Good grapes

A hot dry summer may have made for browned out lawns and lackluster landscaping. But it was a windfall for wine lovers as grapes spent the sizzling days concentrating their flavor into a taste to be toasted. Small, sweet, and oh so spectacular is the season’s consensus at local vineyards, where sustained sunshine has yielded a harvest for the record books.

“This has been a fabulous year,” says Kim Waltz of Waltz Vineyards Estate Winery in Manheim, who said the remarkably intense color of the reds are actually staining the winery floors. “This is the vintage of the decade.”
Winemaker Richard Carey of Tamanend Winery expects “absolutely stupendous wines with bright fruit flavors and great color” from the 2010 grapes.
“This year the grapes had lots of time to do their thing without worrying about disease problems. They could hang longer and get to their full physical ripeness and flavor,” he says.
Grower Judith Nissley of Nissley Vineyards & Winery Estate in Bainbridge, the 30-year veteran of the county growers, forecasts the reds to yield a much richer color and flavor that in years past.
“Nothing comes easy for wine growers here,” observes Mark L. Chien, the state’s wine grape extension agent who is based in Lancaster County. “But this year was the exception. I’m expecting really, really good reds because the grapes were fully mature when picked.”
Chien notes that the county’s soil and climate make for a terroir that yields wines closer to European style than California.
Those anxious for a prevue of the vintage to come can sample the beginnings this weekend during UnCork York’s second annual Wine Just Off the Vine Event. For a $10 fee, visitors can go behind the scenes for exclusive tastings of newly pressed wines fresh from the harvest when 14 wineries offer a sneak peak.
“Visitors can taste it fresh out of the tank line,” says Waltz. “It’s not finished yet, but it’s fresh and crisp and fruity, like an intense juice.”
The reds still need to go into oak casks to age for two years, but Waltz says the vineyard will have a semi-dry Fusion white blend of Semillion, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc ready by mid-December.
Although visitors are invited to taste wines in process, Nissley finds that “most people want to taste what’s in the bottles.”
She’ll set up a selection of foods with the wines so visitors can find pairings they enjoy.
“We have 28 wines and so many taste preferences, I think people really have a good time doing this,” she says.
Designated drivers can also enjoy gourmet foods at each stop for a $5 fee. Not to be missed are combinations like Tamanend’s pumpkin wine alongside spiced cake or Cullari’s chocolate wine with fresh fruit.
“It’s the only time people can taste the pumpkin wine as we sold out,” says Carey, who reserved enough for the event tastings. Visitors will also have a chance to taste a brand-new Riesling that just finished fermenting.
“It will be just a few days old” he says.
Visitors are also entitled to a 10 percent discount on wine purchases during the event. The UnCork York wine trail (www.uncorkyork.com), which includes three destinations in Lancaster County, features 14 wineries in the York, Lancaster, Gettysburg, and Harrisburg areas. The event also includes dinner and brunch options.
Tamanend is partnering with Cork & Cap restaurant for a $65 per person all-inclusive winemaker’s dinner at the Flory Mill Road winery on Friday night. Seasonal, local ingredients will be paired with Tamanend wines over six courses, including a stuffed persimmon and bulgur salad, a carmelized cauliflower soup with cocoa and smoked gruyere, braised rabbit with roasted root vegetables, and venison with sage demi. Dessert will feature stuffed figs with Cranberry Snow wine.
Several other wineries are partnering with regional restaurants to offer additional winemaker dinners and brunches. The event is also partnering with historic bed and breakfasts as well as full-service hotels to offer getaway packages.

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