The Delaware Wine and Ale Trail has an older cousin just to the north called The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail. Give it a taste.
Black Walnut Winery
3000 Lincoln Hwy., Sadsburyville, Pa., (610) 857-5566
Since opening its doors last summer, Black Walnut Winery has already won the hearts of wine-lovers. After entering only two competitions, the Chester County vintners snagged an award at each for their Merlot and Chardonnay. According to partner Lance Castle, one of four owners, “our Chardonnay is a little crisp and lightly oaked,” while the Merlot is “simply fun to drink” for its bright fruit notes. If the wines aren’t enticing enough, Black Walnut Winery calls a restored 202-year-old Chester County bank barn home. With plenty of space and tables, bring some food and stay for a while or taste in their beautiful tasting room complete with stone fireplace and golden candelabra. Looking for a romantic evening? Request a wine pairing and taste Black Walnut’s finest, alongside cheeses and chocolates in a cozy location. Black Walnut sponsors many events throughout the year, including a holiday vintage markdown after Thanksgiving and festivities almost every weekend. Bottles range from $13 to $23. Taste, purchase, or simply enjoy at the winery, a brand-new tasting room in Northern Chester County, and, coming soon, select locations in Delaware.
632 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 388-6221
The granddaddy of the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, Chaddsford Winery boasts the largest operation in the state of Pennsylvania. As “the one that got this all started,” according to founder Lee Miller, Chaddsford truly believes in making high-quality wines. It excels in traditional varietals, including its classic Chardonnay and the popular Syrah, also known as Shiraz. Augmenting the classic repertoire are Miller’s “fun wines,” including Sangria in the summer and hot mulled Spiced Apple in the fall. Throughout the year, try both the classics and fun wines at Chaddsford events like Turkey Tastings in November, wine and cheese in January, and wine and chocolate in February. If you are looking for a different way to taste with a twist of wine edification, try a wine flight at the winery, or the Peddler’s Village Tasting Room in Bucks County. If you can’t make the trip, you’re in luck: Chaddsford Wine sells at most Delaware liquor stores. Bottles range from $12 to $40.
Kreutz Creek Vineyards
553 S. Guernsey Road, West Grove, Pa., (610) 869-4412
Inventors of the phrase B.Y.O.F., Kreutz Creek Vineyards is leading the charge on the bring-your-own-food movement. At the winery’s West Chester tasting room, guests are invited to pack their own treats, and in some cases, their dogs. On summer Thursdays between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., a dog brought into Yappy Hour earns you a dollar discount on a bottle of wine. During one of Kreutz Creek’s famous summer concerts at the West Grove vineyards, slurp a Steuben and Port wine slushie. Not in the mood for brain freeze? Try the popular Ruby K port, which co-owner Carole Kirkpatrick has a hard time keeping on the shelf. “The Ruby K is a lot lighter and has less alcohol than other ports,” she says, which makes Ruby K an ideal partner for dark chocolate. Later this month, Black Friday savings can add up to 30 percent off on wine cases, and the first weekend in December brings the Kreutz Holiday Open House, complete with chocolate fondue, and yes, lots of wine. Like, for instance, the seasonal Holiday Wassail, a Niagara-based wine fermented with apple and pumpkin and spiced with cinnamon and clove. Wines range from $14 to $25 a bottle, but the only places to find them are the West Grove vineyards and the West Chester tasting room.
1833 Flint Hill Road, Landenberg, Pa., (610) 255-5684
Owned and operated by a pair of docs (all four principle owners are practicing physicians), the Hoffman and Harris families run Paradocx Vineyards from 100 acres of farmland in Landenberg. A unique mesoclimate, influenced by the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, and a state-of-the-art viticulture system combine to make Paradocx wines some of the most celebrated in the region. PDX PDX Reserve Chardonnay is a multiple award winner.
Thank the winemakers’ forward-thinking CSA program. In its second year of existence, Paradoxc’s Community Supported Agriculture initiative provides members with benefits like cases of wine and pick-up parties each year in exchange for purchase of a share of the land.
If you can’t swing that, just drop by for a taste at Flint Hill Tasting room, located on the vineyard and winery property, or its tasting room at the Shoppes at Longwood Village. Check out the vineyards’ Website for a lengthy list of locations in Delaware where you can either pick up a bottle or purchase a glass. Bottles range from $15 to $40.
1051 Wickerton Road, Landenberg, Pa., (302) 545-7388
Looking for something new in the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail? Coming to you in spring of 2011 is Patone Cellars, a local producer that made its debut at the 2010 Harvest Festival pouring Rosetta’s, Chardonnay and Merlot. Owner Mario Patone aims to make “very traditional, dry European wines,” he says. Drop by the in-progress tasting room site in Landenberg to check out the progress and watch your calendars for the Grand Opening party next spring.
Penns Woods Winery
124 Beaver Valley Road, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 459-0808
Gino Razzi, the man behind Penns Woods Winery, wants to spread the word: good wine can be made in Pennsylvania and his winery can lead by example. The Chadds Ford-based, family-run operation produces wine from grapes grown in its very own patch of prime Pennsylvania soil. Penns Woods specialize in Bordeaux blends, the Ameritage Reserve being its flagship wine (though the 2008 Traminette is also a big seller). Taste Penns Woods at one of its two locations: at the tasting room in Chadds Ford ($7 for six or seven glasses) or at the Kennett Square Wine Shop housed at The Country Butcher fine foods market (145 S. Walnut St., Kennett Square, Pa., 610-444-5980), where Saturdays are free tastings. Try it locally at Harry’s Savoy Grill in North Wilmington. Most bottles range from $17 to $55, but a new line of “more reasonable wines” is in the works. A portion of proceeds from every bottle sold goes to wine and grape research.
1024 Wheatland Drive, Coatesville, Pa., (610) 486-0422
In Southern Chester County, at the foot of the “Stargazers Stone” stands Stargazers Vineyard & Winery, opened by Alice and John Weygandt in 1995. The sustainable winery’s mission, besides making great wine, is to “leave a small footprint,” says Alice Weygandt. The winery runs entirely on solar power, and captures rainwater in cisterns. You can take a tour of the eco-friendly operations, plus sample the terrific wine. Stargazers’ most recognized bottle is its Solar Celebration Chardonnay, an all-sun, no-wood wine that “really brings out the pure Chardonnay fruit taste,” Alice says. Another recent release is the popular Austrian white Gruener Veltliner, which carries “a Pinot Grigio-like taste with a burst of flavor.” For the holidays, try the Dornfelder, a rich, German-style wine, or the bottle-fermented sparkling wine. These value-friendly bottles can be found at Premiere Wine and Sprits.
Twin Brook Winery
5697 Strasburg Road, Gap, Pa., (717) 442-4915
In the heart of Lancaster County is one of the oldest winemakers among the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, Twin Brook Winery. With 30 acres of vineyard, and 10 of that devoted to pinot grapes, it’s no surprise Twin Brook’s Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris pull rank. The Pinot Grigio is made in the Italian style, while Alsatian-style Pinot Gris is a “much richer, much fuller-bodied wine,” owner Tim Jobe says. For the holidays, taste a sip of Twin Brook’s Spice Wine and guess the ingredients—the spices change with each year. Pick up a bottle between $12 and $22 at the winery and stay for the magnificent views of Lancaster landscape. Twin Brook Winery, though not available in Delaware, does boast three other tasting locations in Pennsylvania: the Red Rose Wine Tasting Room in Lancaster, BNB International Cigars and Wine Shop in Chestnut Hill, and Twin Brook Wine Shop in Ronks.