Where on earth can you – under one roof – watch a celebrity milking contest or cow patty bingo, nosh on scrapple, lamb stew, trout chowder, grilled portabellas and honey ice cream and knock back an in-state Traminette or Chambourcin?
While you’re at it, check out the tractor square dance and take in the history of wheat weaving. Unimpressed? Is Chef Bobo’s cream of cauliflower soup of interest?
You get the point. Pennsylvania Farm Show: There’s something for everyone.
Yes, the 98th Farm Show, claimed to be the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the country, a showcase of thousands of animals and exhibits, is happening in Harrisburg on January 4-11. Oh, and free admission!
And, wine folk, in case you missed it up front, the scene isn’t merely heifers, hogs and harvesters. You’ll be able to sample and buy wines, and there will be 24 Keystone wineries featured throughout the week. With any luck, you’ll sample one of the Governor’s Cup medal winners to be unveiled in the Main Hall.
Past competition winners have included Allegheny Cellars Winery, Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery, Crossing Vineyards, Fero Vineyards, Greendance Winery, Karamoor Estate, Mazza Vineyards, Pinnacle Ridge Winery, Presque Isle Wine Cellars, Seven Mountains Wine Cellars and others.
We connected with some of the producers who will be in rotation at this year’s event to gain their insights and recommendations on ways to boost the Farm Show experience: Chuck Zaleski of Fero Vineyards, Mario Mazza of Mazza Vineyards, Caryn Dolan of Paradocx Vineyard and Joseph Maxian of Sandcastle Winery.
What’s a can’t-miss feature of the Farm Show?
Mazza: The butter sculpture, based on the number of visitors it generates!
Fero: The crowd. The complex is packed with people of all ages enjoying products, displays, and events from Pennsylvania agricultural producers.
What will surprise first-time visitors?
Paradocx: The number of Pennsylvania wineries and the diversity of wines.
Fero: The energy in the building. The event is lively and there are so many options of things to see and do.
Mazza: The vast amount of vendors and variety of exhibits and displays will surprise anyone who has not previously attended.
Are there additional partnerships that agriculture & viticulture are missing out on?
Mazza: There may be some, but it really is a case by case basis. Some grape growers have learned a lot from other sectors of ag and have helped move viticulture in the state along. There is still much progress to be made, and the more communication and sharing of experiences/techniques/triumphs/failures that happens, the quicker our industry can grow and flourish.
Sandcastle: We’re always interested in learning more about other agricultural food products presenting at the show, especially cheeses, jams and meats, as there are always new and different local food and wine pairings to explore. That’s the essence of supporting and enjoying the eat & drink local movement.
Which wine would you pair with scrapple?
Paradocx: Pail Pink is our fruity rosé blush wine with a soft floral aroma and hints of red berries, a touch of sweetness. It’s a blend of red and white with nice fruit than can be enjoyed on its own or pairs very well with scrapple. That little bit of savory goes well with a touch of sweetness.
Fero: The sweet, syrupy berry wines may pair best. I do enjoy scrapple at times with either ketchup or berry syrup. The sweetness and acidity complement the fat content and though I’ve never tried the wine with scrapple – so it is just a guess – it sounds like something right off the farm.
Sandcastle: Like scrapple, our Alpine Spice wine is a fun and unique product of the area. The secret blend of herbs and spices pairs wonderfully with smoky, porky flavor, and this would be no exception.
How are PA wineries contributing to the farm to table movement?
Fero: Farm to table is what we are about. Our grapes are picked at the vineyard, processed just over the hill and sold at the vineyard tasting room. They never leave Union County until you bring them to your table.
Mazza: Many Pennsylvania wineries are working with high-end restaurants that offer fresh, locally produced products and these wines demonstrate that they, too, fit the farm to table movement.
What can vintners learn from the state’s farmers?
Fero: Many Pennsylvania vintners are farmers. Understanding the fruit from the farmer’s viewpoint naturally leads to better expression in the wine. I think the French call it terroir.
Are PA fruit wines misunderstood or malformed?
Mazza: Many of the fruit wines in the state are very well made and high quality. Some people may not know what to expect with fruit wines or may be taken by surprise by their subtleties in some instances.
Talk briefly about the climatic influences of your area and benefits to your grapes.
Mazza: Our largest influence comes from Lake Erie that moderates the climate along the shoreline and allows for successful viticulture in this part of the world. The lake’s cold temperature in the spring holds back bud break to protect vines from potential frost damage and the warm lake in the late summer and fall helps to regulate the nighttime temperature as we finishing ripening fruit as well as moderating and delaying the first frost.
Fero: Pennsylvania’s climate is perfect for wine grapes. It is warm enough to ripen, cool enough for character and tough enough to make the grapes and vintners suffer just the right amount to make beautiful wine.
Paradocx: Pennsylvania has many diverse climates. The southeast corner of the state, where Paradocx is located, is uniquely influenced by both Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, creating the warmest climate in the state.
Sandcastle: We’re also in the Delaware Valley, where warmer winters help keep grape quality consistent.
So what are you pouring? Tell us about a wine that visitors should seek out.
Fero: I am really enjoying our Estate Lemberger. It is a Pennsylvania red wine that will impress some worldly palates. Ruby red in color and well-rounded by oak barrel ageing. A pleasant accompaniment to hearty winter meals, but I really like sipping it next to the fireplace in the cool evenings.
Mazza: We will be featuring a variety of wines including dry and sweet, reds and whites and those made from vinifera, native and hybrid varieties. Our goal is to offer a range to demonstrate the diverse offerings of our region.
Paradocx: Warmed Spiced Red Wine and Op-port-une, a Port-style wine.
Sandcastle: We’re featuring a variety of dry and sweet wines, and would suggest that visitors specifically check out our Alpine Spice. Christmas will have come and gone by the Farm Show, but this wine helps us keep that spirit going through January and beyond.