Part of this whole being unemployed thing (which I have to consistently remind myself is by choice) that I quite like is that I could start my day out with a workout, effectively getting it out-of-the-way and making me feel wide awake from the get-go.
This was always something I wanted to do in theory while I was teaching, but only ever happened three or four times a year. Anyway, I go to a small, local gym up here in Forest City, PA that happens to be directly across the street from a smoke shop and the liquor store. I shouldn’t have to tell you that it’s phenomenal people watching, especially the before noon crowd. This is circuitous way of telling you that this morning, I was walking past the liquor store when I stopped to take note of a poster informing me that October is “Pennsylvania Wine Month.”
Did you know that at the moment there are over 140 wineries open in the state of Pennsylvania? Or that 60 of those just opened within the last ten years? How about that state-wise, Pennsylvania is the 5th leading grower in grapes and 7th in wine production?
I did not, mostly because I do not drink wine. Now, if you’ve read this blog at all you know I’m not a teetotaler-farther from it than I should probably publically admit, but my beverage of choice happens to be beer (which PA excels in as well). Here’s the thing about wine. It’s not that I don’t drink it because I think it’s girly, or because I don’t like the taste (ok, I don’t love the taste). I’m not a wine drinker because I’m not familiar with being wine drunk.
Beer drunk, I like. 9 out of 10 times, it makes me have a good time, drops my inhibitions to a healthy degree, and generally makes me funnier and more interesting (likewise, doing the same to those around me). I know when my beer drunk is getting too much. I know my drinking limits and most of the time I can drink beer in moderation and function as a normal human the following day. I don’t drink liquor either. That’s because my collegiate days made me all too familiar with liquor drunk. It’s not a good look on yours truly, so once I actually became a grownup (23?) I started abstaining from spirits for the most part. Because it was never as readily available during my college days, I never really gave wine a go, and now I’m pretty sure I’m too old to start “experimenting” with new substances (am I making myself sound like I have a drug issue..or alc problem for that matter? Don’t worry, I don’t-which I guess is exactly what I’d say if I did).
Anyhow, I’m sure in a couple of years maybe I’ll find myself mature enough to start trying wine out, but for now it remains an unknown frontier. That does not, however, mean I can’t write up a little something about it, since if you readers are anything like most of my friends, you love your wine.
PA actually has twelve distinct wine regions, or trails, broken down by the PA department of tourism and travel, which is a nice way to plan for a wine-related weekend or day trip, similar to the ale trails around the state which I do regularly cover and visit. If you’re open to any sort of booze entering your body, a combination trip might be fun.
Here’s a little breakdown of each of the PA Wine Trails, and a little bit of what they offer. If you want a listing of all PA winery events, broken down by date, check out this very helpful link from PA Wines website.
Allegedly I grew up in the “Endless Mountains,” and while I’m not totally ignorant of this fact, it always sort of seems like news to me. I feel like it’s sort of a runner up moniker for being the “mountaneous region next to the Poconos the Poconos didn’t deign to consider the Poconos.” I’m getting off tangent again. This is a string of wineries through the northeast portion of the state.
I’ve talked up Maiolatesi’s before, not because I’ve ever done more than taste their wine, but because I enjoy attending events at their winery-this should probably be time for me to come clean and admit that last time I was at an event here, I would go to my car and fill my plastic tasting “flute” up with what I consider to be “champagne colored” bud light lime. I’m sorry I’m white trash.
The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail consists of six different wineries. The Brandywine Valley follows the Brandywine Creek from its start near Downingtown and West Chester, to where it flows into the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware. Like most of the other wine trails this one holds joint tastings and events. My suggestion: have some local wine at the Whip Tavern, one of my favorite southern PA places to eat and drink, which is located in this region.
I already covered the Lehigh Valley Ale Trail, which I still have not found time to take a “ride” on yet, but the greater Allentown area has its own wine trail as well. When I lived in Lancaster, I’d have to drive through the Lehigh Valley on visits to and from NEPA and always passed by several vineyards. The Lehigh Valley is one of the state’s fastest growing wine regions, boasting nine vineyards and wineries. Their annual “wine on the mountain” event is held at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, a fun place to anchor yourself for a visit to this particular wine trail.
Being the paramount of intelligence that I am, I always get Bucks and Berks Counties confused. Berks is home to Reading and Kutztown, while Bucks is north of Philadelphia. The Bucks County Wine Trail also has nine different wineries to visit. Carlow Cookery in Doylestown also offers classes about “cooking with wine,” if that’s up your alley.
Berks County happens to be just next door to Bucks County with Reading at the center of its 8 member wine trail.
I can say from experience that the Hershey/Harrisburg wine country is a beautiful area. There’s 16 wineries in this area (this is also the epi-center of craft breweries) stretched from northern Lancaster County to upper Perry County. I’ve been to Perry County’s Buddy Boy Winery for live music events before and it’s a lot of fun, and always wanted to make it to the vineyards at Hershey, which have a brewery also on the premise and frequently have live entertainment on weekends. The Mt. Hope Estate and Winery is located on the grounds of the PA Ren Faire, and has a pear wine my mother and sister really love.
The Lake Erie wine trail actually extends up into New York State, encompassing all of the Lake Erie shore wineries, rather than just Pennsylvania. It’s the largest grape growing region east of the Rockies and is home to over 25 wineries and vineyards. The region has a trolley service that has pre-planned wine tasting itineraries, that can also be rented out for private groups or events.
Some of the wine trails overlap a little bit, specifically the Mason Dixon and Harrisburg/Hershey Wine Trails. The Mason Dixon wine trail is run by the York County Tourism and Convention Center that also runs the excellent Susquehanna Ale Trail. This trail, which starts in southern PA, and extends into Maryland, is known for throwing it’s “Tour de Tanks” celebration during May where wineries host a series of events where guests drink right from the barrels the wine is made in.
The Groundhog Wine Trail is based in central PA and gets its name from, you guessed it, Puxatawney Phil. This trail has 17 wineries.
This wine trail is the closest we’ll get to Pittsburgh in this post, extending down through PA’s Laurel Highlands. The trail is one of the smaller ones, with 8 wineries, however if you’re in the are you can stop and do a wine class at Dreadnought Wines.
This is officially the smallest trail on the list, with only three wineries, but could easily be done in conjuncture with the Berks, Bucks, or Brandywine Valley trails. Cardinal Hollow Winery offers wine education classes and nearby Philadelphia has the only official wine schools here in PA.
The Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail must fancy itself the original trail, as it’s website is simply “PA Wine Trail,” and shares some entries with Harrisburg/Hershey and Mason Dixon. This trail extends from State College to Harrisburg, up the Susquehanna Valley (or, heartland) towards Danbury and Sunbury.
*And remember, no matter where in Pennsylvania you are, you’re always within an hour from a winery.