For Pa. wines the future is sweet

Written by Debby Heishman, Public Opinion Online | Jan 16, 2015 8:40 AM

Photo by Ryan Blackwell, Public Opinion

Gregory Matthews of Christian W. Klay Winery of Fayette County gives samples at the Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa. on Thursday, Jan. 15.

(Harrisburg)--Living in a state where there's a real sweet tooth for pies, cakes and chocolate, it should come as no surprise that the favorite wines at the Pennsylvania Farm Show are the sweet wines.  

John Nissley, of Nissley Vineyards in Lancaster County, and Janey Naylor Potter, of Naylor Wine Cellars in York County said that hands down, sweet wines sell better than their dry with this crowd.  

"Around here, the taste we want is Concord and Niagara -- those are the dark blue grapes that we ate behind grandma's house," Nissley said.  

Both wineries were represented Thursday at the 99th Farm Show, and both have a long history of bringing their vintage best to be judged at the Farm Show.  

Linking Pennsylvania with fine wines isn't an automatic connection for many people. Just next door, New York has been bottling grapes since most can remember, and when faced with buying for others, there are voices in our heads that wish they all could be California wines.  

But the future is bright for the industry here, according to Nissley, who said local palates really enjoy local wines, and the idea, ultimately, is to sell the product. "And we sell a pile of it."  

In 2010, the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau listed Pennsylvania eighth in the nation for the number of wineries (168), according to a report by WineAmerica, the national association of wineries. It bested other mid-Atlantic states except for Virginia, ranked sixth.  


Photo by Ryan Blackwell, Public Opinion

The team from Allegro Vineyards of York County offers samples at the Farm Show in Harrisburg Thursday, Jan. 15.

Denise Gardner, Penn State Extension's wine industry liaison, said Pennsylvania is now fourth in grape production and seventh in wine production. She said estimates now are more like 200 wineries, including those applying for permits.  

One thing that kept farmers in the past from turning to grapes, said Nissley, was that before the Limited Winery Act was passed in 1968, wine could not be produced in Pennsylvania. We've been shooting ourselves in the foot.

Potter said southern Pennsylvania's climate and soils have always been ripe for good wine-making. One thing that is helping is grape horticulture, with the hybrids that are being developed.  

"There have been a lot of changes in the way they are cloned," she said. "That means that there are varieties that have become more productive than when we started (the business) in 1975."  

Carley Mack, of Penns Woods Winery, is pleased with the wine produced by the traminette, a grape that was developed at Cornell University, New York. Penns Woods won a silver medal this year for its 2014 traminette; Naylor won silver for its 2013 traminette.  

"There's even a variety that's strictly an East Coast grape -- that's the chambourchin," said Mack. "We're doing a lot more with that variety."  Mack also believes the soil affects the flavor of Pennsylvania wines.

"There's a lot of acidity in our soil, and that acidity shows in our wines," she said. "It also means we can get more earthy tones in our wines."  

Winning competitions at the Farm Show has its merits, each spokesperson agreed, mostly in public exposure. One of the best things that happened to Naylor Wine Cellars, Potter said, was winning The Governor's Cup some years ago. That's the best-of-show product among them all. It made a wider range of people aware of what they had to offer.  

Mack said that expos such as the Farm Show give folks a greater respect for the wine industry in their own home state.

This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

Published in News, York

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