A Tour of the Lehigh Valley with Kat Collins
Only 45 miles North of Philly, the Lehigh Valley is home to a multitude of vineyards, with more coming on board each year. Kat Collins lives in Allentown, works in the vineyards and is a WSet student, as am I. Through Facebook we have been able to share our love of wine, especially local vineyards; however, we had never met. On a cool, early summer afternoon, perfect for vineyard hopping, we made that happen.
We made five stops which I will share with you briefly; I will supply the in-depth reviews they each deserve down the road.
Our first stop was the beautiful two-year-old Folino Estate, which boasts a fabulous Italian tratorria and specializes in weddings and events. Kat had the homemade fungi pasta dish along with a Viognier, and I much enjoyed a chicken pesto panini and a glass of Traminette. Properly fueled, off we went.
Blair Vineyards 99 Dietech Valley Rd. Kurtztown, PA 610-683-8463
Blair Vineyards has a well-deserved reputation as one of the front runners who put Lehigh Valley on the map as a wine producing region. Twenty acres are planted along the rolling hills of the Blue Mountains. During Summer they host many events, including Friday happy hours with live music and tapas.
Charity was pouring. Kat and I tried six wines each for a $5 tasting fee and chose different wines so we could each taste twelve. Blair makes three Pinot Noirs; my favorite is Vance’s Cuvee, full of bright cherries and raspberry, with a bit of pepper on the long finish. I also especially enjoyed the single varietal Semillon, a mouth full of stone fruit softened by the cream of malo and vanilla of oak aging.
Hackett Wine www.HackettWine.com
This was a special stop, as Kat was in negations to run the tasting room of this small yet mighty vineyard (she now works here full time) and I had my own agenda. After spending an hour with vintner Bob Hackett, who is warm, smart and super passionate about wine, I asked if I would be able to participate in his Fall harvest; he said yes!
Bob is a retired AVA guy who caught the wine bug big-time and went to California to study at UC Davis and learn hands-on by working in vineyards. It paid off; between 2007-2009 Bob planted 14,000 vines which are now producing some amazing wines. He likes to experiment in the winery, and his neutral oak Almost Naked Chardonnay is an outstanding result of that!
The Paganus is sourced from his best Cab Franc grapes and aged 30 months in Hungarian oak. Very smooth with a long finish.
Bob told me that the Lehigh Valley soils are like that of the Loire Valley, in France; mineral shale which drains well. His HillCrest wine reflects the terrior and was awarded the Silver Medal at the 2016 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
If you enjoy engaging in serious wine-talk, stop by and see Kat and Bob!
I love the story behind this two-year-old vineyard and can’t wait to do a more in-depth piece on the lovely couple who own it. Rich and Dana Wooley are still working full time, as a meteorologist and nurse, so right now growing vines, making wine and running a tasting room is a nights and weekend thing; bless their passion and commitment!
He caught the wine bug while attending college in the Finger Lakes region, and she fueled that fire by buying him wine kits when they moved to Reno. They spent their free time visiting vineyards in the Sierra Foothills, which is, said Rich “Above the fog and below the snow; very Finger Lakes-ish.”
Moving East, their first stop was Blair Vineyards which reminded Rich of the dry style of Cali wines, so they started shopping for land close by. Bob Hackett was instrumental in helping them find the beautiful rolling hills upon which they planted, and slowly they started constructing the buildings needed, prioritizing the winery over living quarters!
The first year they harvested five acres and five tons of fruit; this years will be double. By 2020 they expect to be producing 5,000 cases annually.
Such dedication is paying off; their wines are fabulous. Dana poured for Kat and I and we tasted four each for $5. The Cab Franc was my fav; a Loire Valley classic, it is dark berries with hints of plum and pairs well with smoked meats, turkey and blue cheese.
The highlight came when Rich invited Kat and I into the winery to barrel-taste his 2016 Chardonnay. Not only is the wine developing exceptionally well, it’s a treat to be able to share with you a behind the scenes peek at what goes into producing the wine you drink.
Finally, Kat and I met her warm and lovely wife Inge at a new brewery with oh so much personality despite its industrial park setting.
The owner, Jim Yergey and his son had been home-brewing for a while when Jim retired and decided to go all-in and opened Yergey Brewing, a Nano-Brewery.
The beer was flowing and everyone was having a great time, but no one more so than Jim, who was doing everything at once; hosting, pouring, and washing dishes, all with a big smile of satisfaction.
I did a tasting flight and enjoyed my beers thoroughly.
The food truck was a welcome site after a long day and the party atmosphere invigorating.
Who knew there was so much excitement and passion around creating great wine and beers so close to Philly?
It was a wonderful day and I can’t wait to share more in-depth experiences in the Lehigh Valley with you.
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