Four guests discuss local fine wines
Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat:
Craig LaBan: I'm pulling a cork to open a fine vintage theme for today's chat: local wine. I know there are many, many doubters that great wine can be made in PA and NJ. I hear from them every time I write a few positive words about local wines, like the story on the aromatic whites of Lehigh Valley, or on the winning Jersey wines at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. We still have a long way to go, but I've seen tremendous progress. Names like Penns Woods, Karamoor, Crossing Vineyards, Bellview, Galer, Amalthea, Blair, and Pinnacle Ridge are just a few you should get to know if you're curious. We are joined by four special guests, including three from other vineyards - Sarah Troxell, the co-owner and winemaker for Galen Glen in Andreas, Pa., in the Lehigh Valley AVA; Larry Sharrott III, of Sharrott Winery in Blue Anchor, in South Jersey's "Outer Coastal Plain" AVA; and Anthony Vietri, the owner and winemaker at Va La Vineyards, in Avondale, Pa., one of several good wineries now in the Brandywine Valley. Also Denise Gardner, enologist for Penn State Extension dedicated to helping PA winemakers keep up to date with their craft. Can you each explain a bit about the characteristics of those and the wines that come from them?
Larry Sharrott: The Outer Coastal Plain is characterized by sandy soils and the strong influence of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, which moderate our climate and extend the growing season.
Denise Gardner: In PA, there has been substantial growth and development in making high-quality hybrid and vinifera (European) varietal wines and blends. These producers here today are fine examples of that.
Anthony Vietri: I am not sure that I'm qualified to speak to this, but being located on the Fall Line between the Coastal Plain and the Northern Piedmont Plateau provides us with both climatic advantages as well as complex bedrock and soils.
Sarah Troxell: The Lehigh Valley features shale-filled soils and an undulating ridge and valley landscape. There are many small micro-climates, each creating unique growing regions for different types of wine grapes. Our farm is on the edge of the glacial deposit and is extremely well suited for aromatic white wines.
Reader: I know there are valid reasons behind many of PA's fine wine offerings, but there's no denying that consumers start to look at other regions of the world when the price point crosses over $20-$25. Curious to hear what folks think about finding the right balance of quality and value.
Troxell: Our table wines at Galen Glen are all less then $20!
Sharrott: There are wines in all price categories in NJ and PA. The key is to find wines that are a good value to you. In the case of my winery, we try to price our wines competitive to the market. If you taste a like-priced wine against our wines, we are often a greater value.
Jill Weber from Jet Wine Bar: Price has really been the biggest hurdle for selling local by-the-glass. Once people taste it, they'll order a glass, but they immediately balk if the price is the same as, say, French or CA wine.
Reader: We need to phase out the sweet party wines in order to be taken seriously.
Reader: Sweet wines make the money. It's hard to find a winery in PA without sweet wines to supplement the dry.
Join Craig LaBan on his next chat: 2 p.m. Tuesdays at www.inquirer.com/labanchats