Chester County Connection
Rarely is a visit to Va La Vineyards solely about the wine. Spend some time with owner Anthony Vietri and his welcoming, tenured staff and you quickly uncover connections: Yes, with the soulful wine but also to family (yours and theirs), music, history (yours and theirs), working the earth, friendship, tractors and more. It’s a natural flow. Then come the morsels of local foods – dollops of soft cheese, breads and dense chocolates that accompany the wines. A little bit of home.
For me, visiting with Vietri is an easy assignment, a bridge to common sensibilities. We both attended NYU and share tales from the Reagan-era grit of Manhattan. We love music and film. We bond around uncovered linkages.
But I’m not special. I know it’s common currency in the Va La tasting room; an extension of Vietri’s expressive winemaking style. The wines, honest and faithful and farmed from a mere seven acres of Chester County soil, are an accomplishment that deserves contemplation. They’re a connection to appreciate.
Curious about the current Va La rotation, I journeyed to Avondale and met with Vietri over wine and conversation. It’s an excellent time to visit at the moment – for reasons I outline above and because the wines are showing extremely well. Following are some thoughts on a pair of bottlings as well as a short video interview with Vietri in his winery facility. Note that these selections are extremely limited in quantity and dawdlers may miss out.
La Prima Donna 2011
The primary white wine of Va La, La Prima Donna is a singular, perennial pleaser. Intensely aromatic, it’s citric and brisk up front yet gains depth by the mid palate as the grapefruit-mineral elements yield to a more herbaceous display and weightier mouth feel. My last encounter with this vin orange (the curious hue is a byproduct of a month’s contact with the red skins) was a touch more fruit-forward, though the grapes used – Malvasia Bianco, Petit Manseng, Pinot Grigio and Tocai Friuliano – remain consistent. This is not a criticism. The interpretation is a testament to the winemaker’s sensitivity to the vineyard’s annual inclinations and strengths. In crafting La Prima Donna, Vietri keeps each variety separate as they ferment, rest on lees and age. Blending occurs just prior to bottling. “It gives more complexity and (the wine) changes in the glass over time,” he said.
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Currently #1 in my heart. Again, a powerfully expressive bouquet greets the nose, one that’s not entirely unlike a Pinot Noir. The blend of Barbera, Petit Verdot, Carmine, Lagrein, Sagrantino and Teroldego is dangerously easy-drinking and flush with cherry fruit. Nearly untouched by oak, the juice spent time in new oak barrels but its bursting freshness compelled Vietri to keep the stint brief. “I knew it wouldn’t stay oaky at all,” he shared. Beyond the fruit, though, is exquisite spice and some dirty earthiness rendered by the Carmine, Lagrein and Sangrantino. Don’t be put off – it’s glorious. Medium-bodied and fully alive, I’d recommend putting a slight chill on the bottle to sip in the summer evening or save for hearty dishes once the leaves hit the ground. We sampled ours following two hours of decanting, and Vietri recommends six to 12 hours for maximum pleasure.
Va La Vineyards
8820 Gap Newport Pike