Photography by Joel Plankin.
The emerging wine industry that’s spreading across southern Pennsylvania is a lot like a precocious teenager—sometimes showing flashes of brilliance, sometimes stumbling, but always growing. Not surprisingly, 2015 has been a year of continued development and activity, with several emerging or accelerating trends.
The good wineries continue to get better. Va La Vineyards is achieving cult winery attention from national wine media, and Paradocx Vineyard, Grace Winery, Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery, and Penns Woods Winery are finding their way onto lists in fine restaurants.
Trained winemakers from elsewhere are swarming into the area. Paradocx, Borderland Vineyard, Grace and Galer all have vintners with winemaking degrees or experience in such places as Argentina, California and Canada. Penns Woods owner Gino Razzi still makes wine in Italy. Similarly, more wineries are hiring national vineyard consultants.
This influx takes nothing away from talented, self-trained winemakers like John Weygandt of Stargazers Vineyard & Winery, Mario Patone of Patone Cellars Winery & Vineyard and Anthony Vietri of Va La. But it does show that professional winemakers and consultants see promise here.
Wineries also serve as settings for social functions once reserved for fire halls, churches, community centers, local pubs and shopping malls. Young people are flocking to vineyards for first dates, girls’ Saturdays out, yoga classes, weddings and receptions. Meanwhile, they’ve become local hangouts and places to hear music for a slightly older crowd. And many wineries offer activities for children.
Wine blends are gaining some of the attention only varietal wines once enjoyed. Exciting mixtures—often of seldom-seen grape varieties—have been the result. Va La offers both red and white. Patone features a new Meritage red. Grace produces two interesting red cuvées.
Local wines are now being sold in every kind of container. Paradocx is perhaps the most inventive. A few years ago, it received national attention for selling wines in paint cans with a tap. It has since added pouches.
Local wines are easily available. Going to a winery is fun, but the Pennsylvania wineries also sell at farmers’ markets and specialty stores. Kreutz Creek Vineyards operates a BYOF (bring your own food) facility in downtown West Chester.
Local wineries have also experienced some setbacks. Alice Weygandt, cofounder of Stargazers with her husband, John, died earlier this year. She was well-known in local wine circles for her marketing efforts and her love of vineyard work. Twin Brook Winery in Gap closed, and the vineyard land is set to be used for other purposes. Tim Jobe, Twin Brook’s talented winemaker, has since joined John Weygandt at Stargazers as its winemaker and vineyard manager.
November is a great month to explore our wineries. Check out our list of must-visit locales. We also tell you about five local wines that you really need to try.
Va La Vineyards in Avondale has been getting some cult-winery attention from national critics.
Where: 3000 Lincoln Hwy., Sadsburyville
About: Black Walnut Winery is housed in a 200-plus-year-old bank barn that the owners (Lance and Valerie Castle and Jack and Karen Kuhn) renovated for wine tasting and events. It opened to the public in 2009.
You’ll find: White, red, Port-style and seasonal wines.
Tours & Tastings: $7 to sample five wines, $10 for seven wines and $5 for Port-style wines. There is also have a tasting room in downtown Phoenixville.
Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.
Contact: (610) 857-5566.
Where: 332 Indiantown Road, Landenberg
About: At the family’s Fall Line Farm, Kurt Kalb joined forces with his sister Karen Kalb Anderson in 2008 and planted Borderland’s first vines. The vineyard includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and some experimental rows of Malbec and Syrah.
You’ll find: Unoaked Chardonnay, dry Riesling and Merlot aged in French oak.
Tours & tastings: November- April, the tasting room is open by appointment only. The wines are also available at several area farmers’ markets. Tours are available by request.
Contact: (215) 436-9154.
Where: 632 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford
About: Winemaker Jim Osborn carries on the tradition of locally sourced wines at the winery, founded in 1982. The main facility is housed in a 17th-century dairy barn.
You’ll find: The shelves may include dry varietals such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, and small-lot wines like the multiple award-winning 2012 Blaufränkisch. The winery also produces varietals such as Niagara, a Sangria and a Spiced Apple wine.
Tours & Tastings: Tastings are $7 on weekdays and $10 on weekends for six to seven wines (includes a logo glass to take home). Reservations are not required. Guided tours are offered at 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sundays.
Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Contact: (610) 388-6221
Where: 700 Folly Hill Road, Kennett Square
About: Owners Brad and Lele Galer produce and sell wines made from Chester County grapes in their state-of-the-art winery behind Longwood Gardens.
You’ll find: Galer Estate icon-etched wine glasses for purchase, $10 each.
Tours & Tastings: Flights are $10 for four 1-ounce pours. Tastings are complimentary with the purchase of two or more bottles of Galer Estate wine. Locally made cheeses and bread are also for sale.
Hours: noon-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; noon-7 p.m. Sunday.
Contact: (484) 899-8013.
Where: 50 Sweetwater Road, Glen Mills
About: The 50-acre property houses a manor that dates to 1734 and renovated cottages that are part of the Inn at Grace Winery, plus the vineyard. The first vines were planted in 2008.
You’ll find: A renovated 1750s bank barn.
Tours & Tastings: Features five to seven wines, $15 a person.
Hours: 4-9 p.m. Friday; noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Contact: (610) 459-4711
Where: 553 S. Guernsey Road, West Grove
About: Carole and Jim Kirkpatrick began making wine in 1989. Today, they are producing dry white, dry red, semi-dry and dessert wines.
You’ll find: Seasonal outdoor events where you can bring lawn chairs, blankets and a picnic meal. Well-behaved pets are invited, too.
Tours & Tastings: In addition to tastings at the winery in West Grove, there is a tasting room at 44 E. Gay St., West Chester, (610) 436-5006, with live music Friday and Saturday.
Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
Contact: (610) 869-4412.
Where: 1833 Flint Hill Road, Landenberg
About: The vineyard is owned and operated by the Hoffman and Harris families. The name of the winery is a play on words, as the four principles are practicing physicians (pair of docs).
You’ll find: A retail shop, plus 100 acres of picturesque land, 30 of them under vine. Head winemaker Gabriel Rubilar uses grapes from vinifera, Chambourcin and Vidal vines.
Tours & Tastings: Choose from more than 20 varieties for wine flights at the vineyard’s tasting room-retail shop. The wines are also available at area farmers’ markets, restaurants and retail shops.
Hours: noon-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
Contact: (610) 255-5684
Patone Cellars Winery & Vineyard
Where: 1051 Wickerton Road, Landenberg
About: This rustic, Italian-style winery is dedicated to using local grapes. The first vintage was planted 2008.
You’ll find: Owner Mario Patone striving to make traditional, European-style wines.
Tours & Tastings: The tasting room is under construction.
Hours: By appointment.
Contact: (302) 545-7388.
Where: 124 Beaver Valley Road, Chadds Ford
About: Winemaker Gino Razzi and his daughter, Carley Mack, produce award-winning wines from Pennsylvania-grown grapes. Wines range from light and fruity Traminette and Sauvignon Blanc to Italian-style Bordeaux.
You’ll find: A gift shop that sells fair-trade items, plus local candles, art, wine totes, cheeses, chocolate and more.
Tours & Tastings: Two different flights are available, each with five wines for $12 a person. Also offered are artisan cheeses and spreads (starting at $7.50) or a cheese plate ($14.99, available weekends only). Outside food is not permitted inside the tasting room, but visitors are encouraged to pack a picnic and enjoy it on the patio or lawn.
Hours: noon-5:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Contact: (610) 459-0808.
Where: 1024 Wheatland Drive, Coatesville
About: Stargazers was founded by John Weygandt and his late wife, Alice. The vineyard was first planted in 1979. The winery was established in 1996.
You’ll find: Visitors are welcome to stroll in the vineyard. Bring a picnic—tables and chairs are available—and look out over the lavender garden in season.
Tours & Tastings: Tasting-room hours are every Saturday and Sunday and other times by appointment. The tasting includes five samples for $5. Buses and limo groups and parties of more than six are asked to make reservations.
Hours: noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Contact: (610) 486-0422
Where: 8822 Gap Newport Pike (Route 41), Avondale
About: The small farm is devoted to the production of four dry table wines. The vines are farmed by the winemaker.
You’ll find: A 100-plus-year barn converted into a tasting room.
Tours & Tastings: The wines are offered by the bottle and by the glass; a tasting flight of four is available for $20. The winery is unable to accommodate groups larger than six.
Hours: noon-5:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday
Contact: (610) 268-2702