Busy work schedules for my wife & I plus planning a trip to Italy in 2015 have provided enough motivation to keep it simple his year. If you consider a couple of day trips and a wine tour through Northern Maryland simple, that is.
Today we kicked off the tour with Allegro Winery in rural York County, en route to visiting family in Westminster. Allegro has a well established reputation for making consistently high quality, Pennsylvania wine. Their highly touted Reserve Red blends were my main motivator for venturing off the beaten path to see this place today.
Allegro’s winery & tasting room sits back off the road in a nondescript facility surrounded by a generous quantity of outdoor seating. There is a covered picnic pavilion which would have been perfect for lunch, if we had the foresight to bring some. Unfortunately we were miles from the nearest Wawa or 7-11. Next time.
The plain looking building opens up into a gorgeous tasting room. Allegro’s owner/winemaker Carl Helrich was manning the front, taking a break from his more demanding duties. Allegro is still very much in harvest mode, evident by the bustling staff in the production area behind the tasting room.
Carl is a tall, jovial guy who says what’s on his mind. I personally find that refreshing. He provided us with tasting sheets and the pouring of the juice commenced. Here are some of the highlights:
2011 Chambourcin – This bold & distinct wine is a favorite of mine. Though 2011 was a challenging year for local wine producers with lots of late season rain, the Allegro Chambourcin came through nicely. Carl uses this varietal primarily for blending, but this raw ‘PA Zin’ remains a favorite of mine.
2012 Claret – Aged for ten months in French Oak. The Claret is a Cab Franc blend that is a very versatile table wine that stands great on it’s own.
2012 Merlot – My pick for today. This Merlot is fantastic with great presence. Fruit forward with lingering tannins. As a side note, Carl felt that the Merlot grape should be grown more in Pennsylvania. Hybrids like Chambourcin has been a popular staple for winemakers in PA for years, but could there be a shift to more Vinifera grapes like Merlot? We will see.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – Smooth & powerful. The Cab is tougher to grow in this area. It’s a site specific varietal and takes about two to three weeks longer than Merlot to mature.
As I mentioned above, Allegro has a reputation for their fantastic Reserve Reds, which I found out were not available for tasting. The latest is their 2010 Cadenza, in it’s 13th vintage and is nearly sold out. The fullbodied Bordeaux blend is comprised of Merlot, Cab Franc & Cab Sauv aged for twenty-two months in oak and according to Allegro … “Unfined & unfiltered, this wine represents the finest in Allegro winemaking”. I have no doubt. Though I have not tasted it, I bought a bottle for my cellar. Carl says it could age twenty years but I guarantee it won’t last that long. My friend Vic did a thorough video review earlier this year, check it out:
As I visit these places, I continue to be amazed and sometimes a little intimidated by the brilliance of winemakers. They have to be farmers, scientists, expert tasters and often public relations experts. And in every scenario, it’s evident that they love what they do. Carl Helrich is no exception and he had some interesting opinions on the culture & future of the local wine community.
Carl took some time out to give a tour of the place, which is always a cool experience. Allegro is outgrowing their current structure, which is a good thing. He showed off his collection of vintage Allegro wines dating back to 1980, which they use when hosting twice-a-year Library Tastings. Overall, the winery has a very active event calendar which includes Winemaker’s Dinners, Friday Happy Hours & art exhibits at their York Wine Gallery and participation in local wine festivals and promotions.
The word is out, Allegro wine is helping to put PA Wine on the map. Stop by the tasting room and tell him that I sent you. And you probably should eat first or pack some food.
A worthwhile trip, I’m glad we ventured off the beaten path to experience it.