Pennsylvania Libations is a wine and spirits store with brick and mortar locations in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and an online store that ships statewide. They currently represent four Pennsylvania wineries (Mazza/South Shore, Presque Isle, Black Dog and Seven Mountains) as well as many craft distilleries, cider, mead and beer producers. It’s a great option for those interested in sampling wineries across the commonwealth, allowing for trial from different spots without having to place a large order with each winery. (Here’s hoping they expand their winery list!)

Anyway, I recently ordered a few wines from PA Libations to do some sampling myself. (The Perfect Tasting wines also came from their online store.) Without further ado:

seven mountains wine cellars riesling

Seven Mountains Wine Cellars Riesling Pennsylvania NV

Seven Mountains is a “wine cellar” in the sense that they don’t have any estate vineyards, rather they purchase grapes from around the country (also called a negociant). This particular wine is labeled a “Pennsylvania Table Wine,” meaning at least 75% of the grapes come from in-state (Lake Erie) growers, with a portion (up to 25%) coming from the Finger Lakes in NY. Also, winemaker Scott Bubb told me that all SMWC wines are from single vintages, but are labelled NV for purely financial reasons, so labels can be reused.

All that said, this is a fantastic wine. Categorized as “off-dry,” there’s a touch of sweetness up front, but that’s washed away completely by perfectly balanced acidity on the finish — which is how every great Riesling in the world should be described. There’s flavor of green apple, lemon, peach (especially as it opens), herbs, and just the slightest hint of petrol, and a waxy texture that is quite enjoyable. It’s so clean and pure, with incredible length.

Is it fair to say this is one of the best PA Rieslings I’ve tried if it isn’t entirely from PA? Hmmmm….

Black Dog Wine Company Sexy Beach Grüner Veltliner Pennsylvania NV

black dog wine company sexy bitch gruner veltliner

Black Dog Wine Company Bark-o-Noir Pennsylvania NV

Black Dog — another negotiant-style wine cellar — is known for their critter labels and snarky names (like What the Foch and Big Beaver Blush), which are not exactly the type of marketing moves that attract wine afficionados like me, but I tried to keep an open mind. That said, two parts of my first Black Dog experience suggest they could do with taking their quality control more seriously.

Firstly, the white, Sexy Bitch Grüner Veltliner, had undergone some secondary fermentation in the bottle, and came out frizzante, or slightly sparkling. This is, of course, sometimes a purposeful style for winemakers, but in this case it seems to have been unintentional. (Online research suggested this is intended to be a still wine, plus the taste was not agreeable.)

For the red Bark-O-Noir wine — the name a play on the hybrid grape Baco Noir — I was initially confused because, before I opened the bottle, I read the back label. The description there called it “a medium-bodied red with deep black cherry [that’s] round and supple,” and said it “pairs well with red meat dishes,” but when I poured it, it was incredibly light in color, and when I tasted it, it was — no kidding — the tartest red wine I have ever tried. Differently from the Grüner, however, it was actually quite tasty.

I eventually discovered that the description on the label was a misprint (or, more likely, they put the wrong back label on the bottle). The Black Dog website describes this wine as featuring “lots of under-ripe, tart cherry,” which makes a heck of a lot more sense.

The nose, actually, is belyingly sweet, almost candied, but the palate is as tangy as any red wine on the planet. BUT, for acid hounds like me, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and is quite bracing, perfect with light-bodied food. It could probably do with a bit more concentration and complexity up front to better balance, but it’ll nonetheless be a great red for the dog days of summer.

presque isle wine cellars Saudade

Presque Isle Wine Cellars Saudade Lake Erie 2020

Having recently had such a great experience with Presque Isle’s Dornfelder, I was excited to try this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Carmine. Unfortunately, this wine was so overwhelmed by east coast twang that it was essentially undrinkable. If anything, it’s a good illustration of how important it is to grow grapes that match the PA climate, and why Cabernet Sauvignon is not one of them.