Despite it, the quality of the grapes are great. The amount is about one third of the normal harvest, but we are grateful for what we got."

PWA 'very happy' with line in new state budget

A couple of points from a phone chat late Tuesday afternoon with an elated Sam Landis, the assistant winemaker and marketing director at Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery in eastern Pennsylvania. The president of the Pennsylvania Winery Association had several reasons to be so cheery: the harvest is finished, the Phillies are one out away from the World Series, and the association over the last few days figured out that the budget for the fiscal year 2009-2010 WILL include $160,000 in funding. There was a time a couple of months ago where the PWA wondered if there wold be any money at all coming its way.

"We're very happy with that," he said. "In this economic climate, there were a number of projects that were completely cut out, so for us to . . . last year we got $240,000, but for us to still get a sizeable amount really kind of speaks to the fact that they look to our industry as pretty solid and pretty stable. This will definitely keep us going with all of our projects and all of our different balls in the air. We have a couple other grants we've been given as well, so we're feeling pretty good about the way it turned out."

One of the initiatives that will continue is Libation Vacation, funded by a $75,000 grant, that encourages bloggers to spread the word about Pennsylvania wineries by enticing them out to any of the state's 11 wine trails. Among the other programs that Landis and PWA are working on:

* In discussion with Penn State about filling the post of state oenologist, a post that was vacated several years ago. Right now that leaves wine grape educator Mark Chien as the primary resource for anything to do with grapes and grape-growing in Pennsylvania. Not a bad position to be in at all, but a second body with comparable knowledge would help all concerned.

* Talking with Harrisburg Area Community College "to put together classes for vineyards and wineries. We should have more something definitive," he said, "at least by the end of the year if not early 2010, getting some programs to go with HACC."