Monday, August 10, 2009

from punchy pinots to tarty sips of bright red beets

Since my first sip of a rosy red until now, I have always shared my wine adoration with my dearest friend. We hold an evening of wine and girl time very highly in our must-do-frequently, to-do books. And we, without hesitation, reoccurringly jump for journeying to near-and-distant vineyards for a sample or two (or twenty) of their specialty blends.

This weekend, we decided we were due for a stress-free sipping splurge and opted to attend Wine Chill Weekend of the Berks County Wine Tour. There are eight wineries scattered throughout the countryside of this county, however, being that each are over twenty minutes apart from one another, we suggest you stay of a time-structured track if you would like to sample each and every one. (We um, were bombarded with goodness from the get-go and by close, we only made it to four.)

First stop: Blair Vineyards. Traveling back rocky, dirt roads under a wooded canopy, we arrived at the adorable home of Richard Blair where he and his family maintain an up-and-coming wine business that is slated to move soon to the Kutztown area. Specializing in stainless steel-and-oak-barrel made blends, including exceptional Pinot Noirs, Charonnays and Merlots (I can't recall actually appreciating any dry wines as these, in the past). With a decent taste of their handful of whites and reds, we both gushed over their Rockland Red, which mixes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir into one corked bottle. In addition to their generous sips, the family also offered us a slice of their summery fruit pizza, which was plopped with fresh berries that had been dosed in a Cabernet Franc reduction sauce.

Second stop: Pinnacle Ridge Winery. Not a virgin to these award-winning wines, Pinnacle deserves the right to wear their metals proudly. Hardly a wine I can say I dislike, the Kutztown-based vineyard excels in smooth semi-sweets including a top-notch Riesling, a Naked Chardonnay (made in stainless steel, not oak), and my favorite, the Caguya White, which, for the weekend, was used in their pitchers of mojitos (skip the rum, add this wine for some more punchy fun).

Third stop: Long Trout Winery. Squeezed into the backwoods of Berks, almost in Pottsville, situates the psychedelic haven of wine. Their silly slogan, "where the wine is cool and the hippie chicks rule," may not be their selling point (hippie? I am definitely not), but their quirky mix of everything bohemian and the Beatles surely crafts a hell-of a wine tasting experience. On top of their red and white grape concoctions of smoky and sweet, comes singular fruity bottles of peach, plum, pear, currant, orange-banana, teaberry, and more. Then, like any woman can dream of, they make five light and anti-syrupy chocolate wines with sexy names like, "Heavy Breather," "Instant 'O'" and "Swollen Member." And, just when you thought you had enough, they whip out their cooking wines, which may not be best to sample solo, but are told to enhance the best of burgers, sautes, pastas, etc. From hot pepper with garlic wine, to a garden medley (tastes like a sip of salsa), onion, and even, a beet, which is raved to be very similar to drinking the red juice out of a jar (I agree).

Fourth/final stop: Bashore & Stoudt Country Winery. Honestly, I was still squealing in disbelief from Long Trout that we could have ended our tour there. But, what's a tour with three stops? We made a brief detour to Bashore, which was conveniently located in Shartlesville off the interstate. Quaint, serious and proud of their locavorism, their berry-blended wines were likeable, especially the strawberry and the elderberry. Opting to grow most of their fruit themselves, and if not, selecting it from local PA-based farms, the winery is small, but successfully striving and always adding new fruits to their ever-expanding inventory.

Although only half of the area wineries were tackled on our "serious" sipping adventure, I hope to soon retrace my steps and do it all again--plus more.