For the second weekend of Barrels 2013, we took the caravan to Chadds Ford, PA. Though once a rural enclave, Chadds Ford, which straddles the line between Delaware & southern Chester Counties, is now home to a growing collection of upscale restaurants, hotels and retail establishments. And museums. And wineries. And pubs. And retirement villages. And it’s not just a small pain in the ass at rush hour.
My endearing wife and I made a calculated stop at the Whole Foods in Glen Mills to pick up some snacks. The cheese department was preparing for ‘Parmageddon’, an attempt to break a world record where they simultaneously break open wheels of Parmesan cheese with 400+ other WF Markets across the US, Canada & the UK at 3:00 p.m. I can’t comment on whether they suceeded or not, but the Parmigiano Reggiano crisps were very tasty.
Destination number one … Penns Woods Winery. If you have ever read my older posts on Penns Woods, you’ve probably picked up that I’m in love with this place. The reds here are phenomenal. Along with the traditional lineup of wines, PW continues to evolve with their offerings and they had some interesting new stuff for Barrels on the Brandywine this year.
A side note: I stepped back and asked myself why I geek out over wine like I do. Over and over I see that the people who produce, harvest, sell, pour, and let’s not forget CONSUME the wine are very passionate and excited about it. Wineries are places of solitude and enjoyment, retreats to escape the haste & chaos of the world. The wine culture is every bit as much about the people as it is the wine. I love that. For fear that I might overcomplicate it, let me get back on topic before I start chanting.
The Barrels tasting at Penns Woods consists of four of their most popular offerings. For an additional $5, patrons can also indulge in the ‘Reserve’ offerings … three of the signature, full bodied reds. My favorite newlywed tasting room manager, Andrea welcomed us for the tasting.
Megan was on hand to start us off with the regular lineup. Here’s the breakdown (notes brought to you by Penns Woods):
1. Pinot Grigio Reserve 2011
This wine possesses a bright gold appearance with hints of crisp citrus, pear, and tropical fruit flavors. Pinot minerality cuts through mid-palate giving way a clean, refreshing finish. $19.00
*Crisp indeed. No oak whatsoever.
2. Chardonnay Reserve 2011
This slightly oaked wine begins with notes of crisp green apple and nutmeg and finishes off with a hint of toasted oak and vanilla creaminess. This method of briefly aging in oak allows for the natural bright fruit flavors to be highlighted. $28.00
3. Bancroft Riesling 2012
This light bodied, full flavored wine has the nose of ripe pear and jasmine. Rich honey, floral, and citrus flavors throughout the palate round out a crisp and slightly sweet finish. $19.00
*Though I’m personally not a big fan of Riesling, Fran really liked the Bancroft.
4. White Merlot
This light, refreshing, yet dry rose is full of ripe strawberry, peach, and apricot flavors with a hint of vanilla on the finish. This White Merlot has the soul of a full red with the body of a light white. $22.00
*They did a nice job with this. It’s difficult to find a quality, non mass produced White Merlot
Penns Woods newer Bancroft offerings are more affordable, lighter, easier drinking selections than their traditional wines. This is not to say that they skimped on quality. Penns Woods and winemaker Gino Razzi has a long reputation of outstanding, world quality vino, and he’s a definite contributor to the Pennsylvania wine resurgence.
In the next room, Cliff Lewis was pouring the reserve selections (This is the stuff that drives my passion).
The ’04 Ameritage held its own against it’s reserve brother. Both are blends of five varietals. The ’04 Ameritage Reserve was more powerful and the finish stuck around awhile longer. The 2004 and 2005 vintages overall yielded superb wine at PW.
Next was the 2005 Merlot Reserve. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this is one of the best wines I ever tasted. Do yourself a favor and get down here and try it. Strawberries & tobacco on the nose and very tannic. Nice fruit, and I think the finish is even longer than the Ameritage Reserve. All of the 2005s are gradually disappearing from the shelves, so get it while you can.
Next, Cliff shared the Bancroft Field Blend Red (Non vintage) for comparison. This was not as heavy as the last two samples. More of a mid bodied, red table wine with hints of cherry. This was a new selection since my last visit.
Last but not least, we had the honor of sampling PW’s first Moscato (Bancroft Moscato Canelli), which was fantastic. Lightly chilled, fruity and not overpowering with sweetness. A good summer wine.
After my party of four enjoyed snacks & split a bottle of White Merlot outside, it was time to move on.
To any readers from the local area, you have probably heard of Chaddsford Winery. Pennsylvania’s largest (there is a LOT of wineries in PA), they distribute their wine aggressively throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Located in the heart of the Brandywine Valley on Route 1, they have a massive facility for wine production, sales and tasting. And with the nice weather today, there was a good crowd here for Barrels. We’re talking buses.
Chaddsford split the tasting in half. Dry wines downstairs, sweet upstairs. I believe this was how it was intended anyway. So my group headed for the dry stuff first, down in the dark storage area where the steel tanks & barrels of wine were aging and two employees were pouring for dozens of patrons … seemingly non stop. What was on tap downstairs?
Proprietors Reserve White- An off-dry white blend. Hints of pear, easy drinker. $13.99 bottle/$5 glass
Proprietors Reserve Red – a light, off-dry red blend. Versatile table wine. $7.99/$5
Merlot – A medium bodied Merlot. $17.99/$6.50
Merican – In my opinion, the best stuff for sale here. This is Chaddsford’s Bordeaux blend, full bodied, explosive flavor and a long finish. $39.99/$8
After milling around, I took a few pictures and we pushed our way back up the steps to the traditional tasting room for the next batch of samples. There is a wine accessory shop and seemingly endless shelves of CF wine for sale on the main floor.
The wine pouring was just as industrious upstairs. Our pourer, Erin was moving from glass to glass quickly. It was a zoo. Here’s what was on deck for round two:
Sunset Blush- Sweet, reminiscent of White Zin. $12.99/$5
Niagara – My wife loves this. Very sweet. $9.99/$5
Sangri-La Sangria – Sweet & spicy. They make slushies with this in summertime. $12.99/$5
Spiced Apple – CF’s apple wine. Served warm or chilled. $12.99/$5
Holiday Spirit – Concord grape w/ nutmeg, cloves & cinnamon. Limited today as it’s out of season. N/A
Chaddsford seems to be moving more towards a culture of sweet, easy drinking, mass produced selections. Many of the more popular wines here are used for mixing summer drinks. The following concoctions were on sale for $5 a glass to enjoy outside on this mild afternoon.
Blue Velvet – Sunset Blush & blue Hawaiian Punch.
Red Velvet – Niagara & strawberry daquiri mix.
Of course the entire line of CF wine was also available by the glass or bottle, chilled or unchilled, to enjoy onsite.
The Snow Bar is the enclosed, spacious, half-outdoor seating area which patrons could take advantage of. Since spring was showing it’s colors today, they opted not to heat it.
Justine from Justine’s Cuisines was selling post-wine tasting deliciousness at the catering stand. I’ve never seen more cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich and the soup was excellent.
Check back for the final stops later this month.