Home > Uncategorized > Take a Mini Pennsylvania Wine Tour

Take a Mini Pennsylvania Wine Tour

Every year, the organization I work for holds a reception for our annual art show, during which local wines are served.  One of our board members, and fellow blogger, Dean Foster, recommended that the staff visit a few area wineries to help choose the wines this year. A few of us decided this sounded like a great idea. So, yes, as it turns out, I did do this on company time. But trust me, it was hard work requiring deep concentration and quite a bit of decision making. At least, that’s what I told my boss. Here are the details.

1. We visited three wineries: Our itinerary included three wineries–two of which were quite a bit farther from our Pottstown offices than I’d anticipated. They included Manatawny Creek Winery, in Douglassville; Vynecrest Vinyards, in some far-off place called Breinigsville, PA; and Pinnacle Ridge Winery ,  in Kutztown. Each winery allowed us to taste 6-8 wines.  I was driving, so I severely limited my tastings, but I still learned a lot. Also, we weren’t offered a spit bucket probably because this would have grossed us all out. In case you were wondering.

2. What I know about wine: Well, I know a lot more now. But overall, my understanding of wines has pretty much been limited to other people’s commentaries. Occasionally this means that what other people tell me is a great wine turns out to be something I have a hard time swallowing. Especially if they say “dry and oaky.” Even if I can heartily agree that it tastes like a dry oak leaf, I can’t see how that’s a great wine. So, I embarked on this mini-wine tour with a lot to learn.

3. Manatawny Creek Winery: What struck me first was how close this is to where I live, and how charming the shop was. The walls were purple, the bench outside was purple, the countertop was purple as well. This gave the shop an artsy feel. The owners were fun and informative. They gave us a sheet with a list of wines to choose and informed us we could taste 8. Because of my lack of knowledge, I stood next to Lisa Foster, who is a wine expert, and shamelessly copied, checking off all the wines she checked off.  The wines were divided into categories of sweet whites, dry whites, sweet reds, semi-sweet, etc.  I already know that I don’t like wines that are too sweet, but two of my co-workers preferred the sweet wines. Lisa seemed open to everything. It was interesting to taste wines in this manner, because it allowed me the opportunity to compare and contrast in a way I never had before. That alone enabled me to understand that there was more to wine than “dry and oaky” and that wines seem to have an intricate variety of flavors that you sort of have to think about while you taste.

4. We toured the production areas: I never stopped to think about the fact that local wineries not only grow their own grapes, but make the wines on the premises. In fact, our tour was very well timed, since many of the grapes are being harvested now. Manatawny has 10-acres of vinyards, and also purchases some grapes from other parts of the state. In the production area we saw large vats of grapes that had recently been picked and had to be mixed several times a day. We also saw large metal tanks where the wine ferments. We didn’t see the barrels, since they were in another area, but we did see a bottling  machine that was pretty cool (it wasn’t operating). The smell was very strong and yeasty, which I hadn’t expected. And the vinyards were very scenic at evey place we visited, although it was pouring rain throughout the day.

5. Wine tour becomes Whine Tour: When we finished that tour we were told the next vinyard was 45 minutes away. This was enough to elicit a few complaints from me and the two fellow coworkers I was driving with, Cindy and Dolores. In fact, we hit traffic and a detour that took us far out of our way and through the deep, winding backroads of Berks and Lehigh Counties. Suffice it to say we did a fair amount of whining, and wondered how we were even going to survive another wine tasting when we hadn’t eaten lunch. We managed.

6. Vynecrest: This place was so beautiful that, despite the fact that getting there was trying, we all agreed that we would love to come back for one of their Saturday afternoon music events. The events are held in their Vyneskeller, which features a wall of windows overlooking the vinyards. I again limited my tastings, but really enjoyed several of the wines and bought one called a Lemberger, which I’d never heard of before.

7. Lunch: At this point it was pretty much essential that we stop for lunch. We visited Wawa and ate in the car on our way to our final destination. My co-workers proved to be great traveling companions, providing (sometimes loudly) navigational assistance and handing me different parts of my lunch as I drove. Also, they encouraged me to skip the final vinyard but I had no idea how to get home from there.

8. Pinnacle Ridge: I really loved this vinyard. There is a gorgeous 19th century barn on the property that is used for events, and the showroom is set directly in front of the barrels of fermenting wine. The owner pointed out various wine equipment. All the vinyards had complained of birds eating the grapes. This vinyard had an electronic distressed bird call that sounded periodically. Nets were placed over the vines in one field. I learned the nets are difficult to remove, since they settle onto the vines and need to be worked off carefully. I also learned that wine barrels don’t come cheap. They’re all oak, but come from different countries and different forests, and each impart a different flavor. A French wine barrel can cost $1,000, and even an American barrel costs $350 or above, and the barrels are only good for several years.

9. I bought two bottles: After learning about the high cost and the labor involved in creating wines, I felt I should break my rule of never spending more than $6 on a bottle. So I bought two wines, both over $10 (and one nearly $20). I’ll save that last one for Thanksgiving.

10. On the way home: We did a goodly amount of complaining about how much driving we’d done and how late it was. But when I arrived home and complained to my husband, he frowned and asked “Did you get paid to do that?” “Listen,” I said. “This was hard work. It required a lot of concentration and decision-making.” He just shook his head, making it clear he wasn’t buying it. I’m glad he’s not my boss.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Dean Foster
    October 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    HI Laura,
    Thanks for the amazing summary of our visits to Mantawny, Vynecrest, and Pinnacle Ridge. Sorry about the long drive, which due to the detours was longer than we anticipated.
    After the bridge on 737 is open, it’s a much shorter trip. And, there are over 100 more PA wineries you can visit. Each one offers something unique and interesting, in addition to the small batch, hand-crafted wines.
    Dean

    • October 3, 2011 at 6:38 pm

      It really was a great day! Definitely worth driving a bit more than planned!

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