Southwestern PA is the least likely commonwealth region to produce estate wineries, which makes Ripepi Winery all the more interesting. Founded in 1987 by Richard Ripepi — a leader of the resurgence of Western PA winemaking, according to Pgh area wine blogger Rich Rocca —  the estate has grown into a thriving 10-acre vineyard.

Though they do produce a few wines with vinifera grapes sourced from elsewhere, Ripepi’s local wines are made with hybrids that better grow in the SWPA climate, such as Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Marechal Foch and Concord. This can be a challenge for those used to European grape varieties — see our comments on Diamond below — but those with an open mind may just find something new and exciting to enjoy.

Ripepi recently shared a few samples for us to try; our impressions follow.

Ripepi Winery De Chaunac Nouveau

Starts out with some funky, earthy notes on the nose, transitioning to a palate of fresh red berries. It’s so easy to drink, soft and mellow, pure and clean, and would be a fantastic summer red, served chilled. If anything, it could benefit from more acidity.

Ripepi Winery Semi-Carbonic Chancellor

This wine is frizzante, or semi-sparkling, and presents almost like a like a dry Lambrusco. Notes of fresh berries, grapes, bubble gum, and even a hint of chocolate. On the finish, it is surprisingly tannic and mysteriously puckering. This is such a creative and interesting wine, and would be great with pizza.

Ripepi Winery Rosé

A clean expression that’s easy to drink and pleasant, featuring notes of grape and cotton candy. It’s relatively short and lacks acidity, but it perks up with a chill. (Drink right out of the fridge.)

Ripepi Winery Diamond

This is probably the most challenging wine I’ve ever had to evaluate, because the Diamond grape’s flavor is so different than European grapes. On the positive side, this is well made, offering lovey balance between fruit notes and bright acidity. On the other hand, this grape just tastes so strange, like grape bubble gum or Alexander the Grape candy. For someone who enjoys this flavor, this would be quite enjoyable. For me, however, it’s a difficult sell.

Ripepi Winery White

A blend with pleasant citrus and tropical fruit notes, this also includes enough of those aforementioned Diamond notes that overshadow the pleasant parts. Great acidity here too.

For more about Ripepi, check out our recent Q&A with Janellie Ripepi.

ripepi winery sign