Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tasting Notes and Winery Reviews: Brandywine Valley, PA, Day One

Hubby and I have a mission to taste wine in each state that grows its own grapes and makes it. The original goal was to taste wine in each state that makes it, but some luster is lost when the juice is California or Niagara. Not that a talented winemaker can't put his own stamp on something, but where the grapes are grown matters.

While in Pennsylvania visiting Babysis, we took the opportunity to check out the wine scene. We lucked into the "Barrels on the Brandywine" (BoB) passport, which was $30 to visit most of the wineries in the Brandywine Valley area. It essentially covered tasting fees, but hey, we got glasses! Oh, and most of the wineries on the list were also doing barrel tastings of the 2010 vintages, so we got a peek of what's to come (hint: 2010 was a good year for Pennsylvania grapes).

This was our first time tasting wine in the northeast. It has hazards that we hadn't encountered in any other part of the country:

Indeed, we saw several examples of the following highway exit maneuver, which Hubby dubbed the "Jersey Exit Strategy":

1. Slam on brakes in left lane approximately ten feet after the start of the exit demarcation.

2. Throw right blinker on and dash over to exit, regardless of who's coming up behind you or at what speed.

3. Curse out other drivers for honking at you and Department of Transportation for not putting the exit where you think it should be.

Okay, I made up number 3, but I imagine it's pretty accurate. Having seen this maneuver with somewhat less frequency in Atlanta, I feel that I have adequate confirmation that the second Yankee invasion has occurred, and they're driving around I-285.

Other challenges included Yankee cluelessness regarding sweet tea (hint: it is not the canned stuff that's premixed with lemon) and, back in Philadelphia, cab drivers who will try to kill you in their backseats and then curse you out in some foreign language when you pay with a credit card. Also, conversations in restaurants seem to occur in one of three volumes: loud, louder, and Jersey, which is really loud plus liberal sprinkling of F-bombs.

Back to the wine tastings… Lists of tasting notes get boring, so I'll hit the highlights at each winery.

Our first stop was Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford. Located in a lovely yellow farmhouse with green trim, it featured five wines for the BoB tour. It's here that we got our first taste of Pennsylvnia Pinot Grigio, which we found to be a strong wine across the area. Even Hubby, who tends to dislike PG, found several he liked. Their 2005 Pinot Grigio has lovely citrus notes with mineral/melon on the edges of the palate. No barrels here.

Chaddsford Winery had been recommended to us by a fellow wine blogger and a local, and they didn't disappoint. We particularly enjoyed the 2008 Naked (unoaked) Chardonnay with its lovely green apple nose and hint of smokiness. Our favorite was the 2007 Merlot, which is medium-bodied, smooth, and well-balanced with nice, dark fruit. We got two bottles in anticipation of needing a wine for a BYOB restaurant for dinner. They barrel tasted the 2010 Chardonnay and the 2010 Pinot Noir, which I didn't even know could be grown on the East Coast. It was a little rough, as expected, but it should be nice when finished. The Chardonnay should also be good.

Oh, and they use Hungarian oak:

Since we had an SUV, we went off-trail. Paying ten dollars for the "Signature Tasting" at VaLa Vineyards was worth it. Hubby commented that he's not sure whether winemaker Anthony Vieti is a genius or a mad scientist because the blends are complex and interesting in a good way. They pair each tasting with cheese, which makes for much foodie fun. Our favorite was the 2008 Silk, a dry rosato blend of "Barbera, Corvine, Carmine, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Nebbiolo, etc." They paired it with Shellbark Hollow goat cheese, a local cheese that has to be the best goat cheese I've ever tasted: fresh with just enough tanginess to identify it as goat cheese, but not at all funky. Oh, the wine was good, too. They bill it as "something for everyone" with enough crisp fruitiness for white lovers and mild tannin structure for those who prefer reds. We found it to be a nice rosé and smooth as the name implies.

The GPS brought us over the river and through the woods (literally) to Paradocx Vineyard, where they tried to be in denial of the cold by handing out plastic leis and having a cookout. I give them points for effort but detract them for not having printed tasting notes. Our favorite was the Yield, a blend of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Light-bodied, it has nice fruit through the middle and a lingering apricot-honeysuckle finish. We got a bottle of it, and it was opened on our first night back home.

Our last intentional stop for the day was Kreutz Creek Vineyards. We didn't find the wines there to be to our tastes, as they tended to be very tart and acidic. They should take note from VaLa and pair with food.

It was getting to be evening, and the event technically ended around 5:00, so we headed to Kennett Square and checked into the Kennett House Bed and Breakfast. We wandered through town to see where we might like to go for dinner and stumbled upon the Flickerwood Wine Cellars tasting room. The winery is actually in northwest Pennsylvania, so we were excited for the opportunity to taste some PN wine from a different area. We liked the whites better than the reds and ended up with a bottle of their Pinot Grigio, which was more like a dry Riesling with its floral and stone fruit characteristics.

So, by the end of day one, the bottle tally was:

Merlot: 2
Pinot Grigio: 2
Rosé Blend: 1
White Blend: 1
Chardonnay: 1

Yes, two Pinot Grigios and a Rosé. This is almost unheard of for Hubby. By the end of the day, I was wondering whether the second day would live up to the first. Tune in Sunday to find out!


Funky Finds said...

Sounds great! Am a Texan temporarily displaced to PA (for work reasons) & have wanted to do the trail for some time.

Cecilia Dominic said...

Thanks for stopping by! Have you tasted in Texas?

We hit all of the Brandywine trail wineries except one, and reviews of the others will be posted on Sunday.


RCWRTR said...

It sounds like you found some good PA wines. I like the Pinot Grigio here.