When most people think "Pennsylvania Dutch," wine is probably the last thing to come to mind. After all, the region around Lancaster, Pennsylvania is best known for buggies and wooden handicrafts. Though drinking in moderation is permitted in the Amish religion, wine isn't always the first thing many "English" think of when thinking of a visit to the region. Despite this, there are plenty of opportunities to find great wines in the area. Therefore, when you've stuffed yourself to the gills at Good N Plenty, finished up with the antique stores and outlets, gotten your chocolate fix at Hershey, and been scared out of your wits on the Strasburg Ghost Tour, might I suggest...
Waltz Vineyards in Manheim offers tastings for $6 for five wines. Opening in 1997, the new winery building opened in 2008, and it is simply gorgeous. When we went, they were in the process of bottling a number of new vintages that will be available come the April/May time frame, and I'm eager to make another trip up to try those. The wines we tried were lovely, with my favorites being the Fusion (a semi-dry combination of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay) the Sauvignon Blanc itself, and the Baron Steigel Red (a bold, fruit-forward red that combines black currant, plum, and -- to quote the tasting notes -- "interesting earthiness"). Baron Steigel goes great with dark chocolate, too, so make sure you've stocked up!
Our second stop was the Mount Hope Estate and Winery on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. The fair was actually started as an outdoor festival showcasing the wines themselves, and then sort of evolved into the yearly weekend extravaganza between August and October. Tastings are complimentary, and there are two tasting rooms from which to choose. We went to the one on the Faire grounds (the other one is in in Intercourse), and the thing that's most important is to NOT trust your GPS. If you do, you will end up on the property of some very angry individuals who threaten arrest with a couple of homemade signs. The directions on the website are a much better bet until the winery finally gets the US Geologic Service to listen to their multiple requests to change the directions. The wines are plentiful, and while the need to function outweighed the desire to try them all, there were a couple of standouts. I especially liked the Maiden's Blush (more like a Zin) and the Sweet Romance (officially a Dangerous Deck Wine), which are both on the sweet side, would both be welcome additions to my book club. Likewise, Holiday, after warming, would be a great way to spend a lazy afternoon waiting for the snow to melt. Spiced and delicious, it doesn't need mulling spices, but would go great with brownies or those left-over Christmas cookies you've been trying to resist for the last few days (note to self, the diet is doomed, accept and move on)!
Our last stop was the Moon Dancer Winery in Wrightsville. The tasting room looks like a French Chateau and the winter access directions easy to follow. Again, the tastings are complimentary, but they do ask that you limit your samples to five. With lots of different options, it make picking somewhat difficult, but the ones we tried were incredible. I particularly enjoyed the New Moon Red (a Beaujolais Nouveau) and the Moon River White, a pineapply, peachy white. They've also got a full event calendar with local bands booked on the weekends, and two festivals, Reggae and Bluegrass, coming up later in the summer.
All three wineries are so vastly different, that it would be a shame not to make the trip up for all three. Just watch out for the buggies, please!!