If your drinking preferences dwell outside state lines – that is, our homegrown winemaking has yet to turn your fancy – then maybe you’ll consider the 2012 vintage as a worthy starting point. Already on board with in-state product? You can read on as well.
“2012 was a spectacular year for us,” said Lele Galer, co-founder of Galer Estate in Kennett Square. The fruit of that vintage, she shared, was ripe and concentrated, which isn’t always the case in cool climate growing areas like those found in Pennsylvania.
A late summer afternoon found my family and me tooling through the pretty green expanses of Chester County horse country, ultimately landing at Galer Estate’s artfully rustic winery and tasting room. The site is home to the Red Lion Vineyard, a four-acre site where Lele and her husband Brad set out to “retrain” higher quality vines in 2008, following their purchase of the property. There was plenty of work ahead of them in those early days. Case in point: In Red Lion’s upper block, the Galers decided to pull out every Cabernet Sauvignon vine in 2011, effectively dedicating the entire plot to Chardonnay (comprised of six different clones). They also embarked on planting a larger, more diverse vineyard at their home in Pocopson Township.
This early history leads me to a 2012 wine worth a once-over.
The Galer Estate Red Lion Chardonnay 2012 is fully derived from the lower block of the vineyard, which is populated by 15-plus-year-old Wente clone vines from California. With a decidedly judicious European-style oak touch, it’s a leaner and more trained Chard with spicy-fruity aromas. The gift to the palate is pineapple and light citrus, trailed by pleasant vanilla notes, medium-plus acidity, saline minerality and a lasting finish. It’s a wine of clean lines that’s well-constructed and uses the available gifts of its birthplace.
Let’s return to the subject of oak, the grand disguise. Plenty of Cali Chards overdo oak for sure but East Coasters are guilty of a similar offense, often cloaking faulty, fruit-deficient wine. The Red Lion confidently keeps its wood influence in check, turning it on through the mid-palate then backing off respectfully. The wine is barrel fermented in 20% new French oak and stainless steel, accounting for the restraint.
By comparison, Galer’s Clockmaker Chardonnay, made with grapes from Ewing Vineyards in Stewartstown, showcases toasty notes on the nose and palate, with a balance of great minerality. I found it a little more buttery and rich.
Lele shared that, starting with the yet-to-be-released 2013 Red Lion Chardonnay, the wine will be composed of fruit from both the lower and upper vineyard blocks. The 2012 is available at the winery for $32. Yeah, I know. It’s a lot of jing for a PA white. If you don’t fully appreciate the price as an offset to limited production TLC, you can enjoy the wine by the glass in Kennett Square for less commitment – a visit eminently worth your while. Pair it with a delicious Farm at Doe Run cheese selection, enjoy a conversation and consider the good fortune of a Keystone wine movement on the right side of progress.