Still caught between gifts for next week? Go with an all-local wine tasting. You’ll both be surprised by the breadth of it—you especially because you’ll know how cheaply it came.
By April Lisante
If, like us, you’re not in the fortunate position of plotting an escape from this gloomy winter to Tuscany or Napa, there’s still a consolation prize to be had. Through the end of April, the nine-member Bucks County Wine Trail is offering a $20-pass that buys you a tasting at each vineyard. (Cough. Valentine’s Day. Cough.)
The vineyards, which cover about 30 miles, from Rose Bank in Newtown to Unami Ridge in Quakertown, are sampling reds and whites, along with several unexpected varieties, including Rieslings and fruit wines. All are family-owned and -operated, ranging in size from just a few acres to over 70, and some have been around for decades. (The wine trail itself has been a thing since 2004.)
“Our mission was to educate people about agro-tourism and winemaking,” says Theresa Katalinas, a spokesperson for the wine trail.
More specifically, it’s to introduce them to us, their neighbors. Joseph Maxian has been making Riesling since the eighties at Sand Castle Winery in bucolic Erwinna, but out-of-towners comprise the great majority of his visitors. Sand Castle’s out of the way, but Maxian’s hardly been operating on the down-low all this time. Large signs along River Road announce the approach of the winery’s entrance, which, aside from the Golden Pheasant Inn, is the only business around for miles. And he regularly submits his vintages to international competitions.
“We taste it against the best in Europe, and no one can say which is better,” Maxian says. “But we are more known in New York City than Bucks County, so it will be nice to see if the trail brings us more locals. This county is great for wine. I see it as an eye-opener.”
Normally, tastings would range from $5 to $20 per person, on average, at each winery. They entail about a half-dozen three-quarter ounce pours—which can add up fast, especially when you’re driving to your next round. So bring a DD (which could spoil the mood) or pace yourselves across a few weekends. This isn’t a competition. Though, we don’t want to make any presumptions about how your partner will want to reward you at the end of it.
Jerry Forest planted his first vines in 1966—and then waited. Which makes his Buckingham Valley Vineyards, now in its 50th year, the trail’s granddaddy. “I played guitars, I drank wine. I felt like I was going to make a living of one or the other,” Forest says, with a laugh.
Forest, like many of the other wine trail vintners, experienced years of trial before producing his first bottle. Today, Buckingham Valley’s most known for its sparkling wines, in part because they’re a rarity for the region.
“That’s why this trail is nice. We are all different,” Forest says. “We aren’t in competition with one each other. We complement one another.”
Photos courtesy the Bucks County Wine Trail