When you think about phrases to describe the Delaware Valley, chances are “wine country” isn’t one of them. But it’s an apt description, given the number of wineries that dot Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey. There are terrific wines to taste and wineries to visit within an hour of Center City Philadelphia—at least ten in Chester County alone, and almost as many in Bucks County—and New Jersey offers yet another winery extravaganza.
You don’t have to travel to Southern California for a winery tour. KYW’s Molly Daly recently uncorked one of the Delaware Valley’s best kept secrets. Listen to the podcast…
Dr. Mark Harris, co-owner and vineyard manager at the cleverly named Paradocx Vineyards, says the area is well-suited for growing grapes.
“The climate is very similar to some of the more famous regions in France. We have enough water for good grape growth, we have deep soils, which are also good in general for grape production. The climate, although it can be challenging with things like frosts and drought at times, in general is very forgiving and a good place to grow grapes,” Dr. Harris explains.
The wineries are often run by families, or in the case of vineyards like Paradocx, started and run by friends with a common interest. And what sparked that interest might surprise you.
“How’d I get interested in winemaking? By the time you graduate from medical school, you probably study fermentation in chemistry three or four times. And so you start to think about, well, what else? You start to get interested in fermentation, and the best product that’s fermented is wine,” says Dr. Dave Hoffman, also of Paradocx.
The easiest–but by no means only–way to check out local vintners is to follow a wine trail, which offers a map of participating wineries, and in some cases, passports for discounts on tastings, bottles or cases, and even lodging. The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail’s Karen Klein describes the process:
“Our trail starts with members in the Chadds Ford area, and we extend all the way up to Gap, Pennsylvania and Route 30; it’s a nice drive. We advocate you doing two or three wineries in a day. There are some hotels in area that participate with us and have special packages that you get – ‘passports’ is what we call them. You can go to each winery and do tastings under that passport.”
A wine tasting should be relaxed, informative and fun. The staff will walk you through the process and the offerings; each tasting will be as unique as the individual winery. Co-owner Karen Vietri says Va La Vineyards in Chester County offers two tasting levels, one for $10 and the other for $20.
“In the Signature tasting, you will taste three wines paired with local farmed cheeses, as well as the infused oils and the breads. The Galleria tasting features four wines, and in addition to the local cheeses, there is homemade focaccia and a chocolate truffle made using our wine.”
It was at Va La Vineyards that I met Michelle Nieva, who (along with her brother Nate) visited, over the course of a year, every winery in New Jersey, and then moved on to Pennsylvania. She says it was an enjoyable learning curve.
“We just did a lot of reading about the wineries, and we asked a lot of questions about the wine and where it comes from, how they age it, and things of that nature. But if you don’t know anything, it doesn’t matter. As long as you enjoy what you drink, that’s fine,” Nieva says.
And it’s not a test?
“No, no. They just hope that you like their wine, and that you recommend other people to come. And that’s what we do, we spread the word.”
I told Michelle my biggest surprise was just how sociable the tasting process can be, and she agreed, adding that “whenever we go to wineries, we never have a bad time. Everyone’s always pretty much very nice. We’ve met friends here, and just had a very very nice time.”
Michelle and Nate are so friendly with the folks at Va La, they came bearing goodies: Nate’s delectable homemade butter cookies with a dark chocolate truffle center. They paired beautifully with both the white and red wines. They also recommended a New Jersey winery, Amalthea in Atco, which Michelle says makes sensational Bordeaux-style reds.
A tasting is the best and most enjoyable way to sample the fruits of the area’s wineries. Listen to Molly Daly’s podcast on local tastings…
And in addition to wine, most wineries host concerts and hold special events throughout the summer. Karen Klein says the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail is no exception.
“This summer, we’re doing something new for the first time. We’re teaming up with Brandywine Polo, and each Friday night from June 3rd through August 26th, we’ll be at the Brandywine Polo Club in Toughkenamon serving wine by the glass, by the bottle. People can come, watch polo, bring a picnic, buy food there, and even listen to concerts, so you would want to check out www.fridaynightunderthestars.comfor that,” Klein says.
Winery hours can range from weekends-only to seven days a week. For hours and directions, always check the websites and/or call the vineyard in advance. Some vineyards, like Paradocx, have offsite tasting rooms that can spare you a drive if your time is limited.
If you discover a wine or winery you especially like, please pass it along. And by all means, bring cookies! –Molly Daly, KYW Newsradio
Brandywine Valley Wine Trail
Black Walnut Winery
3000 Lincoln Highway
Sadsburyville, PA 19369
Kreutz Creek Winery
553 S. Guernsey Road
West Grove, PA 19390
1833 Flint Hill Road
Landenberg, PA 19350
Penn’s Woods Winery
124 Beaver Valley Road
Chadds Ford, PA 19317
Twin Brook Winery
5697 Strasburg Road
Gap, PA 17527
Va La Family Farmed Wines (Not on the Wine Trail)
8820 Gap Newport Pike (Rt. 41)
Avondale, PA 19311
Bucks County Wine Trail
New Hope Winery
6123 Lower York Road, Route 202
New Hope, PA 18938
Buckingham Valley Vineyards
1521 Route 413
PO Box 371
Buckingham, PA 18912
1853 Wrightstown Road
Washington Crossing, PA 18977
Rose Bank Winery
258 Durham Road
Newtown, PA 18940
New Jersey Wine Trails
209 Vineyard Road
Atco, NJ 08004
205 Repaupo Station Rd
Logan Township, NJ 08085
Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery
600 S. Railroad Avenue.
Rio Grande, NJ. 08242.
150 Atlantic Street
Landisville, NJ 08326
For more info on South Jersey wineries, click here.