Blogs > The Grapevine

Wine recommendations and comments from Dean and Lisa Foster, Vintage Connections Wine Educators and Consultants. Most wines are available in Southeastern Pennsylvania and are priced between $10 and $20. Up-coming "wine events" available in the Pottstown Tri-county area are listed.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wine Tip of the Week - PA Wineries - Vynecrest Vineyard and Winery

Cheers from Vintage Connections  

During June and July we're writing about nearby PA wineries and wine bars.  The weather is great and there are lots of fun activities, in addition to tasting wine, going on at PA wineries.  Take some time, take a drive, and enjoy!  

This week, we're featuring Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery, located near the junction of Route 100 and Interstate 78.   

Dean and Lisa Foster
 Vintage Connections: Wine Educators and Consultants





Vynecrest Vineyard and Winery is another one of our favorite, local, family-owned and operated wineries.   
Erin at the bar
Erin pouring samples at the tasting bar
The tasting room is open from 11 AM - 5 PM every day.  Visitors may taste up to 6 wines for free and may purchased wine by the glass in theTom's Vyneskeller (see below).

 Vynecrest is part of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail and is located within the Lehigh Valley AV (American Viticultural Area). 

In addition to producing a wide variety of wines, ranging from bone dry to sweet (so there is something for everyone), they have created the Tom's Vyneskeller in the downstairs of their old, remodeled barn.   
Vyneskeller
Music and Wine in Tom's Vyneskeller 

From 12-4:30, you can buy wine by the bottle or glass and purchase appetizers to enjoy with your wine.  Live music is provided Saturday afternoons.

Vynecrest grows most of their own grapes and is constantly expanding their vineyards.  John started the vineyards in 1974, and opened the winery in 1989.  So, many of their vines are mature and produce wonderful wine grapes.   

John in the Vineyard
John in the Vineyard 














Jan is active in the operations of the winery and was president of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.  She initiated Wine Trail events such as the Passport Program - March Madness for Wine Lovers - and the Wine Trail Harvest Weekend. 
Jan Landis
Jan at the tasting bar. 

Sam (John and Jan's son,) and family's long-time friend and business partner Malachi are both actively involved with management of Vynecrest, the tasting room, and in wine making.

 
Wines at Vynecrest 

Vynecrest produces a wine range of wines including dry, bold reds and whites, to traditionally off-dry and semi-sweet Rieslings and Traminettes, to sweet wines like Cherry DiVyne and Blueberry.  We especially like their Lemberger (known in Austria and sometimes elsewhere as Blaufrankisch), a rare find in PA and across the USA. 

Lemberger
They also produce a wonderfully full-bodied and fruity Chambourcin, the "signature grape" of the Lehigh Valley.  Vynecrest's wines are reasonably priced, with most under $15.  Fully-bodied, oak-aged wines cost a bit more but are still under $20.  Combined with free tastings, wine by the glass in the Vyneskeller, and the friendly owners and staff, Vynecrest is a great winery well worth a visit (we visit several times a year).


Up-coming Events

Music in the Vyneskeller every Saturday. 

Blair Vineyards

Friday, July 8, Happy Hour
Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10, Summer Cool Down with food, music and wine.
 Click to events.
 
Pinnacle Ridge
at the Kutztown German Festival, July 2-10
Jazz and Blues in the Barn, Saturday July 10.

Contact us to arrange a customized wine seminar, wine tasting, wine and food pairing, or any kind of wine related event.

Fun Fact  

Lemberger and Blaufankisch are the same grape, found primarily in Germany (Blaufrankisch) and Austria (Lemberger).   

There are significant plantings in Washington State and smaller plantings in PA, NY, VA, and elsewhere in the USA. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wine Tip of the Week - PA Wineries - Manatawny Creek

Cheers from Vintage Connections  

For the past few (and for the next few weeks) we're writing about nearby PA wineries and wine bars.  The weather is great and there are lots of fun activities, in addition to tasting wine, going on at PA wineries.  Take some time, take a drive, and enjoy! 

This week, we're featuring Manatawny Creek Winery, where Joanne consistently makes great wine, both dry wines we love and sweeter crowd-pleasers.

Experience Manatawny Creek Winery this Saturday, June 25, at their Summer Solstice Festival, 10AM to 6 PM.  Music, food, tours, crafters, WINE, and more.  See details below.


Winery of the Week
Manatawny Creek Winery

Manatawny Creek Winery has long been one of our favorite wineries, not just in PA but of all the wineries we have visited, from the Finger Lakes to the North Georgia mountains.  Joanne Levengood, the winemaker, consistently makes excellent wines including drys, semi-drys, semi-sweets, and a few sweet wines that are real crowd-pleasers.   
Joanne in the Vineyard 1
Joanne shoot-pruning in the Vineyard
 This Saturday, June 25th is their Summer Solstice Festival from 10-6.  

Music - The Eileen Tipping band will be playing from 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm.  

Food -Tarbos BBQ will have their famous pulled pork sandwiches, Chef Lesle will have wonderful cheese and bread plates, and Greshville Inn will be serving something yummy.


Darvin, the tour guide (president, chief bottle washer, father), will be giving tours of the winery at 2:00 and 4:00.
Darvin Riddling
Darvin riddling the new sparkling. 

The crush pad area outside will be used for cold wine sales and will be CASH ONLY.  The fun part is that Sangria by the box AND by the glass ($5/glass) will be available for purchase.  

Vicki 1
Vicki in the Tasting Room. 
 In the tasting room, tastes this Saturday are limited to 5 during the afternoon to avoid congestion and allow everyone a chance to taste.  No charge for tasting at Manatawny, one of the few wineries left ANYWHERE that doesn't charge for tasting. 
Mary with Label
Mary (mom) pouring a taste. 

No outside alcohol permitted.   

Here's to a fun day at the festival!

For directions and more info about the winery, go to the


Wine Sampling at Manatawny Creek

It's no secret, we love Manatawny Creek wine, especially their dry reds and whites.  We're not sweet (or even semi-sweet) wine drinkers, but Joanne's semi-dry, semi-sweet and sweet wine is well-balanced (residual sugar, acidity, fruit, alcohol) so we enjoy it when the mood strikes us.  We even bought a box (a BOX, oh no!) of their recently packaged and released Sangria.  If you like wines with a little (or more) residual sugar, you'll find several wines you'll love at Manatawny. 

Usually, however, we drink dry reds and theirs are outstanding. 

We especially like Manatawny's Cabernet Franc.   

Each vintage (year of harvest) varies due to weather, so some years the wine is bolder than others, but year after year, it's hard to beat.  Cabernet Franc grows well in PA, we think producing the best Cab Franc we've tasted, even better than those from France (Loire Valley and Bordeaux) and at about half the price. $14.95 at the winery. 

Syrah has become another of our favorite reds.  Big, bold, and tasty.
"Wow" with lamb.  $15.95 at the winery.

At Manatawny, there's a wine (or two or three or more) for everyone.  Try a few (limit of 8 usually, 5 this Saturday afternoon) for FREE in the tasting room and enjoy. 



Up-coming Events
 Manatawny Creek
Saturday, June 25
Summer Solstice Festival
Details above.

Blair Vineyards

Friday, July 8, Happy Hour
Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10, Summer Cool Down with food, music and wine.
 Click to events.
 
Vynecrest
Music in the Vyneskeller every Saturday.  Winemaker's Tour Saturday June 25, 1 PM, $5 per person.
Click to website.

Fun Fact 
Cabernet Franc is one of the grapes used in French Red Bordeaux.  Although Bordeaux is most often primarily a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Cab Franc is often added to enhance the flavor and color.  Cab Franc can be the primary grape in Bordeaux, especially in less expensive ones.  It is the primary red grape of the Loire Valley.  But, it grows great in PA and along the East Coast. 

For links to some of our favorite wineries, etc. see last week's blog.

Contact us to arrange a customized wine tasting, wine and food pairing, or any kind of wine related event.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wine Tip of the Week - Blair Vineyards

Blair Vineyards' Patio
Greetings from Vintage Connections!


Blair Vineyards is south of Kutztown, about 30 minutes north of  the Pottstown tri-county area.  Rich Blair and his family own Blair Vineyards (and winery).  Blair specializes in wonderful, Burgundy-style Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, along with a Bordeaux-style Wedding Cuvee and many other great wines.  His daughter Missy manages the tasting room.  The view from the patio is beautiful, the hospitality is unbeatable, and the wine is, of course, extraordinary.

Blair Barrel Room 1
Rich Blair in the barrel room.
Several of Blair's vineyards are located within the Lehigh Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area).  These wines have the AVA designation on the label.  Blair is part of the Berks County Wine Trail. 

The tasting room is open 7 days a week, from 11 AM to 5 PM.  Their wines are also available at Frecon Orchard store on South Reading Avenue near Boyertown. 

On the first Friday of every month, Blair hosts a Happy Hour at the winery with food and wine for sale.  We spent a few hours there on June 3 and had a fabulous time.  They are dog-friendly, so our pup Rohan enjoyed herself, wandering the patio looking for handouts.


Rich barrel sampling Pinot Noir.
Blair charges a $5 tasting fee, waived with the purchase of a bottle (one waiver per bottle).

On Father's Day weekend, there will be fun for the entire family with games, music, beverages for the younger ones, and of course lots of great wine.

By the way, because of some bridge construction, depending on where you are coming from, you may need to take a small detour to reach the winery.  Check out the details here.  I don't think you'll be affected driving from the Pottstown area.

Up-coming Events
 Blair Vineyards
Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19, Father's Day Music, Games for the Family, Food, Fun.
 Click to events.

Galen Glen
Father's Day Weekend. Tour and our 8th Annual Winter Mountain Red Snow Cone Tour!
 Click to events.
 
Manatawny Creek
Saturday, June 25
Summer Solstice Festival
 Click to events.

Vynecrest
Music in the Vyneskeller every Saturday.  Winemaker's Tour Saturday June 25, 1 PM, $5 per person.
Click to website.

See June events at several wineries on the Brandywine Wine Trail.

Fun Fact 
French wines are still (mostly) named for the region in which they are produced (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne) while most of the world names wines by the primary grape the wine is produced from.  For example, all French Red Burgundy is Pinot Noir, but all Pinot Noir is not Red Burgundy.

E-mail Us

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Winery Tip of the Week - Galen Glen

Cheers from Vintage Connections  

We've tired of writing about two wines each week, so for the next few months we're going to write about nearby PA wineries and wine bars.  The weather is great and there are lots of fun activities, in addition to tasting wine, going on at PA wineries.  Take some time, take a drive, and enjoy! 


Dean and Lisa Foster
 Vintage Connections: Wine Educators and Consultants



Galen Glen Vineyard and Winery is a bit of a drive from our home and the Pottstown tri-county area, but well worth the time and gas.  The vineyard and winery is a short distance from the PA Turnpike (Northeast Extension) and Routes 309, 443 and 895.   The scenery during the drive and then from the patio and tasting room is spectacular.  Galen, Sarah, and their staff are friendly and knowledgeable.  We make the trip a couple of times each year and stock up on some excellent wines, especially their dry whites.


Reisling and Gruner Veltliner are Sarah's specialties.  The climate, soil, and weather is perfect for hardy, white wine grapes.  This year, she's introduced a dry Reisling to accompany her "half-dry" Reisling she's produced for years.  The dry Reisling just won a double gold medal at the Riverside (CA) International Wine Competition.  The Stone Cellar GrĂ¼ner Veltliner and Riesling half-dry (semi-dry) both won silver medals.  All from a modest little winery on top of a mountain in Schuylkill County. 

We've tasted Reislings from Germany, France, the Finger Lakes, PA and elsewhere and we concur with the Riverside judges.  Galen Glen's Dry Reisling is excellent and compares to the best in the world, at a Schuylkill County price.  Dry Reislings are hard to find and since they are rather rare, we suspect very few of  our readers have sampled them.  They take some getting used to since you always expect at least a touch of sweetness in white wines, or a bit of oak in chardonnays.  Most Reislings are semi-dry or even sweeter.  But dry Reisling is a taste you want to acquire.  We love both dry Reisling and half-dry (off dry, semi-dry) and sometimes even sweeter versions, depending on the acid balance and the food we are pairing them with. 

We also doubt many of our readers have sampled Gruner Veltliner.  This wine grape is primarily found in Austria (not Austrailia) and is another cool weather grape that is made into a distinctive dry, white wine.  Our first experience with Gruner was at Galen Glen several years ago.  A few weeks after sampling it (and buying a few bottles), the New York Times wine section featured the varietal.  Since then, we've sampled a few from Austria (not easy to find in PA or elsewhere in the USA) and found that Sarah's is very representative of excellent Gruner Veltiner.  Again, it's a very dry white and therefore, an acquired taste. 

We hear so many people say "I don't  like white wine,"  especially dry red wine drinkers. Well, we suspect that they don't like sweet wine, don't like oak in their white wines, and just haven't tasted well-made, dry whites or semi-dry whites that achieve that excellent balance of acid and sweetness, with the distinctive taste of excellent white wine grapes.

Galen Glen offers tastings for a modest fee, waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine (one bottle per waiver).  During June, they are hosting several wonderful events.  Below is the June calendar from their website.

June Walking Tours - Walking tour of the vineyard June 4, 5, 11 & 12 at 12 noon. One tour per day. Please wear sturdy foot gear. No reservations required and weather permitting.
June 4 & 5 at Winery
Summer Slushy Season Starts! - Sample a sweet frozen wine treat. One taste and you'll be imagining pitchers of slushies at your next party.
June 18 & 19
Father's Day Weekend - Bring Dad for a Tour and our 8th Annual Winter Mountain Red Snow Cone Tour! - Beat the heat of Summer with an icy, wine drenched treat.
June 25 & 26 at Winery
Case Club Celebration - If you're on our case club list, we'll be inviting you to this exclusive event.
Fun Fact 
The stick featured on Galen Glen's website, in the floor of the tasting room, and (the original) on the wall of the tasting room was used to measure the distance between their very first rows of vines.  It has become a symbol of the winery.  


Up-coming Events

 Galen Glen

See details in article below. Click to website.






Blair
Saturday, June 11
Winemaker's Dinner
6:30 PM, $60 per person, reservations required.

Sunday, June 19, Father's Day Music, Games for the Family, Food, Fun.
Click to website.

Manatawny Creek
Saturday, June 25
Summer Solstice Festival
Click to website.

Pinnacle Ridge
Saturday, June 12, Father's Day

Saturday, June 19, Skip Moyer's Jazz Jam.
Click to website.

Vynecrest
Music in the Vyneskeller every Saturday.  Winemaker's Tour Saturday June 25, 1 PM, $5 per person.
Click to website.

See June events at several wineries on the Brandywine Wine Trail.

Contact us to arrange a customized wine tasting, wine and food pairing, or any kind of wine related event.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wine Tips of the Week - Chambourcin (3)

Greetings from Vintage Connections!

Chambourcin

A word about Chambourcin (also a very long Fun Fact).

You won't find this wine in the PLCB stores (maybe rarely if they have a PA wine section). 

Chambourcin is an American-French (or French-American) hybrid grape used to make many styles of wine, from slightly sweet rose to dark reds to drinkable port.  The wines are wonderful whether bone dry or with residual sugar. There is no bitterness which is often found in purely native American wine grapes.    

Chambourcin's creator, Joannes Seyve, died before writing down the components of the Chambourcin hybrid, but he  often used Seibel hybrids.  The Chambourcin grape has only been available since 1963.  It is extremely resistant to fungal diseases making it an excellent choice for cooler, wetter climates.  Chambourcin has become Pennsylvania's signature grape, and is "the grape" of the Lehigh Valley AVA.  It is available at many PA wineries, as well as in the Finger Lakes and higher elevations of VA. MD and NC.

We are amazed at the wide variety of Chambourcin wines available at many of our favorite wineries, from the slightly sweet Chambourcin Rose available at Pinnacle Ridge to the luscious blend available at Blue Mountain, to a Chambourcin port we found several years ago at the Winery at Wilcox (near Erie).   We compared three Chambourcins this past week, pairing them with grilled pork ribs.  Two were from Pennsylvania and one was from the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina.   Their reviews follow.

We like and drink Chambourcins from many (mostly PA) wineries.  The three below are the ones we happened to pick from our wine rack this week.  No offense to other wine makers who also make wonderful Chambourcins.

Grassy Creek Chambourcin 2007 
 This dark ruby red dry wine comes from the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina.  We found this wine to be fruitier than most Pennsylvania Chambourcins we have tried, but certainly not a fruit bomb!  It had rich aromas of plums and red berries with flavors to match.  It had a satisfying finish and worked well with the grilled ribs with garlic butter sauce.  The winery is located in an old dairy barn at what was the Klondike (dairy) Farm.  They actually sell one of their wines in a milk bottle shaped bottle.  Alcohol is 13.8% by volume, but was by no means "hot".  Available at the winery outside of Elkin, NC for $16.00 a bottle. 

Pinnacle Ridge Chambourcin 2006
Our second Chambourcin of the evening was Pinnacle Ridge Chambourcin 2006.  Pinnacle Ridge Winery is located outside of Krumsville, PA in the Lehigh Valley AVA.  This ruby red dry wine is darker in color than the Grassy Creek.  It has berry aromas with a slight smokiness from being aged in toasted oak barrels for over a year.  The flavor is less fruity than the Grassy Creek Chambourcin but still with with flavors of red berries.  The smokiness in the aroma comes through in the flavor.  Alcohol is approximately 12% by volume.  Though the 2006 is no longer available, the 2008 Chambourcin is available at the winery for $14 a bottle and displays much the same excellent color, aroma and flavor as the 2006.   Brad Knapp, the owner and winemaker, also makes a Chambourcin Reserve.  We buy cases of it and save it for a few years.  We'll soon start drinking the 2004 vintage, but DON'T save most Chambourcins for more than a year or two, especially any NOT aged in oak for a year or more. 

Blue Mountain Chambourcin 2005
The last wine we compared and paired with our pork ribs was Blue Mountain Chambourcin 2005.   As soon as we poured it in our glasses we realized this was DARK for a Chambourcin and quickly made the assumption that is must be a blend.  Sure enough, the Blue Mountain Chambourcin 2005 is a blend of 82% Chambourcin and 18% Shiraz, making this dry red wine a dark deep red with purple tones.  It displays the red berry aromas typical in a Chambourcin, with a richer re berry taste,  softly rounded by the Shiraz.  We found this to be ever so slightly smoky, combining the best of both the Grassy Creek fruitiness and the Pinnacle Ridge smokiness into one delicious wine.  This also worked very well with the grilled pork ribs.  Blue Mountain Winery is located near New Tripoli, PA in the Lehigh Valley AVA but they also have a store in the Coventry Mall.   Taste it there before buying, especially if you have never had Chambourcin before.  Alcohol is 13.1% by volume.  Available at the winery and it's several outlets for $16.50 a bottle

Up-coming Events

Check websites of the wineries and wine trails for events, sales, etc.  There's a lot going on this summer.

"Time Off "
We plan to take a little "time off" from our newsletter and blog during the summer, so don't expect to hear from us every week.   

Newsletter Readers
You'll continue to receive our newsletter as soon as it's published.   

Grapevine Blog Readers
If you haven't set up an RSS feed or other notification of a new blog entry, you can do that OR email us and we'll add you to our e-newsletter distribution list.


WEB LINKS
 (read our past 78 postings)