Hershey Harrisburg Wine Country

The central Pennsylvania countryside is already a sensory delight in the springtime, enlivened with blooming fruit trees, secret woodland wildflowers, and the first shoots of crops greening the wide swaths of farm fields. Add to that the allure of the region’s famed chocolatiers paired with the growing number of award-winning winemakers and May seems just the month to celebrate the senses.

Which is exactly what the region’s wineries will do for three weekends this month. The Hershey Harrisburg Wine Country (HHWC) is debuting its “Sweet Sensations of May” event, which will take place Saturdays and Sundays, May 4-19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy handcrafted wines specifically paired with an assortment of sweet treats, receive a souvenir glass to take to each winery, and enjoy a 10 percent discount on all purchases.

Visitors who stop by all 11 of the participating wineries to get their tickets stamped will be entered into a drawing to win the grand prize: a wine refrigerator stocked with wine from each of the member wineries.

Although all of the wineries are within a 30 to 40 minute radius, there’s no need to rush to each one as the ticket price is good for all three weekends.

“Bring a picnic, stay for dinner, or the whole weekend,” says Mike Wilson, HHWC spokesman and partner in The Vineyards of Hershey. A number of local restaurants are partnering with the wineries to showcase their sweets and tempt visitors to linger in the area. Even a local limo service is offering a special to visitors who would prefer that everyone in their party can sample all the wines.

Tickets are $15 per person or $25 per couple. Designated drivers are free and, while they will not be able to taste the wines, will be able to enjoy chocolates and all other aspects of this signature event.

During the Mother’s Day weekend, special tributes are planned at several of the stops.

Wilson says the region is known for its unique, handcrafted blends that satisfy every palate. And because the region is already a hotspot for travelers, adding wine tasting opportunities only helps to enhance the destination.

Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest grape-producing state in the nation, according to the Pennsylvania Wine Association. Local grapes, as well local fruits, make for unique blends that express the terrior of the region in delightful ways.

For winemakers like William Warner of Buddy Boy Winery and Vineyard in Duncannon, it results in plenty of sweet wines that have been favorites of family and friends for decades, and have just recently earned 12 medals at the Fingerlakes International Wine Competition. Just like his wines, the wine tasting room at Buddy Boy was crafted by Warner, most impressively with a huge slab of untrimmed walnut as the countertop.

Wilson, of The Vineyards at Hershey, says in just a year of business, more than 19,000 have come to sample the more than 20 different wines at new winery, which is also beginning to receive awards for its wines. For the event, The Vineyards at Hershey will be debuting a port-style chocolate wine, which is in the process of being named by the Vineyards’ Facebook and Twitter followers.

The winemaker comes from an Italian family who passed down their secrets through the generations.

Wilson says these “secret” techniques yield wines that are “extremely fruit forward.”

Italian-born Salvatore Cullari, owner of Cullari Vineyards and Winery in Hershey, also comes from a long line of winemakers. He produces about 30 different varieties, including his award-winning, best-selling Coco Nostra chocolate wine, which will have special bottles and labels just for the event.

“We’re on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, of course I had to have a chocolate wine,” he says, adding that he’ll pair this wine as well as some fruit wines with chocolatey desserts. As for his own tastes, he prefers a dry wine.

“I grew up without desserts in the house, so I’m not a big chocolate lover,” he confesses.

Which means there’s more for the rest of us to savor.


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