Fall PA Wine Primer

mario-mazza-peter-szerdahelyi
Mario Mazza and winemaker Peter Szerdahelyi

I don’t know about you but for several weeks now, my thoughts have been drifting like Marv Albert’s hair piece toward the comfort of autumnal imbibing. The hot hot heat of summer never stuck and it’s feeling more like fall with every tick of the clock. Every chilly morning that greets me is an invitation to Merino wool and badass Bordeaux – or whatever your bottle of choice might be. It feels like the appropriate time to check in with a handful of our home state wineries – some we’ve sampled, others we haven’t – to see what the buzz is.

Inquiries were made, and the correspondence with producers who responded (not everyone did) allowed me to pull together this roundup of what’s “new-ish” on their wine lists for the upcoming season.

Cue tasting notes and theme music to It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown. Oh, and unless otherwise noted, wines are available directly through the wineries.

Crossing Vineyards and Winery

I first visited Crossing of Bucks County back in 2011 and it’s been about that long since their wine graced my glass. The current offering the winery chose to showcase is their ’13 Chard. Let’s take a sip.

Crossing Chardonnay 2013 ($18)
A mouthful at first – a dramatic mix of fat, oaky flavors and forward acidity. Plenty of toasty-vanilla on the nose, too. Though it remains nutty and broad, it settles down with a couple hours in the air, bringing out more pear and caramel notes, and the vanilla comes on strong. Heavy wood indicates a PA interpretation of a west coast Chard. 12.5% alcohol by volume. Also available from the PLCB for $16.99.

Crossing Vineyards and Winery
1853 Wrightstown Road
Washington Crossing, PA

Fero Vineyards and Winery

In a recent exchange, Fero’s Chuck Zaleski was feeling confident about last year’s vintage. “We pushed the ripening in 2013 so look for fuller versions of Finger Lakes-like wines,” he said. “I think our position here in Central PA is to produce cool climate varieties to a complex, full-bodied conclusion. We may sacrifice some of the acidity (but) I will try for a balance.” The vines that produced his 2013 wines, he explained, were in their fourth leaf. “There is some combination of maturing vines and a wiser winemaker that makes this work.”

These selections do not yet have final pricing. Chuck’s wife, Daneen, told me they would likely range between $13 and $18.

Fero Grüner Veltliner 2013
This crisp white has a lovely, nearly delicate quality. Fruity-floral fragrance, herbal, slight bite and sly fruit (pear, peach and apple). Grassiness, too, with ample finish. Balanced, clean, excellent. 11% ABV.

Fero Pinot Gris 2013
Fragrant with a hint of petrol. The intensity of flavors is impressive; just a hint of green at the mid palate. Good and round mouth feel, slightly creamy and appropriately mineral. Modest acidity, though there is a slight sting as the wine finishes. An endearing pear aftertaste lingers. 11.5% ABV.

Fero Pinot Noir 2013
I know Zaleski for his aromatic whites – which are impressive – but it was this PN that holistically brought his talents to bear in my mind. From the pour, the wine is the color of cranberry juice, extremely light bodied. Classic Pinot nose with light funk. Decanted about an hour (recommended two hours minimum for maximum expression), the cherry fruit blossomed, supported by flavors of mulling spice, length on the finish and lingering acidity. Just a touch of cool-climate green in the profile. A well-crafted effort that actually went toe to toe with a burger. 13.5% ABV.

Fero Dry Riesling 2013
Truly dry and quite satisfying. Firm acid meets the tip of the tongue as the wine goes in, a coming attraction to the full experience. Lime zest, honey drop and very light peach on the palate. Subtle, trained and full of rocky leanness. Light residual sugar at the mid palate, then a drying finish that’s a tad light and short but overall the work of a sure-handed winemaker who is confident enough to produce a dry Riesling in PA. 11.5% ABV.

Fero Vineyards & Winery
965 JPM Road
Lewisburg, PA

galen-glen-vineyard
Galen Glen vineyard

Galen Glen Vineyard and Winery

I’m very excited about Galen Glen’s current gallery of aromatic whites, and acknowledge that I’ve been too late in coming to their table. Thankfully, the winery recently helped me rectify my misguided ways. These are extraordinary wines that display an unquestionably skilled and deep understanding of cool climate vineyard management (as well as keen winemaking). Unquestionably worth a trip to Schuylkill County.

Galen Glen Gewürztraminer Stone Cellar 2012 ($14.99)
What an aroma from this wine: Bold and penetrating – and very promising. On the palate it’s mouth-coating and complex, richly floral, spiced and tropical. Ripe fruit shows well through minerality and electric acidity, providing terrific balance and setting the stage for a mid palate and finish that modulate between lush and lean. An aromatic triumph that brings layers of enjoyment. 14% ABV.

Galen Glen Stone Cellar Grüner Veltliner 2013 ($16.99)
Generously aromatic. Simultaneously clean/stony and round/creamy. Medium acid, flavors of banana, pear and apple with light spice and an enduring finish. Refreshing, and good with a bowl of stir-fried veggies. A simply delicious white.

Galen Glen Stone Cellar Riesling 2013 ($14.99)
Pretty nose. In fact, the whole package is pretty, balanced and clean. Loads of terroir and infiltrated by just a lil’ bit of sweet. Did I mention the great nose? Floral, apple, very good acid. Commendable, sure-handed Riesling. 12% ABV.

Galen Glen Vineyard and Winery
255 Winter Mountain Drive
Andreas, PA

Mazza Vineyards

We were fortunate to receive a pair of bottles from northwest Pennsylvania’s Mazza Vineyards, drawn from Lake Erie shore fruit. “We released our 2013 Grüner Veltliner south-shore-wine-company-gruner-veltlinerunder the South Shore Wine Company brand earlier this year,” shared Mario Mazza, noting it was the second vintage of the variety. “Additionally, we added a fourth wine to the Bare Bones brand set – a Moscato made using Valvin Muscat, back-sweetened using sweet reserve juice and bottled with just a spritz of dissolved carbon dioxide.”

South Shore Wine Company Grüner Veltliner 2013 ($14.95)
A smooth nose that’s slightly peppery, with banana. Very forward acid sizzle, with a touch of creaminess – making for curiously satisfying contrasts. The net result is smooth and easy drinking. Drier, lengthy finish. With Stelvin closure and 12% ABV.

Bare Bones Moscato NV ($11.95)
Pale in hue, with a fragrance like peach body cream. With residual sugar at just over 2%, the sweetness is well in check, delivering clean peachy notes along with a leaner, acidic profile. Drinkable-plus. With only a couple hundred cases produced, it’s easy to see how this sells out quickly. Stelvin closure and 12% ABV.

Mazza Vineyards
11815 East Lake Road
North East, PA

Paradocx Vineyard

We first became aware of this Chester County producer via the Pennsylvania Farm Show back in January.

Paradocx Cabernet Franc 2013 ($28.99)
Intensely odorous: Strong cheese, pickle juice, sweet hay and fruit. The juice is less forward and medium bodied. Flavors of earth and mushroom, cherry, spice, a drop of cream and some vegetal greenness. A little short and hot on the finish but relatively balanced and nuanced. With ample aeration, an easy wine to bring to the autumn table. 14.1% ABV.

Paradocx Pinot Grigio 2013 ($17.99)
Fresh-nosed and carrying some zest, this straightforward sipper renders ripe pear flavors, slated firmament and mid-level acid. 13.3% ABV.

Paradocx Leverage 2012 ($30.99)
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (two-thirds) and Petit Verdot, on the richer side of the flavor spectrum. Red and dark stewed fruit bring a mix of tart and depth, earthy and spicy. Faint hints of coffee and charcoal and tinges of under-ripeness. Limited tannic resistance. Several hours of decanting recommended if consuming in the near-term. 13% ABV.

Paradocx Vineyard
1833 Flint Hill Road
Landenberg, PA

penns-woods-white-merlot

Penns Woods Winery

“Our newest release is our French-style, dry rosé,” said Penns Woods’ Carley Razzi-Mack, noting the popularity of the winery’s pink wine. “This White Merlot has always been a favorite but (because of) the buzz about rosé wines, our 2012 vintage sold out three weeks before the release of the 2013.” She recommended pairing the wine with grilled foods, salads and cheeses.

2013 Penns Woods White Merlot ($22)
Salmon pink, with fresh aromas of peach and sea breeze. There’s satisfying medium-plus body (don’t forget, it’s a Merlot) and a dry, lasting finish. Plenty of flavor, ranging from strawberry, peach and apple to rose petals and a touch of cream. An appealing pink.

Penns Woods Winery
124 Beaver Valley Road
Chadds Ford, PA

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