Just off Exit 146 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the foot of the Allegheny mountains lays the little town of Bedford. Nothing along the quaint business district in the center of town would give you any clue that something extraordinary is happening at 107 E. Pitt Street. That is the address of the tasting room for Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery, one of the best wineries in Pennsylvania. You might think that’s only my opinion of their classic European-style vinifera wines but I have a second opinion from someone with creditability greater than my own, Mr. James Suckling! Yes, you heard right, that James Suckling the world-famous wine critic.
At a recent tasting of more than 800 non-West Coast wines Mr. Suckling gave Briar Valley Chardonnay 2016
a score of 92 points calling it “Concentrated and fresh, this is an elegant cool-climate Chardonnay with bright lemon and herbal notes. Very long mineral finish.” Quite a coup for Tod & Jean Manspeaker owners/wine makers at B.V. Mr. Suckling went on to award B.V. Lemberger 2016 an 89 point score and B.V. Cabernet Franc 2016 87 points. These two Reds are among my favorite Pennsylvania wines. It is easy to see why Tod & Jean have recently expanded their winery with a new production facility because when you make wine this good you will need extra capacity.
You can find these wines and all the other quality wines that Briar Valley offers at their tasting room in Bedford, Pa, online at http://briarvalleywinery.com or at many fine dining restaurants around the state.
As my wife and I were enjoying a leisurely stroll down Pitt St. in Bedford, Pa on a beautiful autumn day in October when we happened upon Tod Manspeaker. Tod was standing outside of his tasting room taking in the sights and sounds of the 2016 Bedford Fall Foilage Festival. Tod was as friendly and hospitable as I have always found him to be and he invited us in for a tasting of his Briar Valley Vineyard wine.
Tod lead us through a tasting of some of his wines starting with the 2014 Lemberger that was just bottled the previous day. This wine showed solid red fruit flavors and a nice finish. B.V. Lemberger 2014 should round-out and be in great shape by the time summer arrives and you find yourself pouring it for your guests to complement those burgers, steaks and ribs hot off the grill.
B.V. Chardonnay 2011 is a crisp, straw-colored wine with traditional Chardonnay flavors of apple with a citrus note. This is a perfect pick for when you have friends over and want a light but delicious wine to pair with a platter of soft cheese and fruit, both fresh and dried. Consider including unusual options on your platter, like fresh figs, goat cheese, dried cranberries, apricots and one of my favorites, dates.
The 2014 B.V. Cab Franc had the most complex taste profile of the wines we tasted that day and I liked it a lot. This wine had plenty of aroma and was full of cherry and berry flavors. Don’t be afraid to serve this with heartier fare because its true colors will always shine through.
We have had several bottles of B.V. Riesling spanning several vintages so our expectations were high for the 2015 and we were not disappointed. B.V. Riesling 2015 has fresh acidity and flavors of stone fruit and citrus on the mid-palate carried in a light body with a touch of slate mineralality on the finish. Because Riesling is such a food-friendly wine you can enjoy it alone by the glass or pair it with just about anything you find on your plate. We poured the B.V. 2014 on Thanksgiving and it went well with the turkey and most of the side dishes.
You can find these fine wines at the Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery tasting room at 107 E. Pitt St Bedford Pa, as we did, or online at http://BriarValleyWinery.com
I would like to share some interesting news that I heard from wine makers around the region.
I recently visited Tod Manspeaker at his Briar Valley Vineyards tasting room in Bedford, Pa. He told me he was removing all the Viognier from his vineyard because of Primary Bud Blight and replacing it with Malbec. He had to pick about 1 1/2 weeks early because of the forecast for a big storm hitting the East Coast but the storm missed his
vineyard and they had a great harvest even though it was earlier than planned.
After getting a tip from fellow blogger Armchairsommelier about a vineyard in Virginia growing Saperavi I contacted Rik Obiso at White Barrel Winery in Christiansburg, Va.. White Barrel was formerly known as Attimo Winery. Rik told me that they do grow about 250 Saperavi vines on a 1/3 acre section of their vineyard but haven’t produced from them yet. He is planning on 2017 being their first vintage but for now they are keeping the vines pruned to encourage them to grow strong roots. When I asked him about his Viognier he said that they are also removing all of it from their vineyard and that job will be completed this winter.
The harvest at Standing Stone Vineyards Hector, NY went very well. The harvest around the FLX was good and maybe great, only time will tell but if I were to bet I would bet on great. Standing Stone was featured in several articles, here are just two! Syracuse.com published this article about Harvest at Standing Stone. Syracuse.com article
Foodnetwork.com got into the act with this mention of Standing Stone and its unique pairing of Standing Stone wines and local artesian cheeses. Foodnetwork.com article Don’t miss their Saperavi vertical tasting on November 15th, 2015, it will be something special. Check out the color of the Saperavi juice in this photo courtesy of Marti Macinski.
It’s easy to keep up with what’s going on at your favorite wineries by following them on twitter.
Much of my childhood was spent growing up on my mother’s family farm just across the road from our house. Many of my relatives live nearby in houses built on land that was carved out of the original tract of land that my Grandfather began farming in the very early 1900’s. The number one lesson I learned about the agriculture business was that no
matter how well prepared and thought out your plans were you are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Whether it is corn, wheat or grapes you will always have to be able to cope with constant change and overwhelming problems or you will not succeed. The vintners in Southwestern and Northwestern Pennsylvania along with their counterparts in the Finger Lakes Region of New York are dealing with the effects of one of the coldest winters in recent memory. The real damage in Pennsylvania occurred in the Northwest , especially the area around Lake Erie, while the Southwest corner of the state received above average but manageable damage. I have talked with several winemakers about how this winter effected their vineyards and the following is a summary of what they told me.
Rich Ripepi of Ripepi Winery in Monongahela, Pa said that they were leaving on extra buds when they pruned to be safe but should have gotten through in “relatively” good shape. Ray Matthews, the vineyard manager at Christian W. Klay Winery in Chalk Hill, Pa is still accessing his vines but signs are good that the damage isn’t too severe. Ray told me of a study that he read that noted statistically a vineyard in the Northeast will be devastated on average once every ten years but he has been lucky to have been spared so far. Tod Manspeaker of Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery in Bedford, Pa grows only vinifera vines in his vineyard. Tod has observed that certain varieties have suffered more than others with the average bud loss in the 50% range. To compensate for the loss Tod is leaving secondary and tertiary buds by pruning less and leaving four canes instead of two. This makes more work this year and much more work next year to clean up but by doing this Tod is expecting a normal crop. Paul Vezzetti from The Vineyard at Hershey in Middletown, Pa tells me that South Central Pennsylvania was on the border of the coldest weather this winter. He attributes the many cultural practices implemented before their initial planting in 2009 for mitigating much of this years temperature issues. By postponing pruning until after the worst winter weather had passed Paul was able to adjust his pruning plan to compensate for any winter damage found in the vineyard. Paul also predicts that anyone that hasn’t been as fortunate as he was to experience only small losses can expect to face a substantial rise in cost when they have to buy grapes from another vineyard with whom they don’t already have an established relationship.
Marti Macinski of Standing Stone Winery & Vineyard in Hector, NY tells me the Finger Lakes Region was hit very hard with many vineyards losing 100% of this years crop. She is fortunate that her vineyard is on the southeastern shore of Seneca Lake and benefits from a temperature moderating effect that has led to the area being nicknamed the “Banana Belt”. The Standing Stone Vineyard has received some damage but the damage can be offset by leaving extra buds to produce a nearly normal crop. Marti has to wait until the growing season gets underway before she can tell if there is any vine damage.
Marti and all winemakers know that maintaining a vineyard can be a brutal and unforgiving undertaking but one that does come with great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment when everything goes right. I wish all the producers my very best and want them to know that I have the utmost respect for their perseverance and passion with which they pursue their craft.