Pennsylvania Rainbow
Pennsylvania Rainbow

It’s been a month since I last posted. I’ve been working, traveling, attending chiropractic sessions, assisting a friend with her new business venture, oh, and surviving the Napa earthquake. I can’t believe it’s September already.

Regarding the earthquake, I was very fortunate to have not sustained any damage, just some stuff was moved, including large appliances, and I had to deal with a terrified cat who didn’t want to come out of his carrier. He’s also become a good indicator of aftershocks, as he will stand still with his ears back and his eyes wide open.

Anyway, I had the very good fortune to do some awesome things this past week and I wanted to share them with you!

Tasting at Galer
Tasting at Galer

Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery

Labor Day weekend Sunday, I had the honor of visiting two exemplary examples of Pennsylvania wineries with a friend of mine, a local wine columnist and blogger. The first stop was Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery. The winery’s philosophy, Blending Nature, Science, and Art, is the perfect descriptor of what I discovered. The winery is owned by Dr. Brad Galer, M.D., and his wife, artist Lele Galer, who purchased land for the winery in 2005 after considering a winery start in Sonoma, California. The winery has multiple vineyards, including the Galer Home Vineyard, Red Lion Vineyard, and Folly Hill Vineyard, and they also source grapes from within a 30-mile radius.

Side-by-side Galer Chardonnay tasting
Side-by-side Galer Chardonnay tasting

Over the past nine years, the winery has received more than 60 awards for their wines, which have included Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Franc Icebox Wines (ice wines), as well as some white and red blends. Former winemaker, Catrina North, produced the 2013 wines and earlier. Galer now has a new winemaker, Virginia Mitchell, who will begin a new legacy with her 2014 vintage. While there, my friend and I each chose different wines to taste so that we could taste eight wines instead of four. However, we were treated to additional barrel and bottle tastings, including a Viognier and different Cabernet Francs. We also were lucky enough to taste a wine that Virginia produced prior to her arrival at Galer, a rosé produced from Erie area grapes for her recent wedding.

Galer Albariño
Galer Albariño

What most impressed me about Galer was not just the quality of the wines, but the expression of terroir in every wine. I am sure that I could recognize it in a blind tasting, it was so remarkable. I was particularly enamored with the Albariño, which demonstrated a balanced expression of citrus, tropical fruits, and noticeable minerality, almost salty on my palate, and that is the wine I chose to take home with me.

Va La's Little Vineyard
Va La’s Little Vineyard

Va La Vineyards
The second winery we visited last Sunday was Va La Vineyards, a winery I had been wanting to visit for a while now because I had heard such good things. Winemaker and owner Anthony Vietri, The Farmer Va La, who once had a career in film production, also considered starting a winery in California before deciding upon returning to Avondale, Pennsylvania, the site of his family’s farm. Vietri produces only four wines from his aptly called little vineyard of 6.73 acres and he only produces enough wine to sell directly to the consumer at the winery. No shipping, no distribution, no middle man. Vietri has created a simple dream that sustains his family and provides to those of us who are lucky enough to visit some of the most gorgeous and unique wine blends I’ve ever tasted.

Silk and Castana
Silk and Castana

Both the tasting room design/décor and the vineyards are understated, but the tasting experience is amazing. Our visit was especially nice because Anthony joined us and told us his story and stories about his family. Guests taste the four wines paired with local cheeses and chocolate. The wines are elegant blends of white and black Northern Italian grape varieties. The blends vary based upon what nature offers each vintage. The wines are meticulously made for later consumption, except for one, but all can be consumed now with decanting. They include:

2011 La Prima Donna: A white blend comprised of Malvasia Bianco, Petit Mansang, Pinot Grigio, and Tocai (Friuliano). It is aged for 17 months sur lie. Should peak in years 4-8.

2011 Silk: A dry rosato produced from free-run juice and aged 12 months in barrel. Grapes include Corvina Veronese, Barbera, Carmine, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo. Drink now through 2018.

2013 Castana: A special summer red blend to be consumed young. Grapes include Barbera, Petit Verdot, Carmine, Lagrein, Sagrantino, and Teroldego.

2011 Mahogany: A red blend of Barbera, Malvasia Nero, Charbono, Petit Verdot, Carmine, Teroldego, Lagrein, and Sagrantino aged 27 months in barrel. Should peak in years 6-12. If consumed now, decant at least 4-12 hours.

The Farmer Va La and me
The Farmer Va La and me

Truth be told, I wanted to take every one of these wines home with me, but I ended up settling for La Prima Donna and Mahogany. Now I just have to figure out when to return to get my Va La fix.

Sunrise over the vineyard in Lake County
Sunrise over the vineyard in Lake County

My First Harvest
This week, my friend, winemaker and owner of Passaggio Wines, Cindy Cosco, texted me and asked if I could join six others to pick her 2014 Sauvignon Blanc at a vineyard in Lake County, California. I’ve always wanted to experience harvest, but at the same time, have been a bit afraid since I am allergic to bees, sunburn easily, and I am not really a “get dirty” kind of gal. All of these reasons are exactly why I said yes. The quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, Do one thing every day that scares you, has become one of my mantras.

Lake County Sauvignon Blanc
Lake County Sauvignon Blanc

I stayed overnight with the harvest team in Sonoma Friday night. We departed Saturday morning at 4:30 a.m., arrived in Lake County around 6:30 a.m., then began picking. The most important lesson was cut away from your hand, which served me well all day. I also dressed appropriately: old jeans, a thermal underwear T-shirt with a flannel shirt on top, old tennis shoes, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. I never wear hats, but today I was thankful for that and being covered up from the elements, even when it got very warm towards the end of the five and a half hours. In that time, we picked around a ton of Sauvignon Blanc. I got my hands dirty, but got smart and put on a spare pair of gloves after having to rinse my hands about halfway through. Bees chased me and I ran. My hat protected me as I literally stuck my head into the vines to cut grape bunches. By the end, I was dirty, dusty, sweaty, and had terrible hat head. I did it. I conquered my fears and discovered a sense of pride within me.

3 thoughts on “A week in the life of Traveling Wine Chick

  1. So glad you got to experience your first harvest! Kinda fun, huh? I took part in my 1st harvest last year, but well….let’s just say that I felt a little cheated. It was at an Oklahoma winery and there really wasn’t much to harvest as the Oklahoma heat had withered many of the grapes away. Maybe someday I will be able to take part in a TRUE harvest , wearing the hat and all! Nice on ya!
    Miki

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