Friday, August 17, 2012

Pennsylvania Wine Country

I've never visited a vineyard outside the US, but I must say, Pennsylvania was new for me too.   I didn't even know they produced wine, much less had 7 unique wine trails throughout the state.  During the picturesque drive from New Jersey to DC (I don't do the turnpike), it made sense to stop off on the side of 78 to check out what Lehigh Valley wines have to offer.

The first stop off was at Vyncrest Vineyards & Winery.  According to their brochure,

'Vyncrest Winery is located seven miles west of Allentown, PA, in the picturesque (hey, that's my word), rolling hills of the Lehigh Valley.'
Well, true story.  It's gorgeous.  Rolling hills filled with verdant vines, milling around open pastures, and quaint country homes.   America!  The winery itself looks  no less more than 5 years old, is in the style of a 19th century Swiss Bank (as per literature obtained on site) state of the art equipment (from what I can tell), and a beautiful country shop with a large wood tasting bar.
The Vines

I chat with John Landis at the wine bar and he informs me that the winery has been around since 1989, has 22 acres with 74 vines, and is run by himself and his 3 siblings.  Pretty sweet family business, John!   He hands me a list of their 21 wines in stock and asks me to select 6 to!  The categories include:

Dry White/Red
Semi-Sweet White/Red
Sweet White
Fruit & Sparkling Wines

Varieties covered include:

WHITES:                            REDS:                     FRUIT:
Pinot Grigio                         Pinot Noir                Cherry
Chardonnay                         Cab Franc                Blueberry
Riesling                                Chambourcin
Traminette                           Lemberger


1. Traminette- Gewurtraminer hybrid grown in their vineyard for 15 years, this Alsace style wine was aromatic with notes of lychee and hints of floral and had an off dry appeal.   Of all the wines we tried, this definitely stood out as the highest quality with the most commercial appeal.  And at $12.99 USD, it's a super deal.

2.  Cabernet Franc- This was tannic with peppery notes, and quite light for a Cab Franc.  Would have been great with pepper sauced beef.

3.  Chambourcin- this is the 'jewel of the Lehigh Valley.'  This grape feels right at home in the cool continental climate of PA and can be found throughout the state and also in France and the Laurel Valley in Australia.  Fruity with notes of blackberry ad cherry, it was velvety and had big influences from oak staves- vanilla!

4.  Lemberger- this was a new varietal for me, and as it is the flagship wine of the vineyard I had to give it a go.  Quite tannic with some brown and white spice notes, this was definitely a BIG wine.  According to John this varietal can also be found in Hungary, Central Europe, and Washington State.

5.  Niagra- This is an American native grape (no vitis vinifera here!), tasted like sweet grape juice.  You know, like the kind from kindergarten that left your teeth and mouth purple.  I could actually see this doing well in the Asian market as it definitely has a juice appeal.  And at 11% it's bordering light alcohol levels.

6.  The big finish......Blueberry wine!  I expected this to taste like blueberry syrup, but no.  It was light, sweet, and tasted of duh, blueberries!  I would drink this at a 4th of July party with strawberries, cream, and sparklers.  America.
The Take

In the end I walked out with only one bottle of Traminette, not for lack of fondness for the wines, but for lack of suitcase space.  But this was only the first stop....

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