Wednesday, December 2, 2009

LWF&D on the PA wine trails, part III: Our final day

On Sunday morning, we said a mournful goodbye to the beautiful Glasbern and set out once again for the final three wineries on our tasting itinerary. A scenic 45-minute drive led us to Galen Glen Vineyard and Winery, which was to be the most enjoyable stop on our tour. The tasting room was located on a small rise amid vineyards stretching as far as the eye could see, and the panoramic windows in the tasting room made the utmost of the view. The room was bright and airy and filled with friendly folks, particularly one spunky bartender who poured our tasting wines.

The Galen Glen tasting room

The gorgeous view behind the bar

AV started with a bite of turkey salad on crackers and then hunkered down with a (byo) bagel breakfast while I tasted the wines. While Galen Glen had a few interesting dry whites, including a spicy Gruner Veltiner and a floral Gewurtztraminer, it excelled in the semi-dry and semi-sweet arena. The winery's Winter Mountain White and Erin's Aulese were both fun, sweet whites, and the lighty sweet Cellar Red was a compulsively drinkable, lighthearted red. I finished with a taste of the Holiday, which was an incredibly lucious raspberry wine, which tasted just like a distilled syrup of straight raspberries. A quick flick of the credit card later, we were out of there with bottles of Cellar Red and Holiday and a spring in our step.

Some of the wines on offer

The tasting bite

Unfortunately, things went slightly downhill from there. Our next stop, Big Creek Vineyards, was somewhat difficult to find, and when we did find it the scene was bleak. The tasting room was spartan, and though the bartenders were admirably kind and friendly, that couldn't redeem the few wines I tasted. The Seyval, a dry white, had a salty bite almost like a dry sherry. The Vin di Pasqualina had an enticing Concord grape smell, but the taste didn't live up to it. A sweet Spiced Apple wine had notes of cinnamon and clove, but it couldn't top the special wines we'd already encountered. Looking to save a bit of palate energy for our final stop, we cut our losses at three tastes and headed to our final destination.

The Big Creek vines

Pretty much the only decor in the tasting room

A few quick detours later (there may or may not have been a quest for a case of Pennsylvania's own Yuengling in there somewhere...), we arrived at Franklin Hill Vineyards, the seventh and final winery on our trip. Franklin Hill was located far, far off the beaten path, at the end of a one-mile dirt road that was itself off a winding country road that was ITSELF off an access road... you get the picture. The tasting room was a hub of activity, packed with friendly faces and mercifully supplied snacks, from cheese to pretzels and dip to a pulled pork crostino with mulled wine. I tasted the mulled wine, which was delicious, while AV devoured the pork.

The quaint Franklin Hill tasting room

The view from the porch

I feel a little guilty that Franklin Hill got short shrift in the overall scheme of things; by the time I arrived, my stomach was protesting from all the daytime wine, and another few sips of wine were pretty much the last things I wanted. But I plugged on. Franklin Hill had some interesting and fruity wines, from the sweet, grapey Niagara white to their well-crafted Brut bubbly. Their Passion wine was a dead ringer for a strawberry-kiwi Snapple, and had I been able to foresee myself drinking wine ever again in the future, I probably would have picked up a bottle. But as it was, I smiled weakly, made use of their new and mercifully well-equipped bathroom, and hoped in the car. AV and I pointed the car towards NYC, and less than two hours later, we were home.

The mulled wine...a thimbleful of delicious

Overall, I learned a few valuable things over the course of the trip:
1) I much, much prefer wine in the evening, especially with food. I have confirmed to myself that I just don't appreciate the nuances of a fine red at 11AM.
2) With enough persistence, you can find good wines nearly anywhere. Before we left, I didn't have high hopes for the quality of wines on the Trail, but I was pleasantly surprised again and again. Especially if you can leave your wine snobbery at home, you'll find a number of just-plain-fun wines on the Lehigh trail. And what's more, the bottles are so affordable (most hovered around $10 each, with quite a few less than that and the most expensive bottles topping out around $20) that it's possible to take a few home. Which, down the road, affords the inestimable pleasure of opening a bottle that is both delicious and evocative of a fond memory.
3) The value of a wood-burning fireplace, especially on chilly winter nights, should not be underestimated. Oh, and same goes for a hot tub.

Special thanks again to the Glasbern Inn and the PA Wine Association for bringing us out to the Lehigh Valley. Our wine horizons are certainly broadened; should you be looking for a similar outcome, don't forget that the Pennsylvania wine country is just on the doorstep of NYC. It's an easy and rewarding--and atypical-- weekend getaway you'll remember for years to come.

No comments: